As we celebrate India’s 73rd Independence Day, FSOG explores personal liberty in New India and what freedom means in terms of love and relationships. We spoke to three diverse couples to understand what freedom means to them individually and as a member of a relationship.
Introducing to you, a gay couple, a bisexual couple and an ally couple. Here is what they had to say about inclusivity and freedom:
Meet Suresh Ramdas and Soham:
Winner of Mr Gay India 2019, Suresh Ramdas, is an IT executive based in the city of Bangalore. Suresh Ramdas heads the LGBTQ Chapter along with being the Global Facilitator of Customer Support. His partner, Soham Sengupta, is a Senior Consultant at Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions Limited. The couple shares their cute millennial love story and their take on freedom.
The first time we met at a coffee shop, after weeks of chatting on a gay dating app. We spoke for a while and then decided to go for a walk, as it was a lovely evening. While we shared some meaningful conversations and became comfortable with each other. The vibe which we shared was very genuine, honest and likable.
Do your parents know about it? If yes – How did your family and friends react to it?
We both have spoken about each other to our parents. My parents were initially uncomfortable. They also mentioned that not everyone needs to know about this because they won’t understand.
While our friends were super happy for us. We also spoke about our relationship on social media and most of them were genuinely happy wished us well too.
How was the journey of your relationship been so far? Did you face any struggle/consequences while being in one!
We have been together for 3 years. Like any other couple we do love, fight, quarrel, show affection, communicate and do everything that happens between two people in love. We love each other as a whole which includes good, bad and the ugly side.
During the time, there have been situations that were uncomfortable but its the knowing phase for each other. As we know what we want and love each other.
As an individual, what does freedom mean to you?
Freedom is to do the things that I would like to do with myself and the people/animals that I love (& this does not include causing harm to anyone in any way possible: be it physical, mental or emotional. that is why we have rules/policies/law).
When it comes to freedom in a relationship, it is an opportunity to be oneself, and honestly, the ability to speak one’s mind without being judged, the opportunity to grow as a person while being in a relationship, to pursue their dreams/passion with the support of the other person.
Accepting our-self and being authentic has given us the courage to face society. Along with the self-determination, our families and friends also have a lot in this contribution.
Tv shows like Friends, Game Of Thrones, Animated movies. Now its POSE, Tales of the City brings us closer and makes our bond stronger.
Talking about Changes since Section 377 and take on surrogacy:
Lot of them from the LGBTQ Community are slowly becoming their confident self and being their true authentic self. They are no longer being scared of the law being used against them in various uncomfortable situations.
And speaking about the surrogacy bill, It is termed phobic in all forms for people who are in a relationship be in the same-sex or opposite sex. It is definitely bad for same-sex couples and also for two people of the opposite sex in a live-in relationship and suffer from infertility. India has recognized live-in relationships while the surrogacy bill hasn’t considered this. They need to look at the adoption law as well. We are changing as a society along with our needs. Single people who want to be parents should be given the opportunity as well.
India is progressing towards an inclusive society way better than any other nation in the world in recent times. There are some nations that are going backward in inclusion while we are going forward, even though they are a bit slow.
Two laws/policy changes that I would want to change:
1. Marriage Equality to all
2. Create a place where all can thrive. Move from Equality to Equality.
India is an amazing country India, where the Old Colonial/Draconian laws being removed and made way for futuristic and more inclusive policies where citizens of all diverse backgrounds living in every corner of the country can thrive and be proud of living in this country with such rich cultural heritage and history.
Meet Shristi Verma and Shambhavi:
Shristi Verma is an artist, a musician, a photographer, and a writer. Her partner Shambhavi is a photographer. The two bisexuals have been on the rocky roads of love and acceptance, together. Here’s what they had to say.
We met on an online app as we both were looking for queer friends. Then we met in person after a few months as friends and it progressed slowly.
Shristi says that her friends and family have been supportive.
I came out to my mom and she was really supportive. Then I came out to my brother and friends and they were supportive as well. Touch-wood, I have been lucky in terms of coming out.
They love my partner and have a good relationship. The journey of our relationship such a nice and learning experience. We had our individual ups and downs like everyone, but together as a team, we are super strong. We have learned a lot from each other and we inspire the other to be more creative as well as productive. Above all, we are best friends and friendship and understanding are the foundation of our relationship.
Sadly, the case is not the same with Shambhavi. Her friends and family have been homophobic and do not accept her.
They add on, Freedom in a relationship shouldn’t let you overpower your personality or personal life. It should not restrict the other but rather help to grow. If there’s love, trust, respect, and faith then there always be freedom in any relationship.
Every relationship has different dynamics. Freedom for you is what you decide mutually. But you shouldn’t have to compromise your individuality at any point to make your relationship work.
Love in spite of facing challenges:
As cliché as it sounds when your love is strong, you can fight the world. We have been there for each other no matter what. Communication and respect are key. Sometimes it is really hard to talk about uncomfortable things, to open up even with your close ones. Sometimes, listening and understanding your partner is the best you can do.
