Our Voices The Orinam Blog

I Shall Overcome

lesbian+symbol1Today, I have been highly tired and distressed. My brain refused to co-operate to give the final touches for my second journal paper. I have been sitting on that poor paper for past two days and now, I am getting even more irritated at my inability to write. So, this post is a vent for my brain and heart.

I am a (proud) doctoral student at one of the prestigious technology institutions in India. I love the research work I do. Yes, I have had my share of frustrations that occasionally led to thoughts like “I am going to quit my Ph.D.” or “my work is trivial: I really should quit my research”. But, I am still here and I am on the verge of completing my work and graduating next summer. I have absolutely no idea as to what I will do after this. If someone asks me now, I can give them only two vague answers: (a) post-doctoral fellowship abroad or (b) job. Ask me for more details and you will draw a blank. I want to take it one day at a time and focus on the important things like getting my papers  published in  scientific journals, and that big D, my doctoral dissertation.

I know, I know, you are probably wondering what I am frustrated and distressed about then.

You see, that is the professional side of me. A personal side of me also exists. That personal side of me is gay.

Gay as in ‘gay’. Queer. Lesbian. Homosexual.

I have always known that I was different, starting with the time when I was in a (girls) school. I had a few crushes in school, but I never gave the subject of my sexuality that much thought. I thought it was a phase and I would get over it. Then, when I was in college, I had my first brush with falling head over heels in love with this girl, but, sadly enough, I was left with a broken heart. But, the actual sad thing was that I refused to accept that I was capable of ‘girl love’. I didn’t think it was right. I was afraid of those feelings, just as much as I liked them. Conflicted, I thought that my first ‘boy love’ would be the right way. I thought I loved that boy and of course, it had ended before the ‘girl love’.

Those ‘girl love’ feelings left me confused and lost. But, one day, I woke up and decided that my career was more important, and worked my ass off to get into one of the most prestigious institutions in India. I conveniently ignored those feelings brewing within me,  and relegated them to the back-burner of my consciousness.

My first year and a half of doctoral work were blissful.  I loved my work. In my leisure, I enjoyed reading, going to movies and cultural shows by myself. All was well until another girl love walked into my life. I did everything I could to ‘not’ fall in love with her. But, I did, and it ended badly too. But, that was the first time in my life I was forced to look into the mirror and tell myself “This is what you have always longed for – to share all aspects of your life with a woman. Basically, like a man and woman would do”.

I fought that realization so much that I almost had a nervous breakdown. I even had a brief relationship with a boy to prove to myself that I was ‘normal’. But, unfortunately I ended up only hurting the boy and even to this day, I am ashamed of myself for having done that.

After all these struggles, I finally told myself that this is who I was, and nothing would change that. To think meeting the ‘right’ guy would set me straight would  amount to a deception that would haunt me for my entire life.

This conversation with myself felt like a release from prison. I finally found myself at ease.

But, I had my fears too. Fear of what my family and my friends would say. I started out by coming out to my closest friends. They were supportive and happy for me. Then, I came out to my family. Initially, they said they wanted me to be happy and that they would support me. I was elated, yet there was a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that things would not be as simple as they said. I knew I was up for a huge battle.

You see, just before I came out to my family, I had met her. She was the woman I always secretly envisioned I would be with. She is smart, funny, extremely caring and loving. She is, most of the times, more mature than me and at the same time, she is a kid too. Her energy and enthusiasm for life is boundless, which makes me wonder at times if I can have such energy too. She loves nature, animals and photography, all with the same intensity, which makes me in awe of her. She is my strength and has helped me see through myself. They say that sometimes it takes the person who loves you very much to recognize and accept your flaws/shortcomings. That is what she has done for me. I truly and totally adore her. I love her with my whole heart and want to grow old with her.

We both have only one small problem – that of being in a long-distance relationship. It has caused several misunderstandings between us, yet we have held on together. The simple pleasure of seeing each other once in six months (we take turns visiting each other) is the only thing we both look forward to very eagerly.

And yesterday, even that was robbed from us.

I was due to visit her next month. I had meticulously planned out my work schedule, so that I could spend time with her peacefully, unencumbered by thoughts of pending tasks. We wanted to make the best of what time we had with us.

My family refused to let me go. Their refusal took the form of a litany of objections to my relationship with my girlfriend: “This illegal relationship will cause a lot of problems, especially with society  being what it is. You will be a social outcast, even within your own friends’ circles. People will be talking behind you, you will be exploited, no one will respect you….”. They went on to tell me to focus on my career and shelve thoughts of relationships for later. They concluded by saying they cared for my happiness, and that was why they preferred I go in for socially acceptable marriage with a man. I listened to all this, speechless with anger at their hypocrisy.

How could they claim to care for my happiness and,  simultaneously, suggest that I go in for a socially acceptable marriage?

I had never been as furious with my parents as I was yesterday. While it is true that their status in society could be affected because their daughter would be living with a woman, she and I would bear the brunt of the social ostracism. It is not like we had not thought about the consequences before arriving at our decision. Life is a battle, even if you are not a homosexual!

