This has to be the most frank piece that I will ever write about being gay in the Indian culture as I draw from my own reality, of living with homophobia in my family.
At 35, I would not use adjectives like painful, heartless and other fantastic descriptions to enunciate the feelings that one experiences being gay and bashed in the constructs of an Indian family.
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When I was in my early 20s, my sexual preference was outed on the front page of Sunday’s most loved Indian newspaper in South Africa, the ‘Sunday Times Extra.’ I was ok with that; I felt no fear or shame about my sexuality. The news immediately spread like wildfire across my family, causing an increased number of them to rush out to purchase a copy of the paper to see for themselves the shame that I’d brought down upon my parents.
There was immediate denial of my existence from most of them, while some just laughed and others said I would change my mind at some stage. I still haven’t changed my mind. It’s been almost a decade, but sorry, folks! I’m still a raging Indian, Muslim-Hindu, queer. I belong to three minority identities that make up Me.
I still love my family, but I feel their love has changed. I’ve given up on trying to show them I am still the same person I was before I revealed my preference for men. My family finally spoke to me two years after my outing, but there was nothing but emptiness that is still the same to this day. I’ve not changed, I am still their provider, more than just financially, but I realised that no matter how much money I shower on them – I am not part of this family anymore. I am as good as dead to them.
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I’m not allowed to talk about my sexuality or talk about my #mancrush, or someone potentially being my life partner. The television would be tuned to another channel if any lesbian/gay content should pop up.
The very word ‘gay’ struck fear that I would ‘turn’ my younger family members queer at some stage. Yes, that’s the backward train of thought that exists. God forbid if Imran Vagar appeared on television! He would be blamed for some of my homosexuality. That’s how it is; I am saying ‘is’, as that is still how the crisis is in most Indian homes.
I am not looking for pity here, I’m good – the one thing I do have is common sense.
I will never in a million years be able to change perceptions in my closeted family, but I can tell you this much: I’ve changed where my love is directed – to me.
If you can identify with me in your Indian home and if you are shattered by emotional abuse that comes in tiny doses from family, you can change that. Be fabulous and cut the cord; that is my best advice for you. You deserve more than just the fake love that you know you are receiving.