Coming out the story of Rajan (name changed), gives every LGBTQ+ individual some hope. Though things do not work out initially, they fall in place with self-acceptance to start with. Here is his story as narrated by him and edited by team AYA.
Rajan is very candid as he talks of his journey, the awkward feelings he went through in early adolescence, his anxieties, the decisions he had to take for himself, and finally how he learned to be happy and feel comfortable in his skin.
As a teenager, Rajan would remain very muddled because he never felt nor could relate to the same kind of excitement his peers would feel about girls. “In those early years, I was not able to understand myself and my sexual orientation.”
Rajan speaking about his background tells AYA that his family was very conservative and religious-minded. Besides, he also studied in a convent school where the atmosphere was just the same as his home. “We are Christians and we believe in regular prayers. Every morning I would always hope every morning when I woke up I would pray that I should start l start feeling start feeling like the other guys, which is so-called normal”.
Being bullied at school
Even during the prayers at the school assembly, I would pray to the Lord that I should not be treated differently and my class friends would stop pitying or bullying me because I was not normal.” Most of my friends would imitate my way of talking and ape my effeminate movements—I couldn’t even return home and share my stress with anyone at home. Several times I wished, in those years, that I should ask my folks as to why I was being picked up and constantly bullied. But I just did not know how to approach my parents on this issue.”
The family also never understood that I could be differently oriented
The family did notice the differences that I was inclined to as compared to the other boys—the way I spoke, the way I walked that I was not keen on girls per se, but they attributed an entirely different reason to all of this: They believed that since I was surrounded by women folk at home, my Mom, Grand-Mom, Aunts and Sisters, I was more effeminate than masculine. My mother always believed that when I would come of age I would change and be more ‘man-like.
My family was not aware of LGBTQs
Rajan attributes another reason—My parents, their siblings’ et al had perhaps never ever heard of alternate sexuality so it was beyond their imagination. Maybe they were actually ignorant about LGBTQs or chose to remain ignorant so they would never broach a related topic ever with me. I continued to remain confused and told myself that there was no reason why I should open up either to my parents or my sister.
Feeling claustrophobic in High School
As I grew older I began to feel even more claustrophobic both at home and school. I would often feel very sad that I had no one to talk to about my feelings, you see I myself was terribly confused and not confident about myself and even that stopped me from opening up to anyone. At that age, I was also put in a place where everyone would isolate me so I felt even more left out and felt more and more convinced that it was best for me not to talk to anybody about what all I was going through.
No, the Internet made it more difficult
You see I had no real guide and there was no internet either in those years. After school —I moved out of the small town for my higher education and that was the turning point of my life—I felt I could actually breathe. I also realised in College that there is no problem with me, that there are people out there who are like me. The Internet was available by then. Browsing through the net helped me to read and learn about the LGBTQ community. During this phase, when I had nobody to open up to, the internet really helped me learn about myself.
I was around 17-18 years old when I first saw and read about LGBTQs. That was the first time I started breathing-till then I felt choked. Looking back I can easily say that was the relevant turning point of my life. It was quite a relief to actually finally realize that I need not fret about the way I was and worry each day about changing myself. I felt happy that I could just be!
The Internet helped me to see and understand that there were people like me out there and I could be okay with just the way I am.
Coming out to people—an entirely different stage of life
After learning about LGBTQs on the net I developed the confidence to come out to people—that was another stage altogether. I was there looking out to reach out to someone with whom I could share all this information that I had discovered about myself. I felt like talking to people about my orientation but somewhere at the back of my mind, there was always a question mark as to what the other person would think about me. Such apprehensions culminated in a lot of going forth and back. Finally, I was lucky to find a couple of friends that I could talk to and tell them about myself and my preferences.
Initially, people I shared with were taken aback
I noticed that each time I opened up to someone, it took them back and they actually appeared shocked to hear what I shared with them, obviously for others to accept me was another stage but the good thing was that I could talk to them and be open about my leanings. The good thing then was that they did not probe much neither did I push them to accept me. I waited for them to come back to me. The ones I shared with, included a school friend then there was a group of college friends who started to get to know me slowly. I would tell them, then always wait for them to react– wait to see if they would like to come back to me and talk to me more about it.
