India has evolved in its emotional capacity towards the idea of love and companionship. The general idea of matchmaking has transformed from the tradition of arranged marriages to the time of online dating. As matrimonial pages fill up sheets of daily newsletters, getting hitched is easier than ever.
Despite all our advancements, as we notice a growing hostility against the LGBTQ community, the freedom to choose one’s partner gets increasingly difficult. In the midst of all this negativity, Srikanth’s story adds a hopeful anticipation in terms of acceptance of the LGBTQ community within our society. The first Mysuru gay man to put out a matrimonial ad, his quest for love is as relatable to us as all other heterosexual unions.
Srikanth Rao, 43, is a contractor in the field of medical transcription. He identifies as a gay man and had a partner for eight years while living in the USA. Having returned to India in 2010, he is in the process of finding another partner but has been unable to find one yet. Having known about his attraction towards the same sex from his teenage years, he felt it was easier for him to own his identity once he moved to the United States. Indians form more than 5% of the foreign born population in the USA and the UK, making it easier for gay men like Srikanth to escape social prejudice that he would have faced in his own country.
Various countries such as USA, UK, and many other European states have developed a liberal and inclusive attitude towards people of all sexual orientations. Following the Section 377 ruling in India on December 20th, 2013 that suddenly criminalised millions of gay Indians, a great number of same sex couples made a beeline to the USA and the UK and sought political asylum there.
Members of the LGBTQ community in India, such as Srikanth consider the law as “an archaic law that needs to be repealed”. While the US legalised gay sex countrywide in 2003 itself, the legalisation of gay marriage in all fifty American states in 2015 has made the country the most sought after place for same sex couples from foreign countries to settle in.
While Srikanth is one of the few Indian gay men to be open about his sexuality to his family and friends, a majority of men like him choose to stay in the closet or deal with the horrors of police abuse and death threats from the society and their families. Peer pressure and misguided prejudice often has a deep psychological impact and pushes them to extreme measures, resulting in fatal consequences. They feel that life for them is much easier there than in their country of origin, where they have to deal with judgmental attitudes and cannot get their loved ones to accept them.
Rao's parents came from different castes and backgrounds and parented him in a liberal environment. When he decided to come out to the world as gay, it was this strength from his family that helped him the most.
Me and my father had just one conversation on this and he asked me – ‘do you realise the consequences of this?’ He gave me his views on it, the worst-case scenario and all that, and left it on me. And when I asked him what do you think about gay people, he said ‘you are my son and I love you and that is all you need to know’.
Perhaps if India created a more favourable environment for a major chunk of its population, we wouldn’t be seen as a regressive and hostile state with regard to our homosexual friends. Striving to create a secular and an accepting community, we could learn a lesson of integration from our progressive Western counterparts and still hope to retain each member of our community, regardless of his/her sexual orientation.
In this time where India is still an underdeveloped country with so much human potential that we end up taking for granted, can we afford to lose our valuable human resources to other countries based solely on the fact that we cannot look beyond their sexuality and accept them for who they are?