The way I spoke, walked and behaved just seemed natural to me. I’d always been called names ever since primary school. It made me feel depressed and isolated from everyone else. It wasn’t until I was about 12 that I realised what that difference was. Everyone else started passing notes in class and giggling at me, they had their inside jokes, some about me too. I was left out again. Going to school was a torture because going to a place where I know I will have to hide from everyone and smile at people who insult me was getting harder. Being a teenager is hard for most people. But being gay, dark-skinned and having glasses didn’t exactly help matters either!
Not taking part in the sports groups so I could spend more time in the dance club and being the only boy in the school dance group, I suppose looking back now it was pretty obvious.
They say coming out to yourself is the hardest thing but I disagree. The hardest thing was to bury the feelings of shame and difference.
After the struggle in school and college and a failed first relationship, I actually started coming out to people when I was around 20, I told my sister first and then my cousins. I remember inviting my friends out one by one to tell them, and I built it up to be a big revelation in my head. In fact, they either knew of it or weren’t bothered anyway. It’s not like they didn’t acknowledge it, but they just weren’t that surprised!
This initial acceptance built in a lot of confidence in me. But, then things are different in the workplace. I did not come out anyone in the first 3 years of my career. Then, once I was comfortable talking about my then-boyfriend, I started sharing my feelings with my colleagues.
Again, they were not surprised and it did not matter to them. I stopped isolating myself because of the fear of being ridiculed again. To them, I was just another person with feelings, with a life and with a boyfriend.
I had not come out to anyone in my extended family and to be honest, I dint want to. There was this fear of being outed to my parents at the wrong time and then being disowned or forced to get it “cured”; marriage etc. I had made it very clear to my parents that I will never get married since class 10. But, it took them 15 years to know that I was serious about that decision.
My parents had all of my extended family try to brainwash me, tell me the advantages of marrying at the right age to the right girl, the wishes my parents have for their only son etc. But, I stood my ground, firm and had only one answer – No, I am not interested in marriage. Coming out to my family was not an option at that point of my life.
When the pressure for marriage was mounting and I was suffering another heartbreak after a 7-year long relationship, I was posted to Shenzhen for a project from work. I did not want to go to China, but then the thought of running away from the family pressure seemed more important.
China was where my life changed. I fell in love again. I met the most handsome and loving man – the man of my dreams. He introduced me to his family as his boyfriend. It was a very happy feeling to be accepted into a family. I knew that I had to come out to my family as well to introduce them to my ‘boyfriend’ and not my “special friend”.
And then on August 11 2014, I wrote an email to my parents coming out to them, told them about my journey so far, my struggles, my dream and finally my fear. My dad was super supportive and said that just like I could not tell him, he could never ask me. I am still his son and he loves me. My mother did not take it well, but after two days, she called me to say that I am never alone and that my parents will always be with me. Then, she asked me not to fall in love and not to do ‘dirty’ things.
I was thrilled, excited and more than ever alive. It was like I got wings and I am flying.
Then, after a few months, I returned to India with my boyfriend, introduced him to my parents and my loved ones in Bangalore. A year after that I married him legally in Portugal and then had a big fat Indian wedding in Bangalore.
A photo of our wedding on Facebook received a lot of wishes, which my extended family saw and my parents started getting calls to verify the authenticity of that news. My parents confirmed that I am married now to my boyfriend.
Now, we are welcomed by all as a married couple at all family functions and treated with respect and love. The ladies in my family said that they are happy that I did not fall for the society pressure and get married to a woman and ruin a lot of lives.
The decision to come out is one that no person gets to make for another, and as a gay man it would be incredibly insensitive for me to ever suggest to someone that they should put themselves in harm’s way unless and until they decide they are prepared.
But, to my friends in the LGBT community, who are moving ever closer to the closet’s threshold and feeling you may be nearing that day of stepping fully into the light of complete revelation, I want to encourage you that you have people waiting to walk alongside you; people who believe in you, people who love you, people who will not vanish or fall away or cast judgment or be silent. You are not alone in your walk through this difficult journey.\
To families, friends, advocates and allies, continually and loudly speak your truth, because it matters. As you give voice to what you believe, to your support, you give others permission to as well, and as these voices multiply—change begins to happen. We are seeing it in our daily lives now. This is the result of goodness and compassion.