In our effort to understand the mindset of the NITT populace on LGBTQ+ issues, we at Feeds NITT sought the insight of a person from the LGBTQ+ community. We were able to reach out to an individual who identified as gay. The following account was the outcome of an open discussion, wherein many aspects of being gay were broached. This account has been published, upon long deliberation, with the consent of the concerned individual. Details tracing back to the individual have been withheld per their request. Utmost care has been taken to not put the individual’s reputation in jeopardy. This account is not a transcription, but a paraphrasis – with its veracity having been corroborated with the individual.
“How did you know?”
“I’d come out a year ago to two of my friends. At first, they joked about making me straight again”, he said, before admitting that he had actually considered trying out different ways to turn straight. “I’m from an orthodox family, I was brought up to be deeply religious, so coming out as gay felt wrong and immoral at first.” Having given it much thought, he finally picked up the courage to come out to a select few friends.
“To answer the oft-asked question, ‘how did you know you were gay?’, I had to think back, back to when I was in school.” The year was 9th grade, he developed a liking for a male friend of his. This was the first time he was attracted to someone. With nothing to compare this experience with, and probably being too young to realize what he was feeling, he didn’t make much of it. “I had a friend in 11th standard. I was very attached to her too, and I always wanted to be with her.” Looking back at these two experiences, he recounted his feelings for them. “My 11th standard friend was just that, a friend – a friend whose company I liked, and nothing more.” The 9th standard episode was different, he felt the need for more intimacy than he did with the other friend. It wasn’t just a friendship to him.
Another rather blatant indicator of his orientation was his propensity to a certain type of graphic internet content. “When I was first introduced to it, I almost instantly gravitated towards it. I didn’t find it disgusting or unnatural. Just like everyone else had their preferences, I had mine”, he said candidly. Looking back at it now, he says it was almost like he’s always been this way – not conditioned to think this way, but wired like this from the start.
While his friends have come around to supporting him, his parents were far from accepting. “They were distraught to the point of not talking to me properly. My mother would pray for me to turn straight again.” Their reaction was a cause for a lot of his unhappiness. It isn’t unheard of for parents to think that homosexuality is a perverse bent of the mind, but calling his father’s justification for his stance on the issue ‘odd’ would be an understatement.
“Homosexuality is a western concept. There are more gay people in the West because the cost of living is higher. Some men cannot financially support women, so they turn to other men for monetary and other support”
Ludicrous or worrisome? “Both. It is difficult to reason with them if they have opinions like this.” But on the other hand, he understands his father’s concern. His father’s colleague’s son was gay, and he died of AIDS. His father thinks it might happen to his son too, and which father wouldn’t try to dissuade their son from something that he thinks might potentially lead his son down that road?
Apart from the typical phobia that his parents had, they were concerned that such thoughts might be a distraction to their son from more important things like academics, despite him having a stellar academic record. There is seemingly nothing in his life that could be ‘faulted’. He says that his parents’ remarks, and not his orientation, have been a source of distraction and discontent. “I’ve bunked many classes, reeling from what my parents had to say. To me, it doesn’t really matter what outsiders say, but I really wish my parents would understand.”
The Chennai Pride March
“I attended the Chennai Pride March this time. While I was there, a woman – a non-participant, asked me, ‘You don’t look like any of these people? Why are you marching with them?’ Stereotypes need to be shattered.” This is something he brought up repeatedly in his conversation with us. “Please address stereotyping, it is what’s setting us back.” When he came back from the march late at night, his parents had confronted him about where he’d been for so long. Unsurprisingly, they were disappointed to learn where he was off to.
The next day wasn’t smooth-sailing either. In the newspaper, pictures of the Pride March hijacked the front page. The pictures were of transgenders and sex-workers, parading their sexual identity with pomp. “My parents associated me with them, they thought I’d become like a transgender or a sex-worker. They were worried about the company I had and the decisions I was taking.” It is arguable that transgenders and sex-workers are subject to an even harsher arbitration than homosexuals, but he felt that the comparison was uncalled for.
Bone of Contention
During conversations with people who had no idea about his orientation, he says that there is one recurring argument.
“They ask, ‘where to draw the line? Some things should not be normalized.’ I haven’t found an answer to that yet.”
We discussed this point with him at length, and the conclusion was that a ‘line’ need not be drawn as long as the demands are reasonable and do not get in the way of other people’s lives. One gets the sense that his defeatedness is not for a lack of counter-arguments, but a lack of faith in being able to change people’s opinions. Another question raised to him by these people is, ‘What kind of precedent will it set for my children, whom I don’t want turning gay?’ To this, he quips, “Teach them, as you teach them that smoking and drinking is bad”, but he was quick to admit that this only just passes down the homophobia. “Just like they shouldn’t be able to dictate what is moral or immoral, I cannot stop them from raising their children the way they see fit.” At this point, they reached an impasse. If an individual truly believes that homosexuality is wrong, then the littlest things that one does may affect the life of the other. It is here that the ‘line’ becomes blurred.
Between it being a choice and it being one’s nature, he definitely thinks it is the latter. “Looking back, it became abundantly clear that I was always this way. For me, it was never a choice, but a natural leaning.” He promptly followed it up by saying that even if it was a choice for some people, it shouldn’t be used as an argument against homosexuality, or any other orientation in the spectrum. “We are taught to respect other people’s choices. I don’t see the issue with it either way.”
Climate at NITT
“To my surprise, it’s more open than I thought it would be”, he told us from personal experience and having looked at the survey results. “There does seem to be an awareness, but it certainly could be better.” When we brought up the idea of a support group on campus, he found it encouraging. “There are many people that I know that are on the verge of coming out, they just don’t have the support. Starting up a support group would be great, we could take cues from similar groups in other campuses around the country.”
Having asked him more about the other people that were on the verge, he says he was approached by a few people for help and advice. Even in a relatively progressive campus like NITT, there is still an underlying fear in coming out.
But what is the need to ‘come out’? Why publicise it? “Coming out is not as much a proclamation of homosexuality as it is an effort to be at ease with oneself.
This ease, unfortunately, comes from societal acceptance. Coming out should not be reduced to a gimmick, it is something that needs to be celebrated.”
“Is there something you wish that people would care to know?”
“Being part of the LGBTQ+ community is as much about companionship or identity as being straight is.” He urges people to look beyond the presumption that being part of the LGBTQ+ is all about sex. Another plea of his is for people to educate themselves about the community before calling it ‘unnatural’. “I have referred to several scientific papers on the matter, and none of them classified these tendencies as unnatural. According to the papers, there needs to be a concurrence of many biological, genetic, and psychological factors to favour LGBTQ+ tendencies.” While rare, such concurrences are entirely likely.
“Also, homosexuality is not a Western import. I was and am still religious, nothing has changed. I can say with certainty that my coming out was not influenced by any outside factors. Things like this, you know from within.”
As a final comment, he had this to say – “It took me 6 months to accept myself and pick up the courage to come out. I don’t intend for this account to hasten anybody else’s decision. Everyone decides in their own time. I hope that my experience is an enabler for those want to come out.”
Read our analysis on the survey responses on LGBTQ+ attitudes here.