Never push people to accept you as someone from the LGBTQ community
I realized one should never push anyone to accept you with your sexual orientation. You need to be patient and understand that too will need time….I would always leave it to them. By then I had accepted my reality and who I am so and I was very comfortable in my skin—I had developed enough confidence to be what I am and I did not behave according to the others’ expectations. By then I felt I can be fine the way I am, I don’t need to portray myself as someone else. I left it up to the others to take their time, to reach out and seek me.
I wanted to be the first one to tell my family
I clearly told them that it can’t be anyone else before me telling my family about me being gay. I started feeling very comfortable and I was not in any way feeling compelled about sharing with my family at that point.
It was nice to finally be comfortable and okay with being what you are rather than constantly thinking of what the other person is thinking about me or pass a comment about me behavior. I was okay with whatever people thought about me.
Finding friends from the LGBTQ community on the net helped
In those years at college, I was not aware of any LGBTQ communities. I would seek the net to hang out with people like me because there were no communities-In those years people like us felt safe befriending others from the same community only in closed spaces, like internet-chat forums. In the online world where you could hide from the real world and still have spaces in the virtual world.
A cosmopolitan surrounding can be very helpful
For my further education, I moved to Pune. There the college crowd was of students from all over the country. I think I found my people there. I could actually talk to them more freely and have conversations without the feeling of being judged or pressured at any point, they would happily engage into these kinds of conversations without being judgemental. For me, the real coming out happened there as I could sense people were very comfortable with the way I was. I could fully play my own colours in that space. The friends gave me openness as they were more accepting.
Best feeling is when there is no sympathy or undue concern
I felt I could finally be who I was, I could tell them the background that I came from and the best thing was there was no sympathy or undue concern towards me which could have made me feel a little awkward. They did not interfere in my personal life. They never said stuff like, ‘oh he’s gay so he should be supported, they did not make feel any different, those two years actually is when I came out so comfortably because of the wonderful people who were around me.
Sharing with the family
Finally, at that point, I also ended up sharing with my sister. I think it was the time I was in love with someone and it didn’t work out. I was very sad and one day when my sister called me and caught me off-guard. Across the phone, she figured out I was very upset and not in my usual state of mind. When she asked what was wrong, I started bawling – I told her there is this guy I love and it’s not worked out between us. My sister got the shock of her life—there was absolute silence while I was still crying. I did not then bother to understand why she was quiet, later I realized it was not the right time. In fact, it was rather clumsily revealed— not the right time or situation.
My sister wanted time and I gave it to her before she was okay with me being gay
My friends approached her about having a conversation around this. She turned him down and I figured out she was taking time in accepting me the way I was. Then she too left home to pursue her post-graduation. We both had no clue about what was going on in each other’s minds. On my part I was letting her take her time, she took a very long time. I also moved on, had found friends, and with time I had almost forgotten that particular conversation. I also stopped worrying as to why my sister had stopped talking to me.
Attending the Pride March was a beautiful experience
Since I was closer to Mumbai, I attended the Pride March that was held in Mumbai. I could see many people out there celebrating themselves as they are. That really helped me. I became more confident about stepping out from the space my friends had created and be out there as I am in the world. I realized that I too should celebrate life as every human being is supposed to.
Coming out to Parents
During that phase, I was living my life and I didn’t feel like going back home. At the same time, I knew I had to tell them about myself because I was reaching an age where I was sure my parents would want to marry me off.
But I also wanted to first have a conversation with my sister before I came out with my parents. By then my sister was married. One day, while we sat chatting there, was a long pause out of the blue…after which sister broke the silence and asked me straight away, ‘Rajan do you want to talk to mom and dad about yourself?’ That is when I realized that she had started accepting me. I was extremely happy. As siblings, we love each other yet there was this huge distance ever since we had that conversation while I was in college. I answered her in the affirmative and said, ‘Yes I would like to.’ We also knew it was better to first approach Mom as Dad was even more conservative than Mom. My sister was actually even more concerned than I was— as now that she was married she was sure that our parents would now like to get me married off. Till then I was constantly telling them I did not want to get married nor was keen on seeing a girl.
