Q1. Was it easy to be a gay child? Were you bullied about your color at school or college level?
As a child I was very much loved at home by my parents. They loved me for who I was. It was never easy being a different kid at school and college. Those days even I didn’t know who I was and why I was getting attracted to boys. The boys in school were talking about getting attracted to girls, while I was getting attracted to boys which was very confusing and frustrating. To top it off, I was getting bullied for my mannerisms and behavior which were very feminine and for my skin color.
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Q2. Coming out of the closet can sometimes be a beautiful experience or it can also be devastating. How was your experience?
Coming Out to My Best Friends:
During my second year of college, I got introduced to a guy who was full of fun, loves bikes and a traveler. During the initial days, we used to hang around, chill out after college and have a good time. One day, something happened for which I was there when he needed someone to support him and ever since we have been best buddies.
After I got comfortable with myself, I wanted to let him know. I was not sure how he will react. I feared losing this amazing friendship. I battled this around a lot in my head and finally decided to come out to him. After our classes got over, we met at our regular hang out place and asked him to drop me to my hostel room. While we were on the way, my heartbeats never sped that fast. I told him that I have very important and personal thing to say. He kept a straight face thinking that it’s a new crush of mine at college that I wanted to tell him. (I faked having crushes on girls during college so that my friends think I’m straight).
After a deep breath, I told him I was gay. He was indeed surprised as I could see that on his face and he didn’t speak. Then something in my head told me to tell him that it’s ok for him to not be my friend after this and I will respect that. I also told him that it was nice knowing you and please keep this with him. I rattled all of this and didn’t wait for him to respond. I just left for my room. The coming days I avoided to have a conversation with him. After classes I just went back to my room. After 3 days, I remember, he barged into my room. He then said which I still remember very clearly, I don’t care who you like, but never ever again say that we will not be friends. I was clearly taken aback. He seemed hurt and sad by the fact that I told him to end the friendship. He explained to me as well, that everyone has their choices, like some guys like skinny girls or girls who have more flesh or girls with long hair or big boobs and all. We don’t break friendships with people who like different things. What if you like a guy? I’m fine with that. Those last words just melted me, and I fell in love with him for accepting me who I am. He later hugged me and held me for a while longer than usual. That hug was the hug of acceptance, love, respect and everlasting friendship.
My colleagues at work with whom I joined, and we became friends. During my working days, I was pretty much gay during the weekends and in weekdays, I constantly made sure that I hid my gayness thinking it shouldn’t affect my career. I was living a dual life which was frustrating but was very much required. It so happened that even my colleagues who became my friends didn’t know about this. They used to crack gay jokes during dinner or over drinks and I couldn’t tell them anything, just had to laugh along outwards but inwards was feeling very bad. This hiding continued for a couple of years and then one day I decided that during the New Year’s Eve of 2006 I will let my friends know. When the day arrived, I was still thinking should I tell or not. But after a stiff drink of vodka, I got the courage to tell them. An hour after midnight, I broke the news to them letting them know that I was gay. In this group of friends, 2 were girls and when I told them they smiled, while the 2 guys were a bit surprised and upset. This kind of got me worried. The girls were all thrilled and very happy for me. They mentioned that they always knew that something was different about me which they were absolutely fine with that. They were also very proud that I took such a bold step to be who I am and live my life. When I spoke to the guys, one of them mentioned that he was very upset that I didn’t tell him who I really was. I was shocked. Then he went on to say that I didn’t consider anyone to be my best friend and that’s why I didn’t share this information all this while. All this time they considered me to be their best friend as they shared all their secrets (good, bad and ugly). They felt bad about it, but when I explained to them, they understood why I was quiet about it. After that we celebrated New Year’s again and this time it was for me. A lot of hugging and kissing on my cheeks happened. It was one of my best new year’s in a long time.
