I was eight years old. The year 1990. I picked up a bollywood film magazine that my mother loved reading. On the cover of ‘Movie’ were Govinda and Chunky Pandey. So good-looking they were, clad in denim, all rugged and masculine. My heart skipped a beat. That was the first time in my life I felt attraction. It was such a beautiful feeling. I wasn’t scared. My mom had always told me to follow my heart. I thought of that feeling during that fleeting moment as natural. In no way did I feel like I was going against the order of anything. My religion, my parents, my moral science teacher – everybody told me to love, not to hate and I was doing just that. Loving. Loving myself, loving the fact that I felt the way I felt, loving life at that young age with the discovery of a new feeling every day.
My brother and I fought a lot as kids. Like most boys our age, we ended up having wrestling matches every other day. When I was eleven, we were having one of those days. Both of us screaming, wrestling each other, trying to pin the other to the floor of the bed. An older cousin who happened to be at home at the same time, walked into our room and said, ‘Will the two of you stop behaving like homosexuals!’ My brother and I stopped. Not because we were hurt by what our cousin had said. We were curious. We didn’t know what homosexual meant. My cousin was irritated when he said what he said, the tone condescending. It was obvious to my brother and I that being a homosexual seemed like a bad thing. Since in the early 90’s we didn’t have access to the internet, we quickly pulled our encyclopedias and began reading up on homosexuality. We were really young and were quite clueless of what a lot of the big words being used meant. But I quickly understood that if you were attracted to the same sex as you are, you were termed homosexual. My heart sank. I quickly realised that the encyclopedia was talking about me. I liked the feeling when my heart skipped a beat, not when it sank. In a fraction of a second, I had now become aware that there was no place for me in the social construct of ‘normalcy’. I was what people referred to as abnormal. From thereon began a conflict with myself that lasted right from the age of eleven till the age of eighteen.
I spent years in denial of my true sexual orientation. I thought this was a phase and it would go away. But it didn’t. For some reason, I believed that god wouldn’t want for me to be like this, so I prayed for it to go away. Surprisingly, god didn’t listen either. All my conversations with friends revolved around how attracted I was to girls my age. I thought if I called myself a heterosexual several times aloud, maybe my heart and mind would believe it. I was wrong then too. I was so scared. I had never felt that scared my entire life, not even the time I was robbed at knife-point. The fear I felt inside soon became visible to everybody. I became an easy target for bullies at school. I was beat up and called names because my classmates knew I felt weak. I thought I deserved to be treated like that because I was different. Family just saw me as an under-confident nervous child. ‘He will grow out of it,’ they used to say. And what did I do? I continued putting up a facade of being happy. The truth was I wanted out – I wanted out of school, out of home, out of life. For three whole years, I spent every single day thinking of ways to kill myself. When I look back, I wonder how I kept all of that bottled up for so many years.
At 18, I finally came out to myself. Somebody said to me, ‘Love yourself for who you are, that’s when everybody else will start loving you.’ That was the turning point in my life. I realized that homosexuality was not unnatural. I was born this way and the only choice I had now made was to be honest to myself. That was it.
Why am I narrating all of this?
A lot of my friends are parents to young kids who range in the age group of 0 months to five years. If you are a parent of young child living in India, I ask you, would you like your son or daughter to go through what I went through? When I came out to my mother at the age of 27, the first thing she said to me was, ‘I feel terrible that you had to fight that entire battle on your own. I wish I knew.’ My mother would have known if society didn’t force me to think I was abnormal. Conceptions about what is right or wrong are unfortunately determined by society. Do you think your child will feel comfortable coming out to you in a country that calls homosexuality a crime? What I went through in my adolescence is just a small sample of what millions of gay kids around the world go through. Confusion, bullying, harassment for no fault of their own. Trust me when I say this – gay people are born gay, they do not choose to be gay.
The next time you wonder, ‘how does section 377 impact you since you are not a homosexual,’ remember that in a population of 1.2 billion people, if 10% of the population is gay, I could be your son, your daughter, your brother, your sister, your friend. Voice out against section 377! Give your kids the future they deserve, the choice to be who they really are!