With the rising tide of acceptance and progressive thinking in our society, we’ve heard about a lot of LGBT couples in the west getting their happily-ever-after with grand weddings, their celebrations going viral on social media. But have you heard of this South Indian gay couple battling all societal norms to have their own fairytale wedding that would become an inspiration for every desi gay couple?
India, as we know, is a country with a lot of traditions and diversity, and to think that this society will welcome a gay couple with open arms is being too optimistic. If an LGBTQ couple wishes to get married, they will have to fight for their love and go against all the societal norms that they’ve known and grown up with.
Traditional South Indian Engagement Of Modern Gay Couple
Love is love. And when we witness true, unconditional love between two (unlikely) people, as a society, we try to break it up. We point out why this match would never work and list out all the things that can go wrong. Why is it that we expect love to be perfect? Why is that we expect it to blossom under the most ideal circumstance?
This gay couple met on a Facebook group. They fell in love. They got engaged. Sounds like any other New Age love story? Not really. This gay couple went against all odds, breaking all barriers, and got the traditional South Indian engagement they’d always dreamed of.
Related Reading: How To Build A Healthy Gay Relationship
How they met
Salaphaty Rao, 22, a Malaysian Indian with his roots in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, met John McCane, 28, a banker from Ohio, USA, on the Facebook group ‘LGBT Hindus Satsang’. The duo, who became friends on the social media platform, did not speak to each other for few weeks, according to Salaphaty.
“John added me on Facebook, and it was our common interest in spirituality and religion that flourished into love,” Salaphaty reminisces. “We began to talk more, and I asked him all those cliched questions to get to know your crush better,” he added.
Their relationship was strengthened when the couple decided to visit India together three years ago. “Originally, it was really just to get to know one another but after the journey and experiences we had, everything seemed to click,” McCane said.
They got engaged
Salaphaty first proposed to John when visiting him in Ohio and they got unofficially engaged at the temple, where Salaphaty put a ring and a rainbow coloured sacred thread on John.
Unlike many gay couples in India who have a hard time coming out of the closet due to social constraints, this couple’s families have rallied behind them. “Jokingly, we even used to tease them about all the things straight couples can learn from gay couples”, John says.
“My mom was supportive from the start and I have shared everything with her. She drove me to get our engagement rings. My dad, on the other hand, took some time to accept it. When we were engaged, on the outside he was happy, but inwardly he was still on the fence.” Salapathy fondly recalls. “That was until he met John and was convinced that John was a great son-in-law,” He adds.
“We were surprised with the number of well-wishers, whoever we thought would not accept, congratulated us and invited themselves to our wedding,” he says, adding that the only way to fight the prejudice that exists against homosexuals across the world is by educating people on the matter.
The distress gay couples have to go through
“The Orlando shooting, where many gay couples were killed by an armed assailant, was distressing”, John says, adding that it is possible that the shooter, who is said to have hidden his sexuality, was fighting his own mind. “I remember being a teen, and realizing that I liked other men, but I fought and suppressed it due to the conservative atmosphere I was in,” John says.
Things are different now. “I am exactly how I was meant to be and I am proud of it,” he says with joy and pride.
Many societies can show prejudice against homosexuals but the times are changing, and soon there will be an equal world, John opines. He loves the Indian culture and looks forward to a day when they will witness a gay wedding in India, apart from his own.
Related Reading: New-Age Relationships In India
“Ignorance and fear are the reason many of us show prejudice against a certain group. Until recently many of us were closeted and therefore in most people’s eyes we were an oddity. Today, it is changing,” he says.
Their dream wedding
South Indian culture is “rich and unique,” and growing up in a strong cultural environment, these cultural values were deeply embedded in him. That is why they had a very traditional engagement ceremony, Salaphaty says.
John, who follows Hinduism, says, “I had dreamed of a huge Telugu function like you see in the movies with women all in nine-yard saris, countless sweet dishes, dancers and singers, and surrounded by family.”
“We have both dreamed of a perfect wedding but we aren’t sure of when it will be. We are planning to have it within a year or two. We have to set an example since we’re one of the first South Indian gay couples to get married this way!” Salaphaty laughs. We know how exhausting planning your own wedding can be!
Also adding, “When society looks down upon homosexuals, be the change for which the same society will look up to you. This will break the misconceptions surrounding homosexuality.”
Earlier this year, Rao officiated his own engagement to McCane at this beautiful function in Australia when his fiancé came to visit him. There was not a single dry eye in the entire room. The couple will be married next year and live in the U.S. to hopefully start a family together soon.