I finally decided to talk to mom but in my sister’s presence. My brother-in-law also was there the day I came out to my mother.
My mother would never understand that despite a nice job and kind of having settled, why was I refusing to get married. When I revealed to her the reason why I did not want to marry, my mother was very shocked and stopped talking. She just sat there staring into emptiness. Reflecting back I feel she never knew about people like us. After an hour, she started to lose it. Then once she calmed down she began to assure me that things will change and I will feel more ‘normal’. I was to leave for Mumbai that very evening.
My mother wanted me to go and see a psychiatrist
Mom would often call me and talk to me: One day she said, ‘Oh I found this psychiatrist and I have taken an appointment for you. She had searched online and found someone practicing close by; ‘Rajan, maybe talking to them will change things for you and the doctor will help you get out of this problem!’ I was so confident by then that I very simply told, ‘Mom you can do this but please understand that there is nothing different between you and me and if u want me to go to a psychiatrist I shall always do it for your sake only, not because I have any mental health issue’. I felt it was important for my mother to understand that I was not suffering from any mental disease. By then I had learnt to firmly stand with my identity. I was very confident about myself. Through our conversation, over the phone, I tried to tell her several times that there was nothing wrong with me, that feeling the way I did was not abnormal but it was extremely difficult to convince her as she came from a conservative background and societal conditioning. For my parents, it was all about children growing up, then getting married and producing babies. It was out of my Mother’s wildest imagination that a guy could be in love with another guy. I did not give her too many details as she would get even more worried.
In my case, the Religious Institution helped
My mother was an extremely religious lady and it was my luck that by then my friend had become a priest in a church. He understood where I was coming from as he had worked with the LGBTQ community which was a huge comfort for me, I packed him in and prompted them to have a conversation with my Mom. Religion worked. Things started getting easier for me. My mom knew this friend and so I decided to get him to talk about me to Mom. After that things really changed. In other words, I had to actually use religion to convince my mother. Religion has a certain sense of authority with believers. I felt blessed. From then on my mother started to accept me the way I was.
I could not tell my father as he passed away so I don’t know how he would have reacted.
Challenges at the Workplace
I would initially go with a lot of guards to any new organisation. Luckily the job I did in Mumbai, people were very easygoing. I was very comfortable both with myself and my colleagues were very accepting. I would take time to show all my cards till I was sure of the people I was working with. I would often find people who understand gays but thankfully would not extend sympathy or pity. This attitude made me feel very normal.
I think the biggest challenge about being a gay person is actually in my current industry—fitness. It was initially a little toxic because the energy here is very masculine. All the same, I have arrived at a stage in my life where I can’t keep wearing and having my guards.
Art forms help
In the fitness industry, I always tell my colleagues that I will be the person that I am and that I can’t be someone else. My confidence, I would say, emerged from the art of dancing. I had obviously been okay with my sexuality but I had guards because I had less confidence. Connecting to the art I identify with helped me find a lot of comfort which in turn made my colleagues comfortable with me. I realized being confident and forthright helps.
Accepting oneself is most important
Once I became extremely accepting of who I am I realized it made people around me comfortable about me too. It is very important to carry yourself confidently than be bothered with what others are thinking about you.
You should not feel weak because you feel different sexually
Concluding I would like to say that discovering was more challenging for me than coming out. It was a long and strenuous period before I understood my needs.
To people who are trying to find courage, I have to tell (my kind of gays) that they should remember that it is not any weakness to feel different sexually. The most important thing is to accept yourself. If you decide to confide in someone you should be sensitive too and give that person, the time they take to come to terms with it. Also, it needs to work on oneself—if you are too dependent on society, everything may become too challenging around you
Your mantra should be: I am ok with someone not accepting me and going away and will be able to live on my own without such people in my life.
One should always work on oneself and learn how to avoid awkward situations. I honestly did no exercise but there is a lot of love I have given to myself. I have been bullied so much that I suffered a lot. I believe I owe myself a lot of love. This is true for anyone not just for me. Now I do not suffer even while I am waiting for others to accept me the way I am.