Richard Shane Hammish is a 19-year-old man from the town of Hosur near Bangalore. He is someone who really knows himself and the world around him. Often times, such people are destined for greatness. But, Richard has only now started his journey. His journey is one that involves many colors. Colors that represent self-conscious pondering, rare internal dissonance, and unparalleled motivation.
We talked to Richard and found out more about his life, his sexuality, and his journey so far.
How would you describe yourself and your personality?
Since I am still a student, I’ve not explored much about myself. Let me be clear about what I think of myself. I’m very diligent and persistent when it comes to studies, as a result of which I’ve consistently been one of the toppers in school. I’m striving hard to maintain the same stature in my university as well. This is because I have always been an ambitious person who is very stubborn and adamant in his stand. So, I would prefer to always have the upper hand. I can also claim that I am helpful, kindhearted and most importantly humane and spiritual. I would also say that I am an enigma, for I am a person who stands out in a crowd.
What are some of your daily interests and habits?
I am a voracious reader. I don’t ever miss out on reading the newspaper daily. Also, I really like self-help literature, as I believe that self-development books are something that a person of my age should certainly read so that we live a meaningful life rather than to just exist as animals do. I am not a sports person, although I do like to play cricket, badminton, and kabaddi. I also love playing chess sometimes. I’d also take a walk in search of tranquility to a serene place with flora and fauna around. Apart from this, I enjoy short bike rides, gardening, and cycling. And often I find that 24 hours in a day does not suffice as I end up doing only a few of the above-mentioned activities daily.
Can you tell us a bit about your family background and your journey so far?
I belong to a middle-class family. My parents are not the conservative type who readily reject other perspectives. They rather are the kind of people who are susceptible to change. I cannot say that they are very progressive too, and yet they are not pessimists. I can only hope that they are accepting when they come to know about my sexuality. As a child, I have always been quite studious. My parents never restricted me from doing anything. As a result, I have been somewhat of a free bird throughout my childhood. I have spent most of my time playing and roaming around my area. I’ve also been good at studies, so my parents have never worried too much about me. I have remained a respectable person among my classmates and there were even times when I considered myself a child prodigy.
Who are some people that inspire you and can you please tell us a few things that empower you or move you in life?
Ellen DeGeneres is an inspiration when it comes to LGBTQ+ people. Don’t get me wrong but I like Adolf Hitler for his charisma and leadership skills. I do not think that what he did was correct in any way. But, the world is not entirely black and white and even the worst people have some redeeming qualities. I also take inspiration from (and sometimes envy) people who are knowledgeable. Whenever I find someone smart, there is something in me that intrigues me to do something interesting.
When did you understand your own sexuality? Are there any instances that stand out?
I’ve known that I am attracted to boys from when I was 14-15. At first, I thought that I am also attracted to girls. I remember fantasizing about girls at times. But, this vanished pretty soon. When I was 16, I was very sure that I wasn’t into girls. As far as I can remember, along my journey, I don’t remember any particular instance which made me certain of my orientation. It all happened eventually.
Have you expressed your sexuality? Has anything stopped you from doing the same?
Acceptance is the prime reason. We know that many people around us think that homosexuality is a sin, and so it is not morally accepted still. They are not ready to accept that sexual relationships are primarily for companionship even more so than for the sake of procreation. Homosexuality is something very weird for them. They don’t understand that we too are normal human beings. This thought of theirs that we are abnormal has its roots in movies that have dramatized homosexuals to be people who are obnoxious and obscene. The media must be blamed for the creation of stereotypes that have discriminated against us on various levels.
Fear is another reason. People have pre-conceived delusions and misconceptions about homosexual people. They think that we are lewd and lascivious. These thoughts lead them to caricature a few acts that are shown in movies. I fear that I might also become a person that they mock. We often come across suicides committed by teens in the LGBTQ+ community because of the bullying they face. Another thing that scares me is the thought that I might be too young to express it properly.
Even if I do talk about it to my parents about my path and the journey that I have embarked on, it will not create frustration in my parents but it WILL create a lot of complications that I don’t want to face till I graduate. I just wish all heterosexual people would stop their homophobia and start treating us better.
Have you had any interaction with other people from the LGBTQ community?
