Recently, an apparel brand conducted a survey to gauge the mindsets of people in Mumbai. Dating was among the many aspects that this survey covered. Among the interesting insights that emerged was the statistic that 60 per cent of the people who were polled, said that they didn’t mind dating people of the same sex.
Given that homosexuality is still a controversial topic in India — most people from the LGBT community are also vocal about facing discrimination — not many are known to disclose details about their sexual orientations. So, this insight surprised us.
To gain a better understanding of the challenges that members of the LGBT community face every day, we approached a city-based 37-year-old homosexual man, who is married to a woman, to share an honest account of what it is like to be in his situation. Here’s what he said.
I hail from a small district in Rajasthan. I am not sure when I realised I was gay, but I was only four or five when I fell in love with a boy from my area. We would play a game, in which I would be the husband, and he would be my wife. I would wait outside his house for hours to see him. I wanted to kiss him, and be kissed by him. We would sing songs for each other. This went on till I was 10. That’s when he got married.
Back then, child marriage was common in my family, as well as in the area we lived in. Soon, my friends also started getting married. Since my lover had already been married off, I, too, got married to a girl when I was 11. At that time, I did not know that there are other people like me. I did not understand the implications and responsibilities that come with marriage.
Later, I moved to Mumbai. My wife was still in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. We used to talk over the phone, but I didn’t feel the need to tell her about my sexual orientation. We got married again (this time, formally) when we were older. I had a boyfriend at that time, but we were not in a physical relationship. I even invited him to my wedding, and he didn’t mind attending it, since he knew my marriage was a social obligation.
After my wife moved to Mumbai, I told her I was gay. She was in denial, and thought I was talking nonsense. She suggested I get help, citing an instance where a girl came on to her once, but that hadn’t changed her sexual orientation. I tried to explain to her that no one had forced me to be gay, but she couldn’t understand. She believed that two men can only be friends.
After a few years, people started taunting me for not bearing children. So I even had two kids with my wife. Whenever she would lie next to me, I’d feel anxious about the prospect of having sex with her. Now, we have sex whenever she feels the need to, but not frequently. It pains me to make her go through this.
I have considered getting a divorce, but my wife and in-laws feel it would shame the family. My wife tells me that I am her first love, and that she won’t stop loving me till she dies, even if I am with another man.
After 15 years together, she has now understood my sexuality. She is also friends with my current boyfriend, and has become my best friend and confidante. Now, everyone in my family knows that I am gay. But they still don’t understand what that means.
My children are now 11 and 13, and are aware of my sexual orientation. I have been talking to them about gay couples, making sure they are open to the fact that people can be in same-sex relationships. They are very supportive, and have even faced harassment because of me. I have fought with people in my society for troubling my kids. I tell them not to treat them the way they treat me. I don’t talk to people in my area. I also don’t attend any festivals, family gatherings or marriages, for my family’s sake.
I know that people in my locality discreetly talk about my sexual preferences. They don’t understand what it means to be gay. Even if I go to a hospital for some treatment, and people there learn that I am gay, I am ignored just because of my sexuality. I don’t see things changing for me or for other gay men in the near future — not at least in my lifetime.
I’ll continue living the way I have lived my life so far. There is no other option for me.