I had a gay boss.
I wanted to talk to him so much about what he represented and how he had changed the minds of so many people, both in his own community and otherwise. He didn’t know where to begin, so I didn’t really ask him too much. There were many challenges that he faced in life and he didn’t have the courage to stand up sometimes.
I had a friend, Diljeet, who was very conservative about the ideas of love, homosexuality and the LGBTQ community. He didn’t believe that love was a choice and wanted to know more about the way these communities functioned. All through life, we have been taught to fear eunuchs that begged outside our cars, and we grew up with that fear not knowing that it was completely unfounded. We didn’t know about marginalisation and how people are just people, and how they’re all similar to everybody else.
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So, I decided enough was enough, and I wanted the two to meet. They met at a coffee shop. Now this is my boss at the time, and it was maybe 10 years ago. This was when India wasn’t as gay-friendly as it is now in the metro cities. My friend was a hardcode Delhiite who believed in only two things – sex and alcohol. Now I knew that it was going to get troublesome, so I ordered some warm coffee for the two of them, knowing that at least that would be something in common. My friend was judging the way my boss was shaking his sugar packet. He seemed “feminine” to him, and asked him why he was shaking the packet like that. “You’re a girl or what,” he said.
Sparring with words
I didn’t think that my boss would be able to defend himself, being all of 50 kg or so, but I was surprised as to how stern his voice became. The two of them talked about toxic-masculinity, gender-fluidity and the role of men in our societies. My boss, Mukesh, was outspoken but not rude, and polite but not strict. He was open to listening to my friend’s orthodox ideas, but he didn’t give in to them. Sometimes he’d use logic, other times emotion to get through to his core being. What I didn’t realise was how much I was getting to learn from it all. It was a sight to see that day at CCD.
A few years later
After that fateful day, we went our ways. We met up 3 years later by chance, my friend and I. And I had moved to another country for higher studies. In the US, I met with multiple members of the LGBTQ community and I was talking to my friend about it. He opened up to me about his own brother.
He told me how his brother was in the closet, but refused to talk about it to anyone, as Delhi was still a very strict society with morals and culture-tradition hierarchies. That day opened the eyes of my friend, who wanted to thank my boss a year later but didn’t have his number. I called my boss the day after, talking about old days and good times. I mentioned to him the story of that day, and my boss had a tear in his eye. He said that he had never felt so liberated to be a gay man in his entire life, and that standing up for himself gave him courage to find the confidence that he needed to be a better man.
Conflict and community
I think sometimes, we need conflict in life. Conflict that makes us come closer together as humans. We are wired to connect with one another, whether it be through love or through friendship. When we aren’t a part of the problem, we can solve our problems with talking, debating and standing up for ourselves, because who knows what positive outcomes might occur.