I am 29, born and brought up in a somewhat conservative upper-middle class family in Delhi where I spent the first 23 years of my life. All my immediate cousins are girls including a feisty younger sister. And to say they helped me in coming out would be huge understatement.
While growing up I hated sports (except badminton), excelled in academics, enjoyed painting or anything creative, was a recluse and loved to debate! I was one of those titular “sharmaji ka ladka” the ones FB memes so conveniently mock at! (and very deservedly, such fistulas these sharma kids can be).
It was 2003 when the whole sexual identity crisis happened, how will I ever make love to a girl, falling in and out of love with that straight school best friend, and then that college best friend. Enough! I said, met a guy for the first time in 2009, and the first gay dude I meet ends up being my partner for next 2 years. I was all of 23, young and naive. The little women in my life (read siblings) were the founding rock of my support! They knew somehow and one fine day the eldest asked me – if I wanted to tell her something! I grabbed that opportunity and told her..Didi..I think I am gay. The conversation started at midnight and went till 5 am next morning. She heard me out. Every bit of it. It was a relief to let someone know that I am gay, and not be judged upon that.
Next was my mother’s turn! My mom was brought up in a very conservative household in Shimla, she could not even finish her graduation and took life as it comes. We Himachalis are from primarily Hindi speaking belt, life is simple and grounded. Calm and quiet. So, I was quiet anxious about how my dad and mom would react if I tell them am gay! I decided to take my Mom into confidence first ( also as suggested by my strong supportive cousins). One thing I knew that my mother was always sensitized towards this marginalized section and did not bear any sort of prejudices. That was my cue to kick off the Talk! I also learnt one thing, how much we underestimate our mothers!
So one fine day, I ask her to sit down and start off by saying that “mummy, mujhe kuch batana thaa”
My mom sensed something is wrong, she sat quietly with her mouth wide open and almost shivering. Maybe somewhere she had an idea what was coming her way. I explained it to her in the most easiest analogy– left handed and right handed ( my mom by the way is left handed)-I am left handed in my sexual orientation i.e. gay but it is normal, nothing is wrong, just that I will settle down with a boy..the same one who comes and meets me every weekend , here I was trying to tell her about my then partner whom I was seeing. She listened to all that I had to say for like next 3 hours, I was shivering too!
Ofcourse…. she cried, asked me if it could be changed, or possibly a phase, visit a psychologist. But not once, not even once she disapproved or felt anguished or displayed even a sign of disgust. I guess she cried her heart out that day itself and made a conscious decision to not let me feel small or bad about the fact am gay…not even once, it’s been 7 years since I told her, my mother –not even a graduate, hardly educated but her unconditional acceptance and love has only made me realise this fact that ignorance and education are mutually exclusive to each other. How grossly we underestimate our mothers..I realized that day.
Things were not that easy with my father when I decided to let him know a year later as I had started earning and was financially independent. There was a showdown with him and it compensated for the drama I was subconsciously craving for. Even with my Dad one crucial thing I realized, his opposition was not to the fact that I am gay, but to the fact I want to beat my drum about it! In my haste to “come out” and make them accept me for who I am I forgot how equally difficult it is for them as well. This is one common mistake we do while coming out and that is forcing our sexuality down our parent’s throat. It has to be done step by step. I was in a hurry to make him comfortable for who I was without understanding where his doubts were stemming from. I was the Head Boy of my school, I aced my exams, has been an obedient son, never raised my voice, was home by 9 pm, hardly got into any shenanigans, the one who toed the line. Always. These were my hopeless arguments with my father that day on how my sexuality should not be of any concern or worry to him…at all! I am responsible and so he should be! In introspect it all sounds so silly now. My father was ready to accept my homosexuality if I was ready to accept his homophobia. But some start was necessary.
So rules were laid-
1) Don’t bring guys home,
2) No need to tell everyone that you are gay not until your sister is settled,
3) if you want to meet your partner you are free to meet him but not in home,
and he asked me for for 5 years to become adequately comfortable or reconcile with the fact that I am gay…”so when you turn 28/29 you may live with whomever you want to.” It was a fair deal. My father never interfered with my personal after that conversation. We both held to our end of the bargain. I was 23 then.
On 31st Dec 2015 I was in Delhi…and planning to attend a friend’s house party.., I told my Dad that there’s a get-together on 31st night and I will be late….He very hesitantly asked if it is at any of my engineering buddies place and I very calmly told him that no papa, it is at a gay friend’s place. I have many great gay friends in Delhi as well as Bangalore, he kept quiet and asked again…”who are these friends??, are they from good backgrounds ( read academic) , hope no trouble?…and will you come back home or sleepover??….sleeping over their place will be uncomfortable no..ghar hi aajaio…or let us know ,we won’t wait..” I almost chuckled .. That’s all…My dad had finally come in terms with my sexuality! My mom instantly intervened and said “we just want you to be safe and not get into any trouble. That’s why papa is asking these things, if you are not coming, just let us know”…that night I did not come home, my dad called me thrice to confirm…I still laugh about it..That moment I realized if I were straight and out with a girl…they still would have asked me the same questions.
I am Uday Sharma, 29, completely out to my family, selectively out to my friends and work peers. I believe coming out should not just be liberating for you but also to your parents and friends and family. There’s no hurry to come out, take your time and space. It should be your time and your moment. Sometimes the people we expect the least from, surprise us the most!