“…and the dreams that you dare to dream, really do come true.”
Anwesh Sahoo, native from Kaniha in Odisha, and a student of IIIT Delhi, represented India at the Mr Gay World held in Malta, Europe in April this year. Youngest in the lot, and a dark horse in the preliminary rounds of the pageant soon learnt the nitty gritties of etiquette, walking gait, diction and glamour. He credits all his success to his mentor and MGWI 2014 title winner Sushant Divgikar, who is also the National Producer of Mr Gay World India pageant and Celina Jaitly, former beauty queen, LGBT activist and a vociferous proponent of abolition of Section 377.
Like many other Indian homosexuals, he had a phase of denial and confusion, “I had always known that I liked boys. I remember telling myself that this was a phase that would pass, and I would eventually marry a woman and live a happy life. But it just wouldn’t go away. I would sit and cry all the time, thinking that this was not the way it’s supposed to be. How could I grow up to be a man who wanted to live with another man? The concept was entirely foreign to me,” he recalls. Long after that he didn’t know that his feelings had a definition and that he was ‘homosexual’.
Coming out to his parents was a difficult journey as they found it difficult to accept his sexuality, initially. Slowly but surely, they came to terms with it. “It was a difficult time for all of us” recalls Anwesh, “it was almost four years back when I finally put an end to months of self-denial, accepted my true self, and assured myself of how I am not here to suffer, I am here to make an impact. Perhaps the most difficult part of this journey has been waking myself up every morning and telling myself- ‘My dreams are indeed valid.’”
Right on boy!
To his horror, he has come across profound people from all walks of life, with absolutely no knowledge of the terminology used for homosexuals. A journalist from a leading newspaper once asked him if Anwesh should be referred as Jagannath Sahoo’s (his father) son or as his daughter!
A student of IIIT Delhi, his dreams, after he is done with his Engineering, are not small ones. He aims to dedicate himself to the cause of LGBTQ community for life. He has a vision of creating a world where being effeminate isn’t looked down upon.
“I’ve always wanted to be a part of the change that I wish to see in the world and that is exactly what FSOG has provided me with.”
He strongly voices his opinions against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises homosexuality in India. In his own words: “Hell is better than heaven without dignity was what I was taught way back in school as a kid. And that is exactly how Section 377 makes me feel. This Archaic law has reduced us to a group of non existent individuals, who the law basically doesn’t really care about.”
He has a bold message for the LGBTQ community in India who are subjected to injustice and discrimination on a daily basis-
“You have a choice- a choice to stand up for yourself and lead a happier life on the other side of the closet or cry and pity yourself all your life. Why not make a wise choice of dignifying yourself and stand up for the rights you’re entitled to?”