Yes, I have had deep conversations with Homosexual, Bisexual, and Trans men. To be honest, I got connected with all these people through a dating app. I’ve had serious interactions with them. We speak about our various interests, books, travel, and everything else. I find it really interesting to get to know about them and so do they. Befriending them has been of great importance especially in knowing more about myself. I was in a dilemma when I installed the dating app. Meeting these friends has made my perspective strong. I am not a person who is up there on a dating app only seeking lusty people or a relationship, but I also try to broaden my friend circle and like meeting people who can accept my sexuality. I cannot talk about certain things to a heterosexual friend as I cannot expect him/her to understand my feelings. On the other hand, to all these lovely pals of mine, to whom I have shown my true self, I can open up about a lot of things.
A related incident:
One of the very prominent interactions that I will never forget in my life’s journey is the one that I had with Hemant T Shah. He asked me when I was going to reveal my sexuality to my parents. “When are you going to inform your parents that you are not straight?” I was offended by this question because he said that I am not ‘straight’. The usage of this umbrella term to refer to a person does not sit right with me sometimes.
And so when he told me that I am not straight, I wasn’t able to take it. I retorted, “For myself, I am straight enough and you cannot say that I am not straight. I don’t believe in referring to a heterosexual man as straight.” I don’t know if he accepted what I said, but the next time he asked the question in a different way. He said, “When will you tell your parents that you are gay?” This time I wasn’t offended like earlier, but I still was not convinced because I knew that he did not approve of me being straight.
Have you dated anyone in the past? Can you talk about relationships in general?
Yes, I have dated quite a few homosexual and bisexual men. I started dating once I turned 18. Most of them went on really well. I have had great experiences with them and shared some nice memories with them. I have maintained amicable relationships with almost everyone that I have dated. I’ve hitherto dated people aged from 21-45 and looking forward to more such experiences.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not desperate about having a boyfriend. This might be because of various reasons. Firstly, I think I have to explore a lot about myself and people, in general. I also think that I am too young to get into relationships for I know nothing about life. I am also a goal-oriented person and in my life’s journey, if I have to choose between having a lover and my aim, which is to get well settled in life, I would choose the latter.
Movies have glorified relationships to such an extent that most of us have started to feel that there is no life beyond having a life partner. Though I do believe that having a loved one is essential, I am not of the idea that it is because of that one person that our life is going to be fulfilled. And yet, I’d like to be in a relationship maybe five years from now when I am stable. Apart from that, I’ve also been seeing a lot of cases on social media where-in people in the community have fooled each other under the pretense of a relationship.
Why do some people in the community behave like sadists? What pleasure can they possibly get out of hurting someone else? Such actions can very well lead people to lose hope on the very existence of love.
Has the decriminalization of Section 377 given you hope for the future? What are your thoughts on India’s LGBTQ journey?
India’s LGBTQ journey has been positive. Decriminalization of Consensual sex between two same-sex adults has definitely given us a lot of hope on the system and society. After that judgment, there are a prominent number of people who are no longer homophobic. Yet, I think it has not reached the public at large as the social stigma that is attached to us still exists. I also think that it is nearly impossible to change the minds of hard-core conservatives.
Members of the community have brought with them a lot of new initiatives. The most notable among them is an Instagram page named desi_gay_couples wherein the admin posts photographs of couples from the community. I like this initiative personally because this has proven to be something that gives hope to people. It is also pleasing to see a lot of people coming out and sharing their stories with the people at large.
Furthermore, discrimination on all fronts should be abolished. Be it discrimination based on caste, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic or political status, color or race. I don’t think anybody should be able to call themselves superior to others on the basis of any of the above grounds.
Lastly, what are your thoughts on platforms such as Fifty Shades Of Gay (FSOG)? Do you have any suggestions?
I think that they are doing a great job. One thing I would like to state is; don’t seclude homosexuals or other LGBTQ people. We want an inclusive society where people are not differentiated based on their sexuality.
I hope these platforms do not only focus on the bright part of the community which covers only people in urban areas but also people in grey areas and uncovered rural areas who are desperately in need of some sort of support. There is also a group of LGBTQ+ activists with a huge number of followers online, who bring in their political perspectives. They have to understand that the members of the community follow them not because they are awestruck by their political opinions, but because of the fact that they are working for the betterment of the community. So, when these activists try to misuse their fame, it can be pretty disheartening. I’d request such groups to be more responsible and to not misuse their stardom.