As far as career and financial security is concerned, it is not as if I am ignoring these because of my relationship with her. I am working towards that also, because I (we) want a financially secure and comfortable future for ourselves, just like any other couple.

That was when I realized the core issue was that my parents really didn’t want to accept me as gay. All through the conversation, they kept saying that they didn’t know anything about her or how long this relationship would last.

I have tried my best to involve her in my conversations with my mother, to whom I am closer than my father. There was absolutely no reaction from her: she refused to acknowledge my partner. It hurt like hell. It was the love of my life who consoled me saying that, with time Ma would accept us. Even though she has not met Ma till now, she absolutely adores and loves her. She even tells me not to bother Ma! (which I do sometimes).

{This scenario reminds of ‘The Memories in March’ movie. It is a beautiful movie by the (Late) Bengali director named Rituparno Ghosh, who also is one of the lead characters in that movie. The movie begins with a mother who comes from Kolkata to Delhi when she hears of her son’s death in a car accident. While her office colleagues help her out with the funeral proceedings and packing his things, she comes to know of her son’s gay identity. She is shocked and blames herself for not bringing him properly. Ghosh, who enacts the role of the son’s boss, is also the lover. At first, she is loath to meet him. But, when he describes her beauty and personality, just as how her son would have described her, she realizes that her son meant a lot to him and though, she grows to accept their relationship. The movie ends with them parting as good friends.}

What my parents don’t seem to understand or appreciate is that, I came out to them so that they could accept me as who I am and support me to face society. When my parents themselves don’t want to accept it, where is the question of society’s acceptance? I had clearly told them when I came out, ‘I don’t care for the society. For me, the society is my family and my friends. It is important for me that they accept me first more than anything else.’

I could have easily hidden all of this from my family and gone abroad or some place else to settle with her. But, instead I chose to tell them because both of us want to be there for our families. We want to support and take care of them in their old age.

All this anger slowly ebbed into sadness today. I realized it is us alone against the world. No matter what, I will not succumb to the socially acceptable hetero marriage my parents want for me. I will carve out a niche for myself professionally and live the life I have envisioned for us. I cannot and will not trade my chance at happiness for social acceptability. Call it selfishness, or whatever you like.

As for the support of the people we care about, it is up to them to decide if they want to be with us. We are humans, as the rest of them. We have emotions and feelings too. We believe in love and families too. Yes, it is battle and we will fight for our existence. We are who we are and we are not ashamed of it. Actually far from it, we are happy as we are.

At the end of the day, I still hope that my parents will come to understand and accept me. They have given me all I wanted till now in my life. I respect them and love them. I don’t ask them for anything else other than their understanding and support for who I am, for this lifetime.

We have only one life to live and what use is it, if you cannot live that in happiness and peace?

And yes, sadly, there is a price for everything in this world, including happiness. You win some and lose some. It is up to you to choose which you want to win/lose.

I choose to live for my happiness with her. I will live through the losses also with her.

Comments

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  1. Do not give up on any thing. You have done encouragingly well this far as a human being. Be always true to yourself and feelings. Just do not give up. Life will smile upon you as you continue your struggle. Love Be With You.

  2. Such a beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing it with us. More than anything it gives everyone confidence to see things through. Let us all believe that It Does Get Better!

    1. Aravind,
      Thank you for reading my post. I will be glad if my post helps anyone or everyone in dealing with their own issues.
      I do hope that things will be well soon. As they say, time is the best healer :).

  3. Moving article.

    The author says “I realized it is us alone against the world”. I went through the same phase of feeling alone and left out when I was coming out. But now when I look back I cannot believe how wrong I was.

    The world is what we create and happiness is totally a human construct. I think the key is to 1) Claim your own territory and give yourself the personal space that you deserve 2) Create a supportive of friends who are either gay or supportive of gay rights, invest in these friendships and build a sense of community .

    We are all doing something that previous generations didn’t have the courage to do and we are leaving behind something that makes coming out much easier for the next generation. Time to be proud.

    Happy pride 🙂

    1. Bharath,
      I guess what you say is correct at the end of the day. All of us carve out a niche for ourselves. But despite all this, we still try to accommodate as many people as we can in that niche also because we are humans and like to surrounded by the people we care :).

  4. Utterly moving, and a sobering reminder that our hardest challenge is not changing laws and policies, but changing mindsets of our loved ones. Here’s hoping that everything works out, and that there will be a day in the not-too-distant future where your parents will come around and embrace you and your girl love wholeheartedly!

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Ramki. Above all, thank you for editing and publishing this piece :).
      Changing the mindsets is a herculean task especially when they are hell bent on sticking to their views, instead what we can hope for is their understanding with time.

  5. Hey Jo!hats off to you and secondly congratulation for finally having the person in your life who will care for you through out your life.I had a similar experience..and Its still persisting in a quite horrific manner.

    1. Ya Shi,
      Thank you for your comment and wishes.
      Have faith and patience, my friend, things will see light one day :).

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