Interview Aam Gaysi : From Corporate World To Community Work

aam-aadmiInterviewee: Ajay Gabriel Sathyan, Chennai

What do you identify as (gay, bi, transgendered, queer – use any terms you like here)?

Huh! A tough question? Oh well, I am gay.

When did you first define your identity as such?

I was abused when I was a child, so I was confused about my attraction to men. When I was a teenager, I fell in love with my friend. I didn’t question that relationship. I was happy, naive and innocent. He died when I was 17. That affected me very badly and I started looking for answers. Voila I realized am gay!

Was it easy or difficult for you to come to terms with your sexuality?

It wasn’t easy! Before I realized I was gay I had a lot of men in my life who just abused me. I feared that I was the only guy who wanted a male companion. Soon after I met other gay men I was okay.

AjayGabrielSathyanWhen did you come out to your family and what was their reaction?

I first came out to them when I was 19. For almost a year I had been dropping hints and when confronted I came out to them as a gay celibate person. It climaxed when I made them watch the NDTV show “Chennai Speaks out”.

It wasn’t easy. My parents are still upset and confused. They love me as their son and care about me, but they feel there is too much suffering for gays. It is my responsibility to be there for them and help them understand. I need their love and I have the right to demand it from them. I know they will come around. Till then, I will wait for them, wait with them.

You are quite open about your sexuality. Does it bother your family? How do friends, extend family react?

Yes it does bother my family. I guess they are getting used to it. (They have no choice 🙂 ). Some of my relatives have ostracized me, but many of my friends are very supportive. When people leave me, it doesn’t bother me. The ones who really love you for who you are, will stay.

You are out at work. Tell us about it.

Ah yes!  To be a fag and to have a career isn’t that a task? I had to leave many jobs, but I still don’t go back in the closet. I have had colleagues who were total homophobes, colleagues who made a pass at me because I was gay. But I also have had colleagues who were pretty open minded and cool. Many of my female colleagues tell me, “We like you for what you are and you being gay is not gonna change anything.” And some of my male colleagues, I call them fag-stags :), say,” Dude you are just like us: you are funny, you speak crap, you eat meat, you arm wrestle, you love gadgets/cars/bikes, you watch cricket and football. You are a guy who likes guys, we don’t have a problem with that.”

Have you experienced first hand homophobia? If yes, how did you deal with it?

Yes.  When I was 20, I was out shopping with a friend at Spencer’s Plaza, Chennai. My friend is effeminate and is obviously gay. There were two guys who were making nasty and hurtful comments. I threw a punch at one of them and the other ran away!

You have lots of transgender friends

Yes I do have a lot of transgender friends. Sadly many “English speaking, party going” gay men discriminate against transgenders. Inequalities do exist within the LGBT community.  I speak up against it. We need to treat everyone fairly and equally.

You are part of the Shakti center and work closely with the community. Tell us about it.

I volunteer for Sangama and The Shakti resource center. Both organizations work for the LGBT causes in Chennai. I help organize Shakti’s events including film screenings, discussions and seminars. These involve a wide range of topics from sexual health and sex workers’ struggles to 377, faith and sexuality. For Sangama, I help document their crisis support cases.  I also worked on their Tamil translation of the 377 judgment. I also actively participated in Chennai pride and help organize events.

You are a trained peer counselor too

Yes I am. I was selected to receive the training via Shakti center’s LGBT peer counseling training program.  It is a huge responsibility and a little scary. I am someone who is very casual, funny and carefree, not exactly a counselor’s persona! But I guess the folks who picked me saw something in me and they were confident I can help the community.

You are making a major career change now, right?

Yes. Good bye Corporate (IT park with food court / Fancy AC cabs / parties / Weekends off). NGO here I come. I am joining South India AIDS Action Program (SIAAP ) as an Advocacy Officer and will work closely with the community.

Do you regret being out? How do you deal with the problems that come with being out?

Nope. Well, in the beginning, I used to get really angry when faced with LGBT phobia. I used to confront people and get violent, if required J.  But lately I just talk myself out of trouble J

You have spoken to Church audiences as a representative of the community. Tell us about that experience.

Yes I have. I had three opportunities so far to talk about gay Christians. I addressed a conference on sexuality and faith at the Lutheran Theological College & Research Institute. I also spoke at a conference organized by Center for the Church and Global Aids and then at another conference organized by Lay Theologians Network-India titled “ A new church for a new world”.

It was a good experience. I had the chance to advocate against the oppression of gay Christians in Indian churches. The audience were very welcoming and willing to listen. Many approached me and told me that I made them see things clearly and helped them understand the community. They were relieved to know that gays are also like them; gays are also folks who have other things in their head, not just sex.

One Bollywood actor/actress and one Kollywood actor/actress (Tamil) you would love to see coming out as gaysi?

Hmm.. Kangana Ranaut. She gives you this impression she is sexually expressive and experimental. So why not. Kollywood – Vinay, He is quiet obvious, don’t you think?

If you could magically go back to being non-queer, would you do it? Why or Why not?

Nope. Never! I love living this life. It’s amazing what I have and am thankful for that. I don’t know if I would have experienced love, if I was straight

Your favorite queer-themed movie?


Your favorite queer-themed book?

A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time).

In the NDTV program, you said you want a big church gay wedding, do you think it is possible during our times?

Oh God! They edited it a lot. I spoke a lot on that show, but they just showed the wedding part, they depicted me as a desperate fag who wants to get married in a church! I would love to do that though and I think it will happen. But first let me get me self a MAN.


[Editors Note : Ajay no longer works at SIAAP]

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South Indian, Sambar lover,Subramanya Bharathi fan, Rebel, Bleeding heart liberal, Writer, Dreamer, Die-hard romantic and Queer. Twitter: @shrisadasivan

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