I’m a 19-year-old from a tiny hamlet in central India who is currently pursuing his higher education in Bangalore. I’ve always scored well in class, had a lot of admiration for my teachers and was actively engaged in sports. People often called me a geek. Growing up, I struggled to communicate with others, but many people dismissed it and thought that I was just a shy student.
But my life has been a mess behind the facade of being a so-called ‘ideal’ kid, for I happen to be a closeted gay young adult from an extremely conservative background.
Living in the closet can feel suffocating – as if you are living a lie, as if your existence is nothing but a farce. You watch your friends getting into romantic relationships, but you find yourself alone, travelling down an unknown path. You know there are countless others walking beside you, but do not know who they are.
I’ve known something wasn’t ‘right’ with me since I was ten. I was drawn to boys at a time when all my friends were fantasising about girls. I felt strange having affection for men, but I concealed my emotions because I didn’t know anyone I could confide in. Things became more complicated as I matured.
Young teenage boys with raging adrenaline and hormones can be intimidating and rude. In my class, boys would openly fantasise about and discuss their sexual fantasies. They would ask me to divulge mine, and even if the thoughts repulsed me, I always had to keep my guard up – one mistake and my secrets would be unveiled for everyone to scorn. Many times, they would joke about me being gay. I would refute it because I was well aware of the ramifications. I knew how the ‘manly’ lads in my class would have reacted if they saw me being even slightly effeminate.
Leaving India is a luxury I cannot afford. My parents have placed a lot of faith in me. Every time someone appreciates me for no apparent reason, it just adds to my guilt as it makes me realise how their ‘perfect poster child’ is hideously not-so-perfect.
My family has invested a lot of money in me when it comes to education, expecting me to ‘yield’ returns once I graduate and care for them. I am also not coming out to them as I am sure they will disown me. They are highly conservative – my suffering and ordeals would mean nothing to them; it is status and prestige that they desire.
A part of me is also afraid to tell my truth because my father has cardiac problems and hypertension – I recall how he lost control, sulked for days and complained of heartbreak when he discovered how my sister was in a relationship with someone from another caste.
In Class 12, my objective was to move to a metropolitan city where I could be myself. So I enrolled at a reputed college in Bangalore, but then came the COVID-19 lockdowns. I have had to spend days in captivity at my house, behaving in a manner that appeases the fragile masculine ego of my remote relatives.
Every day, I am reminded of my responsibilities as a man who must care for his family. It’s frustrating to realise I have no one to talk to; there are no best friends to whom I can spill my guts.
I’ve lived 19 years without being in an intimate relationship. My soul yearns to be caressed, to be loved and admired by someone; to be with someone I can claim my own. Above all, I want to be accepted for who I am. I’ve spent many nights sobbing at 3 am. Things once got so awful that I lost my desire to accomplish anything. I stopped attending school for a brief period of time, but then the school started harassing me not just for lack of attendance but also because it was my board year.
Suicidal thoughts have crossed my mind several times, but I don’t think I could take such a step. Every attempt fails when I picture the faces of my loved ones and how my actions, whether living or dead, may devastate them.
It angers and saddens me to see how society has set norms for everyone and how breaking out of those patriarchal rules brings shame not just to you, but your family too. This is not the way I want to spend my life.
I desperately wish each day for our society at large to permanently and positively change its outlook towards the LGBTQIA+ community.
Featured image credit: Parpiplab Chakraborty