Updated: Jun 18, 2020
All of us are feeling a loss of freedom- freedom to sit in our favorite cafes, freedom to explore the city, freedom to bask in the sun in our beautiful school and college lawns, freedom to be in the chirpy atmosphere of offices where time never seems to stop… The list goes on and on.
However, there are some people who have lost the most basic and fundamental freedom, that is, the freedom to be their true selves. As a lot of students belonging to the LGBTQ+ community have been forced to go back to homes where their family members don’t know about their sexual orientation/gender identity, they have to choose between two hard alternatives: living under a false identity for a long period or a haste confrontation with their family. Even if they feel like they should share this information with their parents, they are afraid of the reaction they will get and knowing that they will have to live under the same roof reiterates the hesitation. Moreover, having to live under the constant fear that something might give away their secret or the frustration they experience because of having to live without a part of their self takes a bad toll on their psychological health.
To shed light on the plight of such individuals, an eighteen-year-old student from Delhi who identifies himself as gay shares his story with us.
When did you find out that you’re gay? How has your journey been since then?
Well, to be honest, I think I always knew about my sexuality. Back in class fifth or sixth when we all begin to have crushes and infatuations, I realized that something was different. I didn’t look at the girls as other boys did. Since then my journey has been full of struggles. I had to fake my sexuality to fit in the boys’ group. Soon after, people around me started bullying me- both mentally and physically. I found the courage to report it to the teachers but it was of no use. Secondary school was not easy for me.
I was lucky enough to find supporting friends in class eleventh. They were my pillar of strength and since then I have never looked back. It may sound cliché but the fire within me provoked me to prove my worth and outshine the ones who bullied me in the past. There are obviously some ups and downs in life but since then, my journey has been positive. I have come out to a lot of people now, however, not to anyone in college yet.
How is college life for you? Do you feel free to explore yourself in college?
College life is not easy. Everyone has the same troubles regarding internals, extracurricular and managing societies. It is a little harsh because my college has a homophobic environment and I am closeted there by choice. However, I’m become very confident now. I live in a Boys PG (a constant homophobic environment). It has given me independence but more than that, it makes me stronger. The constant realization of my sexuality in PG gives me the strength to not let the toxic masculinity get to me so that I can live in peace. I have tried changing the behavior of these toxic men, but I realized that even the educated don’t understand the plight of the community.
As soon as I find my college to be safe enough, I will take pride to come out because I stopped caring what everyone else thinks a long time back.
What about home? Do your parents know about your orientation?
My parents don’t know about my sexuality as of now but I do think of telling them in the future. I don’t know how they will take it. However, I hope it’s for the best.
What factors are stopping you from opening up to them?
A lot of factors are stopping me to tell them. First, their generation is very conservative as compared to ours. It will take months or even years for them to comprehend this kind of situation. Second, there is fear regarding acceptance. What if they can’t accept me? My life will be torn apart and nobody wants that. Third, the fact that their thinking is dependent upon “log kya kahenge” and that this is something it will take time for them to comprehend. I want them to understand that it does not matter what other people think. Fourth, I want to become financially independent before coming out to them so, that I am self-reliant and they understand that I will manage my own life and they don’t need to worry even if I am gay.
How is your communication currently with your parents? How much time do you spend together?
My communication is pretty good with my parents. I’m spending a lot of time with them in the lockdown which is great. However, the communication gap naturally increases when I go to my PG.
Do you fear that a lot of time at home will lead to a sudden/unexpected confrontation with your parents?
Yes, the community always lives in constant fear. Fear of rejection and acceptance is quite common among the LGBTQ+ youth. A lot of time can lead to unexpected confrontations. A lot of times parents overstep boundaries and interfere in their children’s privacy. My mails or accounts can expose a lot of things about my sexuality. Even my phone calls with friends can lead to sudden confrontations with them.
Who have been your pillars your support during this time?
My friends, of course, have been a pillar of strength. My sister knows about my sexuality as well and she has been constant support too. People from the community are easy to reach out and as I talk with many, it has been easy for me to communicate.
How has COVID-19 impacted your mental health?
Well, the pandemic has severely affected the LGBTQ+ community. Many are living with abusive families. The transgender community does not even have homes or money to survive. I’m privileged enough to have shelter and food 24/7. It has been difficult for me as well. It isn’t easy to live with your parents suddenly when you were living in a PG for 3-4 months. A lot of things change. My mental health has been affected as well. I talk to a lot of people from the community and the same thing stands with everyone.
We would like to thank the person for sharing his experience with us and helping us understand the situation better. If you are facing a similar situation then please talk to someone about your feelings and seek professional help if you have symptoms of anxiety or depression. Do not repress your emotions because they will further deteriorate your mental health.
If you know someone who might be experiencing this, please reach out to them, ask them how they are doing and be there for them. As we have seen above, phone/video calls will not always be an option for people to sharing their feelings so if they are not able to communicate openly via call, then drop a text. Be careful not to send messages with such content or at a time when their family is around as it can put their secret in jeopardy and lead to a sudden confrontation which will further complicate the problem.
We are all in this together! Let’s lift each other up and emerge stronger from the pandemic.
If you or a loved one is in need of social or emotional support, reach out to us at 7707070002 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.