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“Don’t ask, Don’t tell”

Mowshimkka Renganathan
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ISSUE People from the LGBT community live a masked life. Acceptance and acknowledgement would help them come out

Mahesh, clearly remembers the evening in the park when he finally told his father, “Dad, I have a different sexual preference.” Noticing his parent’s blank expression, Mahesh continued, “Dad, I am gay”. After much contemplation his father asked, “Should you see a doctor?” Mahesh then sat down to explain that choosing a different sexual orientation was not a disease. It was a long evening.

While activists campaign for rights and filmmakers make movies that get banned, there is a quiet LGBT community, including students, living among their peers, with a mask on. Some college students who are exposed to the rights scenario across the world, come out openly about their sexual orientation. “I opened up to my dad after I finished school. He broke down, but he is coping now,” says Vijayan, an engineering student. . “Though he doesn’t talk about it, he is secretly supportive of my homosexuality.”

“America is fighting for same-sex marriage today, but India is yet to initiate talk about same sex marriage since it decriminalized sexual intercourse between same-sex couples,” says Mahesh ruefully. “It simply refuses to acknowledge us. What will I do if I meet the love of my life and want to marry him?” In 2009, an amendment was proposed to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that held sexual activity between same-sex couples as a criminal offence.

Not everybody is prepared to come out of the closet. Rekha, an engineering student, says, “I haven’t told my parents and I don’t plan to in the future. I am fully aware of the unrest the news would create in my family. Even if my parents were ready to embrace the fact that I might be bisexual, I want to spare them of the humiliation they would have to go through, thanks to pre conceived notions about society and religion.”

Not all who have embraced their sexuality are motivated to stand up for their rights- they choose to stand by the lines and watch, for fear of being judged or ostracized. Mithra, a medical student says, “As much as I would like to come out openly as a lesbian and join a group to campaign for LGBT rights, I would rather live my life quietly than be embarrassed.”

Helping those who raise their voice

Gopi Shankar, a 22 year old LGBT activist from Shrishti Madurai, says, “We believe in Vikruthi evam prakruti (what seems unnatural may also be natural). We conduct workshops in schools and colleges where we draw examples from science, history to show how homosexuality has been a part of Indian society for many centuries.” Despite schools and colleges denying consent for workshops, Shrishti has encouraged many young students and others to embrace and celebrate their sexuality.

After three years, Mahesh spoke to his father about his future. He was depressed with having to isolate himself. This time his father told him, “You are my son, no matter who you love; I hope you find a good partner in life”. He felt happy. After all, isn’t acceptance and love that every human craves for?

(Names have been changed on request)

Mowshimkka Renganathan

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