Whenever two gay Indians of my generation – I was a teenager in the 1990s – meet each other and talk about LGBTI issues, we ask each other one question: ‘How did you feel, when you realized that you are a gay?’
Sadly, very many of us share an answer. It goes like this: ‘It was really difficult for me to accept my sexuality. Because I knew so little about lesbian, gay or bi people, I did not understand that it is not only me who is gay.
‘I cursed myself for being gay, my life become horrible. And a fear was there, if someone finds out I am a gay, I will lose my social status and become only a joke – people will laugh at me, and I will be a disgrace on my family’s name.’
These were the fears of a generation, actually of many generations, of gay Indians.
We were weak and vulnerable, as we felt ourselves isolated. We did not have any way to meet each other or learn about others like ourselves, so we faced the struggle alone.
When LGBTI people do not accept themselves as LGBTI, they have no power, no method, to ask society to accept them or give them their rights.
Many of us in that generation, like those before us, made fake attempts to become straight. I would say 99% married due to social or family pressure – most still live their lives in the closet today.
It is easy enough to argue that the gay men of my generation made the wrong choices. That by marrying girls, we ruined their lives. Actually my research suggests most gay men who are married to women live surprisingly successful married lives and do their duties as a husband and a father very well.
A Facebook friend from a small town told me: ‘I did not understand my sexuality during my youth. I thought it was only me who is like this. If I knew then what I know now about gay people, I might not have married.
‘But now as I am married, my family comes first. All other things –including my sexual orientation – are secondary to me.’
It was a really honest answer although a painful one. In India marriage remains truly a bond for life. While divorce rates are rising in the country, they are a fraction of the rates in the West. (Around 13 couples in 1,000 in India divorce, compared to 500 in 1,000 in the US.)
But now there is huge a change.
The young generation of gay Indians are totally different from us. Their views about sex, virginity, their own sexuality and life in general are totally fabulous to me.
They are bold. They don’t only accept themselves as LGBTI. They also demand that society accepts who they are. Many of them have openly told their family about their sexuality.
It is a revolution.
Now we see debate on homosexuality on news channels and across the media. That doesn’t mean that everyone agrees change is needed. Far from it. Many defend Article 377 of the Indian penal code that makes gay sex. But the most important thing is the issue is now being discussed.
That gives an opportunity to those who support LGBTI human rights to raise their voice.
The credit for this revolution – which one day will secure real change in India – goes to the young generation of LGBTI people who are brave enough to stand up despite the discrimination they may face from society.
But we should also recognize that change doesn’t happen in a day. So in praising their boldness, let’s remember that the seeds of this revolution were sown by a previous generation who wrote so much about the pain they faced and prepared our youth for this fight.