Being Gay and Being Out in India

zorian-cross-Zorian Cross

Posted on- NDTV.COM

The following is an excerpt from an actual conversation that took place when some random stranger decided to message me on Facebook –

Random Guy Trying to Flirt With Me: By the way, I’d really like to meet you

ME: That’s nice (I’ll allow you, the reader, to imagine the tone I used)

RGTTFWM: But, I have a confession

ME: You do?

RGTTFWM: I’m closeted

ME: Oh

RGTTFWM: So when we meet, you’ll have to be discreet about it as well.

ME: Sorry, darling, I don’t have the time and patience for that. Come back to me when you grow a pair and come out.

RGTTFWM: You don’t understand, I come from a very conservative family, and –

ME: Mary, please! We all have conservative families where our mothers would die of a heart attack and our fathers would disown us if we come out. It’s called being Indian!

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Unfortunately, that’s part of my experience of being gay in our country. A country that was perhaps one of the most sexually liberated nations, that embraced virtually every part of the spectrum of human sexuality to the extent that it’s carved on the walls of our ancient temples. 
What happened?

Of course, that’s a discussion best left for historians and sexualanthropologists. This article is primarily about me. Yes, I know that sounds a tad egotistical, but I can only talk from my own point of view. It’s futile for me to attempt to make a universally-acceptable statement about what it’s like to be gay in present day India because ‘reality’ is subjective to one’s own experiences and perceptions. That’s too ‘meta’ a discussion for now.

So let’s come back to my favorite subject – me.

I came out of the closet officially when I was 23. By ‘officially’ I mean that’s when I told my parents that I was gay. Before that, I had already told my sister, a few cousins, my friends, as well as all of Facebook (it was very different back in 2007).

The moment I came out to my parents, it felt as though a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t need to hide. I didn’t need to lie about who I am nor pretend to be someone I’m not. I could just be Me. It scared me a little, but gosh, it was so liberating!

Now, seven years later, I couldn’t be happier because ever since I came out, my life took a turn for the better. I’m a multi-award-winning theatre artiste with my own independent production company. I’m well-respected (and borderline feared) amongst my peers. My work has been critically lauded and commercially successful. My relationship with my family has grown stronger and all the more loving as they stand by me and are proud of who I am. I have a wonderful circle of friends that are always there for me when I need them.

However, it’s been terrible for my love life.

Not my sex life, because that’s fabulous in every which way, but yeah, my love life sucks big time.

It’s not like I’ve never been in love. I have. And I’ve had my heart shredded to pieces and have been left a sobbing mess. I’ve also had my share of romantic flings that were exciting, passionate and dramatic (well, I do theatre – that’s a given); and a few were borderline dangerous. But never anything that was stable and long-term.

Now the reasons for me being single are plenty – ranging from me being “an unapologetic bitch” to me falling for men who are either wrong for me or hold no potential for anything long term. However, after almost a decade of playing the dating game, I’ve discovered my being out and proud in a country like India is perhaps one of – if not the biggest reasons – that I remain single.

I don’t make it a secret that I’m gay. However, as the conversation above showed, many other gay men would rather I did. It’s not because they care for my safety – considering the atrocities committed against members of the LGBT community by local and national authorities and homophobes. It’s because they’re concerned about how people would perceive them if they met me.

It’s kinda like the reverse racism we Indians have towards ourselves where we put each other down for the ‘exotic expat’ – don’t deny you’ve experienced this (and in a way, aren’t fairness creams a product of this?).

Attribute this partly to the extent of the influence of Indian patriarchy and machismo, especially in a city like Delhi and most of northern India where it’s drilled into little boys how they need to be ‘mards’ and how it’s a heinous social (and religious) crime to embrace any aspect of ‘femininity’.

Then again, maybe I’m just talking straight out of my ass – figuratively of course. Maybe I’m just overanalyzing things and blaming society’s hypocrisy and conservatism to shield whatever issues that I have regarding my not being in a committed loving relationship.

However, wouldn’t it be so much better if everyone came out of the closet? After all, there’s always strength in numbers. If the old saying of one in every ten individuals is gay, then in a country like India with over a billion people, we’d have over a hundred million citizens who belong to the LGBT spectrum. Just the sheer noise of those closet doors breaking could cause a global uproar.

It’s not easy, but based on my personal experience, life truly does get a whole lot better when you have nothing to hide. After all, doesn’t every religious scripture preach we should embrace truth and universal love? It’s a shame that in a country like India, which houses virtually every religion in the world, so many are encouraged to live a lie instead. Criminalization of homosexuality, anyone?

I do have a selfish reason for wanting this, among an ocean of unselfish ones. Maybe in the process of India becoming more accepting of the LGBT community, I could find someone to love and we can share our love with the world without having to hide it for the fear of whatever reason possible. Maybe I could walk down the street and hold hands with my love, and we could build a life together that’s acceptable in the eyes of the law – thereby receiving the same recognition and liberties awarded to my heterosexual brothers and sisters. Maybe when the time is right, my love and I could have children and raise them in a country that accepts and embraces diversity in all forms.

It may seem like a long shot, but I’m ever optimistic about it. After all, we’ve had about eight pride marches in Delhi. We’ve got numerous public figures like Kirron Kher, Aamir Khan, and others supporting the LGBT community publicly. I believe that when a generation of conservatism dies out, a new generation of liberalness is born. This has been proven by the recent judgement of the U.S. Supreme Court.

After all, a boy can dream, right?

Zorian Cross (my real name) is a multi-award-winning actor, playwright, and theatre director who resides in New Delhi and lives life to the fullest – unapologetically.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV OR clickitAB and NDTV & clickitAB does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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