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Tell your gay friends that you love them, but don’t add ‘no matter what’

In this week’s column, A Calmer You, Sonal Kalra has some advice for all those to whom a friend, or a family member has confessed to be homosexual.

columns Updated: Jul 08, 2017 20:54 IST
Sonal Kalra
I’ve had enough of people categorising something as basic and private as sexual orientation — homo or hetero — as a problem.
I’ve had enough of people categorising something as basic and private as sexual orientation — homo or hetero — as a problem.

Yesterday, I saw a rather touching video on YouTube. Some of you may have seen it, too. It was about this teenaged guy who, in front of a hidden camera, tells his mom for the first time that he is gay. The mom turns out to be extremely understanding, hugs him, stops him from crying — does everything what a perfect caring parent would. I was loving it. Then, at some point she tells him, I love you, no matter what. It’s the last three words, in the context of someone revealing their sexual orientation, that always bother me. No matter what. The moment you say these words, you are kinda putting a stamp on something not being right with their situation. I really wished she would have stopped at simply I love You, and not have to say that she does it ‘despite’ him being gay. This incident also reminded me of how I had written about the stress of coming out of the closet in this column some time ago. Well, the pride month just went by. What better opportunity to recall that piece. Here.

It’s most humbling to receive hundreds of feedback mails for this column each week, and the nicest thing that’s common to most of them is when you say you liked it because you can ‘totally relate to it’. Well, some of you may not relate to what I’m going to write this week. But, that’s not stopping me from still taking up this topic because, who knows, a lot of you may just.

Last week, I got two mails from two very different individuals, but with a thread of irony connecting them. One mail was from a young college student, Kabir, from Delhi. ‘I’m gay. I’ve totally accepted this reality of my life, though my family and friends don’t know yet, though I’m sure they suspect. Now, I want to tell my best friend. But, I don’t know how he’ll react. What if he starts avoiding me? I don’t want to lose his friendship.”

The other mail, interestingly in a gap of just two days, was from 18-year-old Akshit in Lucknow. “I have a serious problem. I’ve come to know that my best friend is gay. He hasn’t told me, but I feel he soon will. I’m absolutely cool with it, but I don’t know what’s the right way to react when he tells me. I don’t want to lose his friendship.”

Now look at this! The first thought that came to my mind after reading these was how most of our life’s stresses are because we are caught up in mind-webs of our own. We spend more time imagining and worrying about others’ reactions than dealing with things when and if they actually happen.

Anyway, coming back to the subject. See, much to an acute embarrassment of my intellect, this column has not turned out to be a forum for serious, intelligent talk. In my own way, I try and tell you how to deal with small problems in life, with simple solutions. In this case, however, I don’t think there is a problem to begin with.

Without sounding as if I’m trivialising the issue bogging Kabir, Akshit or several others, I just want to say that I’ve had enough of people categorising something as basic and private as sexual orientation — homo or hetero — as a problem. I’d say there’s a ‘problem’ if you or your friend is a pervert, dishonest, cheat, thief, ill-mannered (a crime in my dictionary. Yours?). Different sexual preference? I’m sorry, but no ‘problem’ there, my friend. Still, if it is stressing you out, there have to be calmness tips. Here’s my advice for Akshit and all those to whom a friend, or a family member has confessed to be homosexual.

1. No drama, please: I don’t know why we think it’s imperative to react to every bit of news. I’m not saying you act indifferent to what someone tells you, but there’s no need for a dramatic reaction to everything in life. If a friend tells you he or she is gay, do NOT say something like ‘Haww. How come?’ or ‘Are you sure?’ or the worst of the lot — ‘It’s okay. I still love you.’ If you use the word ‘still’ as if they’ve told you about some crime they’ve committed, I will beat you up. I mean it. C’mon, man. Somebody is sharing a very private part of their life with you. Don’t let the stupidity of your own beliefs come in the way of reacting sensibly. Just tell them you love them, and leave it at that. I still vividly remember an evening 12 years back when one of my close friends told me she’s homosexual. All I felt at that time was, ‘My god, she must trust me a lot to share this with me.’ And my only response to her was, ‘Thanks for telling me.’ It’s one of the few things I’m still proud of. Be sincere. Be honest. Be simple. No tamasha.

2. Don’t let it bother you: Frankly, I don’t believe in beating the chest and saying, ‘I support the rights of gays and lesbians,’ because that just segregates them from other people, when they are no different. I don’t care if you attend marches or parades holding placards. If you really want to make a difference, do one thing. Don’t treat them differently. That’s it. Hate a gay friend if he or she is a bad friend. Just like you would have hated a straight friend for the same reason. Love them as much, not more, as you would have loved any other good friend. I honestly don’t think what anyone does behind closed bedroom doors should make a difference to your friendship with them, unless they are doing something to harm you.

The thought of homosexuality creeps you out? Fair enough. Who’s asking you to like it? But how does that give you the right to be unreasonable or mocking towards someone who does? Don’t judge people for feelings they can’t control. I fail to understand why our society, including our cinema, believes in mostly portraying gays as comic characters. At the same time, I fail to understand why a lot of homosexuals are sensitive about that, because that would only mean taking a joke seriously, when it’s not supposed to be. I have a lot of gay friends, just as I have plenty of straight friends. Some are funny, some are a real pain. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with their orientation. Base your friendship on what sort of a person they are… trustworthy, truthful, sincere. Not what gender turns them on, because that’s none of your business. The day you get that fact firmly in your head, you would be sorted in life. And it’s a good feeling.

3. This one is for anyone who’s having a hard time coming out of the closet. Dekho yaar… you do know, more than anyone else that your sexuality is not an acquired fad. It’s the reality of how you feel. And there’s never a point trying to shun reality. I once read a graffiti on a church wall in Europe. It was not in the context of homosexuality, but it said, “If it is not a choice, it’s not a sin.” You get the point, don’t you? If your parents, friends or family see a flicker of shame in your eyes, they would go on a wrong reaction-path. When you’ve not done anything wrong, why torture yourself with thoughts that someone will leave you. If they indeed do, it’s their loss. But, that said, don’t forget that while you may have spent sleepless nights thinking and coming to terms with your alternative sexuality, it is unfair to expect an immediate positive reaction from those who you break the news to, as a surprise.

Your friends may have grown in households where the thought of homosexuality is taboo. We all have. But then, there used to be a time when things like contraception or abortion etc also used to be taboos. Times change. Mindsets change. But not overnight. Give them time, answer their queries, have patience. If they love you, they will come around. Sexuality is just a trivial part of life… don’t make it the cause of all your happiness or sadness in life.

And puhleez, don’t get into an overdrive of trying to understand the psyche of those who just can’t get their heads around homosexuality. The more you try to convince someone, the more it would seem as if your self-respect is dependant on that someone getting convinced. I’m sorry, but it.is.not. It’s OKAY if they don’t understand how you feel. Some things people are just not meant to get. Big deal.

Sonal Kalra thinks that gay parades only reinforce the notion that homosexuals are any different from the others. But, she totally loves the rainbow masks. What to do? Mail your calmness tricks to sonal.kalra@hindustantimes.com, facebook.com/sonalkalraofficial. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra.