Ashutosh s. Shankar / India
“September 6, 2018
The entire country was celebrating the scrapping of section 377 of the Indian constitution and the LGBTQI community were no more criminals in India.
Amidst this celebration, there was an 18-year-old kid who had freshly come out to his friends about his sexuality. A kid who identified himself as gay.
That kid was me.
I was proudly out to my friends and endorsed LGBTQ+ rights outside the four walls of my home. However, inside those four walls, I was completely the opposite. I would never talk about sexuality, about me or my identity. I was still in the closet for my father and mother.
But Section 377 was decriminalised and I understood the intensity of it.
I couldn’t resist but call my close friends and tell them the news. And to celebrate this, I put up a story on Instagram, hinting that I was gay. Trust me, at that moment, putting out in the world that I’m gay came out instinctively. But, somehow, someone – I still don’t know who – took a screenshot of my story and sent it to my father. I was still unaware of this.
The next day, I was at home completing my assignment.
Suddenly, my dad entered with his phone in his hand. He showed me the screenshots and started questioning me about them. I somehow waved it off by saying that we’d talk later since I was studying. I panicked, trembled with fear and called up one of my friends whose mother happened to be a psychologist and told him, “I think my parents know” and hung up.
The next night, I was in my room – reading – when my father came in. But this time he was upset, angry, embarrassed, irritated and he closed the door from inside.
It was 10:30pm.
He asked me again, “What is this? This is extremely embarrassing!”
“It is not! I’m gay and I’m proud of it!” I replied.
“This is unnatural. Don’t you dare do anything wrong.”
And the conversation slowly turned into a fight.
I was scared, angry and upset. Something that I had finally owned up to, was being taken away from me. I began throwing things around in extreme anguish. My mother came in and after learning everything she broke down in embarrassment. She walked out into the living room. My father followed her.
By this time, my brother had just come home and had realised that the situation was out of hand.
He came in, tried to calm me down and held my hand. The moment he did that, I broke down immediately. Never in my entire life had I cried so much. My body began curling up, my muscles were now becoming rigid. I was holding on tightly to my brother. He somehow managed to loosen my grip and asked me to wait there while he’d try to console my parents who were in the other room.
Right after he walked out, I stood up, took my phone and my bike keys and ran outside the house.
I still remember thinking that this might be the end for me. I might never get to see my parents again.
I managed to call my friend whom I had informed earlier. His mother – the psychologist – picked up the call.
“Yes? Ashutosh is everything alright?”
“Can you please let me come to your place?”
With this, I went to my friend’s place. There for nearly 10 minutes, I was sitting on the couch, staring into nothingness and speaking not a single word. The silence said more than my words could at the time.
Finally, I told her everything that had happened at home. She consoled me, made me comfortable and assured me that everything would be alright. She’d explain everything to my parents, and if they didn’t agree, “This family is with you,” she said.
I had informed my brother that I was going to my friend’s place.
So, a couple of minutes later, aunty got a call from him. She explained to him how he would play an important role in making my parents understand that this isn’t unnatural. They both hung up after talking to each other for a while. I was made to sleep at their place for the night. My friend was kind enough to share his room with me.
The next morning, aunty insisted that I go to college because that would help distract me and calm me down. For that, I’d had to go home to take my stuff. So after having my breakfast, I headed home.
I rung the doorbell and my father opened the door. He looked at me and I looked at him. It was a moment of awkward silence. I walked straight into my room, took a bath and got ready. I took my bag and headed to college.
That day was a struggle to get through the lectures because all I could think was about the other night.
After college I came home, my mom was having her lunch in the living room. I went into the room and pretended to be busy. After having her lunch, she walked in and immediately broke down looking at me. She then came closer and said, “Your brother explained everything to us.”
And she hugged me tightly.
“You’ve struggled with this all alone! We love you and will never leave you, no matter what.”
That moment changed everything.
In the evening, when my dad returned from work, he hugged me too and said the same thing.
All the worst that could’ve happened, happened.
Later on, I went on to explain everything to them using an elaborate power point presentation about gender, sex, lgbtq+, their struggles, their successes and so on.
And I quote my mother: ” You should do something for your community. Help them.”
What else could I have wished for?
And here I am, sharing my story with you.
I’m trying to explain that no matter who you are, what your struggles have been, it’s always harder to accept yourself first than being accepted by society. But once that happens, nothing can stop you. Nothing.
Ashutosh S. Shankar”