Interviewee : Kartik Sharma
Q. What do you identify as?
A: I identify as gay.
Q. When did you first start to define your identity as such?
A: I think I always knew but I did not accept my identity until I was 16 or 17. I forced myself to think that I was attracted to women.I never realized that it was just a passing thought. Accepting myself and coming to terms with my sexuality was a culmination of a lot of instances – watching only the hero in movies, not being able to talk about girlfriends with my guy friends etc.
Q. Have you experienced first-hand trans/homophobia? If yes, how did you deal with it?
A: I have experienced homophobia during my school and college days. Words such as ‘bayla’, ‘gud’, ‘homo’ would affect me a great deal when my classmates teased me. Although I did come over my fears when I passed out of college and started working. I mingled with the community members and learnt a great deal on how to overcome fear and ridicule and how to stay strong (or even give it back, at times). Ever since, the world has been kinder and I have been stronger.
Q. When did you first out yourself?
A: I first came out to my best friend at the age of 20!
Q. Was it unplanned or was there careful planning involved?
A: I did plan it out before I decided to tell my best friend and my Mother.
Q. Who did you come out to & why did you come out to that person?
A: I first came out to my best friend and ever since that happened; there was no looking back. My best friend matters a lot to me. We have known each other for over 18 years now and he is one person who genuinely cares for me, like I care for him. I realized he must know the truth. And, knowing him, I always knew we would never part ways because of my sexuality.
I also realized that my Mother had to know, no matter what. I didn’t care if anyone else knew of my sexuality or not and neither would it matter to me, but my Mother’s opinion would. And so, I came out to her as well. Her reaction was absolutely unexpected.
Q. How did that person react?
A: When I came out to him, the first thing my friend asked me was “Why did it take you so long to tell me? Your sexuality wouldn’t affect our friendship. It never has and it never will. You’re still my friend and we’ll always be the way we are.”
When I came out to her, my Mother’s reaction was intense and negative. She just couldn’t come to terms with my sexuality and told me things that were beyond my expectations. It has been over five years since I came out to her and she is still in a denial phase.
I know she knows and yet, she refuses to accept the truth. A lot of my friends (also gay) are friends with her on Facebook and my sexuality is not a hidden fact on social media either. I am hopeful though; of the day when she will be proud of who I am and will walk the Pride with me.
Q. Did your coming out change anything about your relationship with them?
A: Between my friend, and me our friendship only grew stronger. Between my mother, and me our relationship matured to a whole new level. We started talking about tabooed topics openly, which I definitely consider an advancement in our relationship.
Q. Have you ever been outed without your consent? If yes, how did you deal with it?
A: Gladly, never. I am fortunate enough to have sensitive and sensible folks in my life that way.
Q. How did the people you were outed to deal with it?
A: I have never been outed to anyone without my consent. Most of them I came out to had various reactions. Some would get overwhelmed and accept me with open arms, some would never talk to me after that day and some would just be accept it, keep it aside and not make a big deal about it.
Q. Do you think being gaysi makes it harder to come out & that if you weren’t part of such a traditional & conservative culture you would have an easier time with your sexuality/identity?
A: The Indian society in general and in majority has not been too accepting of homosexuality. In spite of the fact that homosexuality has existed in India since ancient times. Our texts, scriptures and mythological instances are proof to the fact. However, a lot of people (including our families) were raised and made to believe that heterosexuality is the only way of life. Since a lot of them are unaware of facts and adamant enough to refuse or accept practicality, telling them you’re gaysi makes it difficult for them to comprehend and for you to explain your sexuality/identity.
Q. Would you recommend that people stay in the closet or come out?
A: Coming out can either be positive or difficult. There’s no point in pretending otherwise. I would recommend – before coming out to others, it is very important to understand and accept your own self. Being financially independent is another important aspect as well. Do not come out until you feel comfortable. Even in today’s times, homosexuality is considered a crime in India and our constitution neither accepts us nor identifies our basic human rights in the positive. The way you took time to understand your sexuality, others might too. Do not expect them to accept you the moment you come out to them. Sexuality is a process. Be patient. Learn and understand about the mindsets and the situation in your home, your college or your workplace. Only then, if you are willing to and absolutely sure of doing so, should you come out!
Q. Have you come out to any family member?
A: Yes, I have come out to my Mother and a cousin. A lot of my distant family members are on my social media handles. Although they’ve never asked me and neither do I tell them up front, they keep liking my posts on sexuality, pride etc. Quite notorious they are!
Q. One Indian Celebrity you would love to see coming out as gaysi?
A: Aditya Roy Kapoor (blush)
Q. Your favourite queer-themed movie?
A: PRIDE – it’s all about fighting for who you are and what’s rightfully yours.
Q. Your favourite queer-themed book?
A: Shikhandi and Other Stories They Don’t Tell You by Devdutt Pattanaik