Namaste ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and people of all ages and genders! Venkatesh here, LGBTQ activist from the City of Joy Kolkata.
Since the age of 17, questions about attraction towards the same gender started playing in my mind. Is it wrong? Is it just a phase? Why am I getting attracted to guys and not girls? All of this kept revolving in my mind.
Back then, I was not aware of the term “homosexuality”. But at that age, internet access was very new to me, and I started utilizing it and browsing up on more regarding these questions. After several days of browsing, I realized my attraction towards the same gender was nothing abnormal. It’s very natural but many people just think it’s abnormal. I slowly started meeting guys from social networking sites who had the same feelings as I do. But a year later, things got a little complicated when my mother asked me “Don’t you have a girlfriend?”
My mother is my best friend, she always has been. I share everything with her. But this was something different. I asked her why she asking about a girlfriend. She replied,” You always mention the names of boys when you go out, and I have never heard a single girl’s name. Are you gay?”
I was terrified that if I had told her about my orientation, she would react badly. I tried to change the topic. I was not sure if I was gay or bisexual, back then. I needed time too before I could come out to her. My mother used to ask me this same question once in a month or two. And when I was 20 years old, and pretty sure about my orientation, the day she asked me again, I replied “Yes, I am gay.”
It was pin drop silence then. I thought the silence would lead to a major explosion. Then, after couple of minutes, my Mom said, “I knew about you but I just wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth.” That day I felt I was on the top of the world. A few days later, I asked her if Dad knew about my orientation. She did not reply immediately, but later she said she had discussed it with him. Dad is a very calm and reserved person. He rarely converses. He follows the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. Even though he doesn’t say it, he is aware of everything.
At the age of 21, I first attended a public LGBTQ Event called “Queer Hugs” in Kolkata organized by the online group Harmless Hugs, and it was a turning point in my life. There, I met many individuals who became good friends later on and are still in my life. After that, I began attending all the LGBTQ events in the city. My mother too walks in Prides too, she’s done a total of three, as well as marching on March 31, International Transgender Visibility Day. She has been honored and felicitated for the tremendous support by the Association for Transgender/Hijra in Bengal on April 15th, 2018.
During my journey, I slowly started moving towards activism. Till date, I am not associated with any organization, because I work for the community as an individual—an independent LGBTQ Activist.
I believe the first torture of queer people begins at our own homes. When you have such a supportive family especially mother, you are really blessed. It has been an amazing journey till date travelling across India for so many Prides, and meeting such beautiful souls on the way. None of this would have been possible without having such positive people around me, and most importantly the blessings and support of parents who accept me the way I am.