Take on the representation of Lesbian Tv shows:
We need more good queer representation, not just limited to comedy. Also more romantic comedies with happy endings! We are tired of creating fanfics in our heads.
Talking about a difference in the Society after Section 377:
Yes, we now feel more powered as queer people in Indian society. Earlier there was always a fear among queer people that its criminalized by the law and it can be misused by homophobes. Still, there’s a long way to go.
Also, the surrogacy bill is surely is homophobic. It isn’t just homophobic but it also takes away the rights of single parents, couples who are living together. This seems to be based more on the moral standards of the society as compared to the capability and competence of individuals who can provide a good life to their kids.
This Independence day – We would like to have a world where there’s no homophobia. There’s no need to come out as it’s daunting for queer people at times. A genderless world, where no one’s forced to be feminine or masculine enough. People respect the pronouns of non-binary people. Strong legal actions on marital rape and molestation. A society that’s not caste or religion-based. Respect, love, and support for trans people. And yes more of drag!!
These are the changes Shrishti and Shambhavi are looking for in India, and in the future in an idealist world.
Meet Nathan and Shubham:
Shubham Mehrotra, who is presently the CEO of Laudco Media, returned to India in 2014, to fight for the rights of the LGBTQIA community.
Shubham started with a national campaign for Equal rights for the LGBTQIA, “Fifty Shades of Gay” (FSOG) in an attempt to make India a place where people understand and respect the big spectrum of gender identities, expression, and sexual orientation. She is the powerhouse that FSOG runs on today.
She took the platform of TedTalk to address the need for Sex Education which is considered a great taboo in India.
Back in 2013, when I was living in Foshan, China, the SC of India dealt a heavy blow to our democracy and reinitiated Section 377. In my opinion, it was rather regressive and sad that our Supreme Court couldn’t uphold the fundamentals of our Constitution and the essence of democracy. We all take pride in the fact that India is the largest democracy in the world, but are we really democratic in the truest sense?
Every Indian citizen, no matter their gender, sexuality, religion, class, or color, should have the right to live a life of respect and dignity. And criminalizing homosexual love not only validates the homophobes in this country but also, leads to a significant rise in hate crimes, which was the case following the judgment.
I also started reading and researching more about the Indian LGBT+ community, I realized that they suffer human rights abuse both at the hands of the state and the society, on a daily basis.
I started FSOG with one goal in mind
Which was to educate and make people aware of the topics that are not openly discussed in our country, such as, LGBT+ and sexual rights, gender inequality and the dark reality of child abuse in India.
Nathan Peddie, Shubham’s Partner was born in the UK, and is currently working in a Real-estate Agency in India. Talking about supporting and identifying himself as an LGBTQ+ Ally, he says “To me, being an ally simply means trying to change people’s conceptions of the issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community not only in India but around the world. It could be an off-hand comment, a discussion over lunch – it’s about confronting misconceptions or stigmas as and when they rear their ugly head!”
To show support to the LGBTQ+, Nathan, and Shubham have marched at the Bangalore Pride in 2017 and the day’s festivities still make me smile – a riot of colors, personalities, and placards proudly fighting for LGBT rights in South India.
Should Straight People Support LGBTQ+?
The two, have always been a supporter of LGBT+ rights. They add, “Also, we are not closet supporters. We genuinely believe that ALL people deserve equal rights regardless of their race, gender, religion or sexuality. Do you really think hate crimes or terror will change people’s minds and souls? Terror doesn’t change people from gay to straight, it just hurts innocent people. Why is it so difficult for people to understand that?”
When asked Nathan about his partner starting FSOG in 2016 to empower the Indian LGBTQ+ community? What was your initial thought/reaction to the same?
Honestly, having ring-side seats to the FSOG journey has been enlightening for me. I would be the first to admit my knowledge of the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ Indians was not what it is today. So, on one hand, it has been fulfilling to see the platform grow, and mature. And on the other hand, the other really humbling thing about FSOG is seeing first-hand how its material has helped so many people who may not have otherwise had resources to turn to in their journey.
Being born and brought up in the UK
I was exposed to LGBTQ+ issues during childhood. The biggest exposure personally was seeing some of my closest friends come out. This, coupled with high school sexual education classes, and through many of Britain’s best-loved entertainers, sportsmen and public figures being able to openly discuss their sexuality.
Speaking of the changes after Section 377
We have witnessed a huge amount of change. That said, given the socio-political climate over the last four years, the repeal last year was a bit of a surprise. Looking back at the verdict, it sometimes seems like this massive, overnight change for India. It’s a huge step in the right direction. But it’s one thing to change a law; it’s a different ball-game for a nation’s collective mindset to evolve in tandem with legislative progress.
To explain in the simplest terms regarding why India/World needs rights and opportunities because at a very fundamental level all people are equal. That means absolute parity in all aspects of life – relationships, work, opportunities, every facet of society.
It is important for a couple to be free and express themselves even after being in a relationship. Also, Freedom also means to love anybody irrespective of gender, caste, and religion. This Independence Day, let’s take a step towards a better society by accepting supporting the Freedom of diverse couples in India.