Nakshatra Bagwe, a 23-year-old Mumbai actor, came out when he was 17.
His parents hoped it was just a phase in his life, but that was not to be. Self-acceptance took a while, but it came.
Recently, Bagwe signed up as the brand ambassador of a social networking platform exclusively for gay men known as Moovz. He's India's first gay brand ambassador.
“Men on screen commercialise their sexuality to impress women by promoting perfumes, undergarments, condoms all the time. It's time for us to come out as well and not feel shy about our sexuality," he says.
Not every gay man in India is comfortable about wearing his sexuality on a social networking site of his choice, but most of them would want to connect with other gay men without having to advertise their preferences.
Moovz allows first interactions between users who can then take it to the next level —throwing events, forming a support group based on common interests or just meeting-up.
"We believe that Moovz will enable people around the globe who already have things in common to interact on a higher level and connect as a community," says Liav Eliash, Co-Founder & CEO of Moovz.
On being asked if he's prepared for any backlash, Bagwe says, "It may be a crime for them, but for me intolerance is the biggest crime", a reference to Section 377 of the Indian penal code, which makes gay sex in India a punishable offense.
"Protection of the human rights across the globe is one of our most important values as a company. It's a basic need for every human being regardless of his/her colour, race and gender", says Boyet Dalisay, regional manager of Moovz, Asia Pacific.
In 2013, the Supreme Court had declared the country's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community a "minuscule minority" and upheld Section 377 after a Delhi high court had suspended it.
The fact that brands like Moovz are coming to India means that "they have identified a big target group here and that the LGBT community is not any 'miniscule' section", Bagwe said.
Ashley Tellis, a gay rights activist and academic, makes another point. "The Delhi High Court DID NOT decriminalise homosexuality. It merely read down Section 377 to make private consensual sex between men permissible. Life continued then as it was and continues post the Supreme Court judgement as well. This only shows how irrelevant the law is to our lives."
"It is funny that when India is experiencing its worst with laws like Section 377, in the dating scene there is an uprising. The ones who are out and about are in a quest to find people in the dating scene. There is scope for more and more in the pink economy", says equal rights activist Harish Iyer.
Moovz is expected to come up with an app for lesbians soon.
Manak Matiyani, a 30-year-old queer consultant, who has ‘checked out’ Moovz makes a point. “It seems oriented to urban, English-speaking people.”
“We need to reach out to gay men in India outside of the internet-accessing middle class”, chimes Tellis.