We Indians like to pretend that homosexuality is something that does not belong in India. It is a ‘side-effect’ of increasing influence of the western world on India’s social dynamics. But obviously, this is far from true. Statistically, every 10th person is a part of the LGBTIA community. Despite this staggering figure, the ignorant minds that run our country have continued to sideline this topic for a long time now. Many political and religious leaders have called it a ‘disease’ and claim it can be ‘cured’. Common people, by and large, have a very conservative approach toward the topic of sexuality.
Like more other homosexual people, I have faced many problems because of this sorry state of affairs. Despite being brought up in an urban area and being exposed to progressive ideas, I am still worried about my parents’ and friends’ reactions to this revelation. Most people who go through this, think (and pray) that they are just going through a phase, and they will end up ‘normal’. I realized this when watching a movie with friends – when I was concentrating on the actor more than the actress. This simple fact was enough to get me in a bad shape. After a lot of research, I realized that the stigma attached to it is unnecessary, but still decided not to tell anyone. This wasn’t as easy as it seemed. I felt like I was putting on a mask in public, and lying to friends and family almost constantly. Also, the lack of visibility on campus made me feel really lonely.
This is probably what every closeted homosexual goes through in India, where expressing your love is a crime if it is deemed ‘unnatural’ by vague laws. Many homosexuals end up marrying a person of the opposite gender and, thus messing up their lives and their partners’ too.
The way out is giving a voice to people and generating awareness. Society needs to see homosexuality as an unconventional expression of love, rather than a perversion. Homosexuality is not normal, it is just common. While one may say that that people are open to the idea, there remains a huge chasm in just saying it and actually being open to the idea. Normal and natural are two terms that are not absolute. So when people argue that alternate sexuality and gender identities are not normal or natural, it is according to their standards and not from those of a person who identifies as such.
Life on campus hasn’t been easy. I have not been clear about my identity, or my goal in life. But after coming here and reading about homosexuality on the internet, and participating on a few online forums, I started accepting myself. Initially, I had hoped that it was just a phase that would go away, but that didn’t happen. Eventually, I opened up to one of my best friends, and the friend accepted me for who I am.
So, a friendly bit of advice to those on campus who are LGBTIA or questioning, don’t take it to heart. Our personality is defined by our actions and should not be a result of others’ opinions. Have fun in college, learn and spread awareness when you can. And when the right time comes, let your folks know about you. If they love you, they will accept you eventually, no matter what others think.
I am done with all the anxiety, worrying and denial that usually comes with being of alternate sexuality in India. After a fair few years of working on accepting myself, I am finally ready to be open with others and be a part of this community. The people I have met so far have been amazing – accepting, supportive and open minded.
The only problem – where is everyone hiding?
There is no active club on campus, no mention of queer activity, no visibility at all – except in jest. This lack of visibility makes it pretty hard for those people who identify as LGBTIA, or those who are questioning, to accept themselves and to garner up the courage to tell the people around them. This is a cycle that continues, and because no one wants to talk about it or come out, closeted folk on campus end up feeling more and more isolated. We have to resort to posting on BITS confessions and shady conversations on DC to contact others. (I usually get quite a few abuses and am reminded that ‘homosexuality is now illegal in India’). This is also coupled with fear of disapproval from college authorities, who might take objection.
People who identify as LGBTIA also fear telling their friends in case they lose them. I would like to appeal to these friends – it is a pretty big part of themselves that they are sharing with you, and reacting adversely to it would make it more difficult for them be comfortable with themselves. If you have trouble accepting it, read articles about it, contact other people, have discussions – and most of all, realize that they are the same person, no matter what.
The point is not so much to educate bigots about the normalcy of alternate sexualities and genders, although it is definitely important. It is to assure those who are questioning their sexual or gender identity that they are not alone, and that there exists other people who have gone through or are going through the same thing. I have contacted a few people on campus and it has helped us immensely, I feel, although there seem to be very few females – which makes it even more isolating for me. I would like to set up an entity on campus to do just this – to give queer people a natural, safe ground to meet other people and go about the task of accepting themselves (if they haven’t already), and maybe even share this part of themselves with other people. The process of coming out tends to make one wiser and more open minded.
So those of you who are questioning your sexuality or gender identity, or allies of the queer community, or if you know someone who is queer and maybe want some advice – please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.