30 year old Jasmeet “Jassi” Singh shares his journey about coming out of the closet 12 years back as a Sikh in Mumbai.
Jassi starts his conversation talking about his relationship with his parents. Being friends on the one hand while keeping their child adequately grounded on the other, he shares
“My parents have always tried to keep up with the times.”
On hearing this, we further ventured into a conversation about their reaction to Jassi coming out to them
“I came out when I was 18 to my father first. Surpringly, he was very accepting and supportive. I wanted him to ease up to my mother regarding my sexuality. That failed. My mother did not take it very well. She always dreamt of me getting married and having kids. She told me that I need to be sure before starting to tell everyone that I was gay”
I was intrigued to know if there was any changes in his parents behavior after he came out to them. His reply to that was,
“There was no difference in the way they treated me before and after coming out. They gradually accepted me for who I was”
Having been out for 12 years now, he shares what it was like to come out in 2004.
“I came out at a time when people did not even know, let alone use, the word ‘Gay’ in India. At that time, people told me it is an ‘experimental’ phase, and that it might fade away and I would grow out of it. Well, it does not work like that.”
Exactly, it does not work like that!
Yet unfortunately, the same social protocol is followed almost due to fallacious myths.
“People have this distorted, or perhaps I should say, stereotyped view about the LGBT+ community. Whenever I talk about my sexuallity to people, they find it hard to believe me. Somehow, they think all gay men are feminine, camp and shopping loving ‘queens’. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Stereotypes about gay men are destructive to both how society views them (read: homophobia), as well as to how they view themselves. This sets a chain reaction with people being reluctant to come out and eventually give in to sham marraiges.
Jassi recalls about a similar incident in his life when he dated a guy who started claiming that he was straight and demanded to get married. To this he says,
“I feel the root problem is that Indians aren’t educated enough about alternate sexualities. In our homophobic, heterosexist, discriminatory culture, we learn negative ideas about homosexuality and same-sex attraction. LGBT+ people are sometimes socialised into thinking that being non-heterosexual is somehow “mad”, “bad”, “wrong” or “immoral”, which leads to feelings of self-disgust and might have serious psychological effects.”
The dialogue took a political turn when asked further about what he feels about Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code,
He grins and says, “The British should have taken this law along with them in 1947. Section 377 is so much more precious than the Kohinoor as it literally affects the lives of millions. It is due to this law that homophobia exists in the coutry, and LGBT+ people are afraid to come out. We are like any other citizen of India. We pay taxes and contribute in the growth of our nation. Why should our love be criminal in the eyes of the state then?”
Activism for LGBT+ rights and equality, he feels, depends on what work people do in the field. As for 2016, he states
“The times are changing. Real activism is reaching different cities. We have not reached all parts of the country but I think it is a good start. This movement has gone beyond the metro cities to places like Pune & Hyderabad.”
When asked about what category he would put FSOG in, he sends the following message across
“FSOG for me is the best ally to ever step up and walk with the community with equal zeal and passion to get equal rights and stop discrimination of the LGBTIQAPS community at large! A lot of people speak in favor of LGBT+ rights and equality in India but FSOG actually does walk the talk! They just don’t talk about equal rights but are ensuring our voices are being heard.”
He continues, “being a gay man I feel so proud today that it is not ony people from LGBT+ community who are fighting for our rights, and making people aware about alternate sexualities but also equal rights campaign like FSOG are helping us achieve our dream of a free and equal India.”