Coming Out to My Parents:
This I think would be the most difficult but the most required stories to tell. By the time I came out to my parents, I was very comfortable with my sexuality, but didn’t have the heart to tell my parents that I was gay. Around 4 years before coming out, my parents had started seeing girls for me thinking it will take time to find the right match for me. During those days, I used to tell my mom that I don’t want to get married. They thought that I didn’t want to get married as I didn’t want to be a responsible guy. My close friends started getting married and this added more pressure to my parents to get me married sooner. But another interesting part during the match making was that my horoscope was not matching with the girls.
Due to this I was even more convinced that I wouldn’t need to tell them as I won’t get married. Mentioned this to mom that even god didn’t want me to get married and hence all this is happening. They said that there is a girl in someplace in this earth who is born and waiting for you. I secretly hoping for it to be a guy. I was seeing my parents getting worried about this whole thing. I spoke to my girlfriends who were married, asking their opinion, if it will be right to get married to a girl for my parent’s sake just in case they find a girl. Those were some of the most interesting and heart to heart conversations I’ve had with a girl about everything about a marriage. I then made a very firm decision that I will never get married to a girl and spoil her life for the sake of parents or family or relatives or society. I also asked my guy friends. They said if you can get married to a girl then go for it as you don’t need to make your parents feel sad and bad. What if something happens to them and you will feel guilty all your life. This also made sense. Making parents proud was one of the key elements that is being instilled in our lives from a very young age. So again, I was going through a lot of turmoil which was affecting all aspects of my life. But the fact of cheating a girl is not the right thing to do was always in the back of my mind. Then finally the day that I dreaded came, when my parents told me that they have found a girl whose horoscope matched with mine. They were relieved that their second son’s marriage will happen soon. I was too stunned and shocked to hear that. Later that day I thought and thought of every possible situation that I could think of, the good, the bad and the ugliest.
Then I made my choice and the next day, I called my parents into my room and told them I will not marry. When they asked me why, I said, I’m gay. My dad was like, what’s gay? My heart sank even more thinking how naive my parents are, and it will take a long time for them to even understand who I truly and. The next couple of hours were difficult, as I had to explain to them about many things. Emotions were all over. Parents were angry, sobbing, upset and shocked. All this while, I maintained my composure but at times cried as I couldn’t see my parents cry because of me. I had also decided not to give in to their emotional blackmail, instead tried reverse psychology. I told them, they taught me to be truthful and honest which I’m being honest now. I told them that I will not be happy if I get married to a girl as I can’t love a girl. I even said, if they want me to get married which will make them happy, I will get married. But I won’t be happy one bit in that. That shocked them even more as they said they wanted me to be happy. A lot of a conversations happened for which my parents didn’t have an answer as they were all valid and logical questions. During all this drama (that’s what I think of it as now), I felt relieved, and a heavy weight let off, unburdening of something. I felt light, very happy and proud that I could tell all of this to my parents. I was screaming inside with joy and happiness.
Q3. As we know, being different is not an easy task when it comes to your gender orientation. People go through a lot of troubles and suffer from Mental Health. Why it is still a taboo to talk about Mental Health?
In India, mostly people have been told not to discuss their personal problems outside the house. And due to this I feel people don’t talk about their issues. They think everything will get better by time, again as said by our parents.
The word “mental” itself is mentioned in a very demeaning manner by people. When you say something silly or stupid, they say, “Are you mental?”.
Also, people approach doctors only when they are not keeping well. And the moment you meet a counselor or a psychiatrist, many think you have an issue in your head. Once you go there, people don’t take you seriously and they think you cannot make or take decisions.
This is the same at work too. Once you mention that you were taking help from a counselor or a psychiatrist, things go downhill.
But i believe the youngsters seem to be talking about it but not as much as it should be. Even at corporates, these conversations are coming up now and it will take a while before we can start talking about this without any taboo.
Q4. How do you feel after winning Mr. Gay World India? How was journey from taking part in a beauty pageant to winning the title?
