Coming Out Day: Activist Harish Iyer, trans body-builder Aryan tell us their stories
HT spoke to two eminent personalities in the LGBTQ community to take a peek into their minds, their struggles, and how their lives changed for the better once they decided to come out to the world and confront the mindsets head on.Updated: Oct 11, 2017 09:09 IST
It is not easy living in a closet, more so when you are forced into one because of your sexuality, and society’s idea of what is deviant behaviour. Coming out to friends and families is, often, not an option, because the fear of being rejected by loved ones often weighs heavy on anybody from the LGBT community.
National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is an annual LGBTQ awareness day observed on October 11 every year. . Started in the United States in 1988, the idea of this day was about living openly as a gay, lesbian person, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, or other non-mainstream gender identities.
HT spoke to two eminent personalities in the LGBTQ community to take a peek into their minds, their struggles, and how their lives changed for the better once they decided to come out to the world and confront the mindsets head on.
Harish Iyer, (April 16, 1979) has been fighting for the rights of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community for years. He was even featured on actor Aamir Khan’s talk show Satyamev Jayate in 2012 in an episode which talked about child sexual abuse. His life story has also inspired director Onir’s film I Am.
The Guardian has named Iyer in the list of the 100 most influential LGBT people in the world. Listed at 71, he was the only Indian in the list.
I came out around 15 years back when I was 24. My mother told me she was not going to accept me. She said, “How are you going to live?” and said this was all because of the websites I had been visiting. I didn’t know that my mother was spying on me. She also asked me whether this was because of the abuse I had faced as a child, because people associate child sexual abuse with sexuality. So I explained to her the statistics, that every second child is abused, so does that mean that every 2nd male child you meet is gay? (because most of the time the abuser is a same sex person), so that totally nullified her argument.
It wasn’t because of any abuse that I was gay, I was gay because I was gay. But I was very close to my mother and was worried that she may not accept me- so i fixed up an appointment with a psychologist, so that she could explain to her in a better manner. This was for her, I had done pretty strong research and knew that there was nothing wrong in being gay.
It was on a Tuesday that I came out to her, on Thursday was the appointment. On Wednesday I was very upset, I walked down about 15 km to the sea, sat over there and then came back home. So my mother asked me what is wrong. So I told her mom if you want I can adhere to a heterosexual kind of lifestyle, but suggest that to me only if you would have had a daughter would you agree for her to get married to a gay man with no sex or love life at all.
My mother then got up and hugged me and said she always knew I was gay. So I asked her, “Then why did you do all this drama?” She said that once when I had told her that I thought I might be gay she thought lets see what happens and if he changes his mind because life as a gay man is going to be very difficult. Then she said she appreciated the fact that I had told her about marrying her daughter to a gay man, and that she felt pride in the way she had raised me.
Mom took a vow from me that I would not speak with anybody – it’ll just be a secret between her and me and not to tell anyone in the family. But that’s a promise I could not keep. I had come on a channel as an LGBTQ activist without having my name mentioned, but they ended up showing my name inadvertently, but that happened to be my biggest gift since I didn’t have any secret to keep after that. So rather than be defeated by it, I got empowered.
But we also need to understand that when we come out of the closet, our parents are pushed into a closet. Because for them to face the relatives, most of whom are very nosy about marriage and stuff becomes extremely difficult.
My advice to those who plan to come out is that first don’t expect miraculous reactions from your parents because they have a certain mindset, a certain way in which they have been thinking for 40 odd years. They are not going to change the moment you come out to them because there is a lot of unlearning of the heteronomic traditions will need to happen. And if your understanding of your sexuality has taken 3-4 years, don’t expect their unlearning to happen in a split second.
When my father came to know he was not very positive about it, and I also have a brother. My brother used to say that “My friends tease me and say that your brother is gay, and your brother is chakka and all that.” So he used to be verbally abusive towards me.
My father also was not acknowledging the fact that I was gay but over the last 7 years he has been very supportive. Like when there have been television interviews in my house my father would just jump in and start giving interviews, even though he was not part of it. Like when Ellen Page came to shoot at my house, or when Stephen Fry came to my house he started chatting with them.
So he never came and told me that he accepts me but when I had a boyfriend, my father kept enquiring about him and saying, “Oh. He’s a nice boy. When is he coming home? Is he going to stay with us?” And we need to understand that victims of patriarchy are men themselves and patriarchy and homophobia go hand in hand.
So my father would not openly say that he accepted me, but would ask, “Iske rishta ka kya hua?” And when he would say this he would be meaning with a man. In fact, my mom had even taken out a matrimonial ad for me!
Born as a girl, Nyla, at the age of 18 Aryan went through two transitional surgeries to become a transman. He graduated as a lawyer, and recently quit his job to apply for the Transman Bodybuilding competition in America.
I just came out on my last birthday, on my 25th birthday, and earlier my friends did not know that I was a transman. When I finally told my friends, it was a very emotional moment for them, because they said that you have gone through so many things but you never told us. They accepted me, and they said, “For us you are the same person.”
As far as family is concerned, they were the ones who told me about the whole transitioning process, and about the transgender community- this is when I was 16 and felt very low, was very suicidal. So my mother told me about the process and we tried to figure out a doctor and I started my transition when i was 18.
When I joined college I did face issues, because it’s not easy for others to accept it when a person is changing his name, and gender is a totally different thing. So during college it was pretty difficult but my friends and family were supportive.
I had done my LLB and was working with a firm but I left my job a few months back as I was preparing for a body-building competition in USA, but unfortunately I did not get the visa – because they thought I was too young and that I might settle down there. Maybe next year I shall apply again.
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First Published: Oct 11, 2017 09:08 IST