Q. What do you identify as?
I identify as gay.
Q. When did you first start to define your identity as such?
I started to identify as gay around the time I came out to a few friends, at age 16.
Q. Have you experienced first-hand trans/homophobia? If yes, how did you deal with it?
I have indeed experienced first-hand homophobia on multiple accords. As a young adult, I used to get defensive, argumentative, and angry. In recent times, I’ve developed a more empathetic approach – where I categorize ones phobia as ignorance.
Q. When did you first out yourself?
When I was seventeen, my family and I took a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Along with us five, there were four other families of Indian descent. Reckless and desperate to understand my emotions, I rebelled against my family and got severely drunk. I recall waking up in bed, and looking straight at my mother – who sat there in disappointment. She asked me why I would do this to myself and the family, and wanted to know if I had been struggling with something. I then decided there were two ways this could go. I could either lie and say that I was straight and hope to God I’d muster up the courage to come out in later years, or I could accept that this is who I am, it was not going to change and the sooner my parents knew, the sooner I could be relieved. I stuttered several times, and as I attempted to say the words, my mother asked “Are you gay?” I responded, “Yes.”
Although she immediately said she loves and supports me, I think the nervousness of the situation is what provoked her to call my father in the room and out me to him. Luckily, he ended up being more relaxed than my mother.
As the ten year anniversary approaches, we rarely discuss my sexuality in a tone that separates me from the group. My parents hold the same expectations for me as if I were straight. I thank God each day for being so lucky to have parents who love me unconditionally. I attribute all success in my life to their support.
As shared, it did indeed change our relationship. To a degree, it is like losing a child and gaining a new. My mother told me that when I was first born, she had visioned my whole life and what she wanted for me. This vision had to be altered. I think because I am fully comfortable in my skin, I am more comfortable being myself resulting in us being closer than ever.
Q. Have you ever been outed without your consent? If yes, how did you deal with it?
Initially, it was tough and left me upset. Now that I am out and proud, its kind of expected. I am at the point in life where I do not care what anyone thinks of me, and would actually prefer to be outed. It saves me time from doing it myself.
Q. How did the people you were outed to deal with it?
I am trying to avoid an arrogant tone, but whoever thinks it a problem should deal with it on their own. If they have a problem, it is their problem not mine.
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?
I absolutely believe being gay and Indian makes it more difficult to come out of the closet. Then again, there are communities where you could die if you are outed. Our international movement itself is a growing pain. What helped me in coming out was doing research and truly understanding the culture I come from.
For example, Hinduism has always been a fluid religion that embraces all forms of sexuality. Shiva took the form of a man and woman, and could arguably be India’s first trans representation. It shocked me to see such devoted Hindus be so homophobic. We cannot change scripture, but we can change our culture. The lack of acceptance in the community has only served as motivation. I sit comfortably proud in the United States, but my ultimate goal is to work to make those in India have the same luxury and rights as I do as a gay male.
Q. Would you recommend that people stay in the closet or come out?
It is honestly a case by case situation. For example, I used to advise all my friends to come out and be proud – often judging those who did not. One day, a family friend of mine told me that their mother found out and is threatening to go suicide if he did not change. This not only broke my heart, but helped me understand that not everyone is going to have a positive experience.
Overall, I do believe that coming out is the best thing to do for yourself and your mental health – but be smart and cognisant of your environment. If you feel your environment is a threat to who you are, you may want to change the environment first. In an ideal world, you coming out will serve as the catalyst to change in your community – but some are not so lucky to survive such boldness.
Q. Have you come out to any family member?
I am completely out to both sides of my family.
Q. One Indian celebrity you would love to see coming out as gaysi?
It is hard to name one, when there are so many questionable. My childhood crush is Akshay Khanna.
Q. Your favourite queer-themed movie?
The Imitation Game
Q. Your favourite queer-themed book?
A book my mother gave to me when I came out, “The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed”. When I worked for the Human Rights Campaign, I had the pleasure of meeting Matthew Shephard’s mother, Judy Shephard. It was a proud moment I will cherish.