I really feel humbled, happy and amazing winning the Mr. Gay World India 2019 Title. It was a great experience for me. Meeting the other fellow contestants and being with them was amazing. Learnt a lot about what is happening in their own places and how they are working on making a change. Also meeting some well-known people from the community who have done some great work had motivated to do well.
When I won the title, after the thought of meeting my loved ones, all I could think was, how can i use this platform to spread awareness, help & support people, NGO’s and corporates.
Q5. After Section 377 verdict, there is still a long way to go. How important is it for you that we continue to fight for our rights?
After sec 377, we need to demand for equal opportunity in all walks of life, be it education, marriage, housing, health benefits, employment, surrogacy, adoption, insurance, etc. Our push to get all our rights should continue till we get it and it’s very important.
Q6. How does it feel like to become a celebrity from an ordinary handsome man?
I wouldn’t lie, I really enjoy the attention. But with that said, I feel I am in a position where I can be the changemaker and an influencer. So, I do not take the title for granted and want to use it to bring more visibility about the community to the society.
Q7. Do you think color-based discrimination is strong in the LGBT+ community? Did you face the discrimination for being dark?
During my growing up years when I was figuring out my sexuality, I was on some of the chat rooms where we could chat or meet people from the community. There was this common term used a/s/l, which means age/sex/location in the chat rooms. The next question was are you fair? I always said I was dark. Post that there used to be no response from the other side. This was very frustrating and annoying that how can someone not want to meet just because I am dark.
I did face a lot more rejection in Bangalore to where I was working. My confidence level was all time low. But it changed when I met this British couple who boosted my confidence level by saying, “We would love to swap your skin color with ours. We change colors all the time, like when we go out, we turn red, when we fall sick, we turn another color and we sit under the sun to tan ourselves. Look at you, you are the same all throughout.”
Q8. What awareness do you want to spread to sensitize and normalize the existence of LGBT+ community?
Firstly, I let people know that majority of the humans on this planet have two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, one head, one nose and one mouth.
Secondly, I tell them that no two people are similar.
With that being said, everyone cannot be boxed into two buckets of people, a man and a woman. There will always be spectrum.
My way of spreading awareness is by letting people know that we, LGBTQ people are as capable as others, we want the same rights as others and we love like the others.
I would also encourage people from the LGBTQ community to come out, when the time is right for them. We need more visibility and let them know that this is not a “western culture” which many of them assume it to be. Educate them that it has been in existence since the start of evolution.
Q9. ‘Unity in Diversity’ we often say it, but do you really think we include gender identity with caste, class, languages, religion, etc.
“Unity in Diversity” is only said in books, speeches and media. But in reality, we are far from it. With caste, class, language, religion, region & color we are still not united. In regard to gender identity, we are very far from unity. Lots of work to be done in this country which is very huge.
During a conference abroad, I realized this, that there are many countries whose population is equal or lesser than the individual states in India. So bringing things together will take time and it’s a mammoth task.
Q10.Our fashion and modeling industry is more focus on people who are more fair and handsome. Isn’t it? Do you think the fairness cream advertisements is creating more racism in the country?
The thought of being fair is better has been pushed into our minds from a young age. For example, if you see some of the story books – good kid is always fair while the bad kid is dark, fair kid is rich in good clothes while the dark kid is poor and torn clothes. Even the same in the movies. This being there from ages, the mindset to shift is difficult.
With that being said the fairness cream industry is also adding more pressure to be fair. In a land where we have all shades of color just promoting fairness is completely unacceptable.
Look at the ads in matrimonial sites, we are looking for a girl/boy who is fair.
Ever since I have gotten confident about my looks, I keep shouting that its Tall Dark & Handsome and not Tall Fair & Handsome.
Again things are changing but at a very slow pace.
Q11. What your future with your partner? Any comments on legalizing same-sex marriages.
Our plan is to move in and start living together.
With regards to same-sex marriages, I think we need to start moving in the direction of marriage equality. Because I believe everyone should have the right and live with whom they want.