Mankind is split apart.
The world is undecided and divided in what it chooses to believe. Rising exposure to the various sources of information, most of which is driven by an agenda, creates individual armies of people fighting for their belief system. The split between right-left, democrats-republicans, conservative-liberals, secular-communal and numerous other self-imposed labels we chose to identify ourselves as, have become an extension of our personalities. At what point does a society cease to be a society? Somewhere there is a line between an organized group of people sharing a common culture and a group of disconnected people living in geographical proximity to one another.
In the light of recent events around the world, these words seem truer now than ever before.
Meet Johann Arora and Johitt Arora.
A pair of 31-year-old twin brothers, who (ironically) represent the fading signs of individualism in our society. Identical by birth, it is easy to imagine and assume the stereotypes about similarity through every aspect of their lives.
For the most part, your assumptions might be right.
At the same time, you could not be further from the truth.
The clothes they wore since birth have been the same design, as the colors helped to distinguish them apart.
The education was the same, as their interests made them shine on their own.
Venturing down different career paths, life eventually bought them both to make-up and hair design, with each brother’s style/specialization being distinctively different from his womb-mate.
In the matters of love, one brother is gay whereas the other brother is straight.
The ambiguity of which brother is gay is purposefully maintained for a little while longer, to contemplate the questions of identity and acceptance without marring it with prejudice (read: homophobia).
After all the similarities, would you be able to tell the difference?
More importantly, should it matter?
Like all the things that sets apart these brothers, sexuality is just one of them. Unfortunately, the world is much less bothered about all the unique characteristics that make a man, instead focusing with almost criminal intent upon who we chose to love.
Johann, after quitting his corporate job, pursued a career in make-up and hair styling, following the footsteps of a brother who had taken the same decision a few years earlier. Apart from his talent in this field, he is also a skilled graphologist, meditation expert, as well as a djembe player.
Johitt is make up artist and a hairdresser, apart from which he is also a guitarist, a self taught artist, a Reiki healer and also conducts informal counseling session along with his brother Johann.
Can you still guess which brother is gay?
Any assumption that may ascertain your answer reflects the darker side of the ingrained homophobia within us, regardless of how open-minded we may claim ourselves to be.
Having realized it at an early age, Johann only came out to his parents a few weeks prior to my conversation with him. Johitt was present through the conversation that we had, as well as the journey Johann had to go through for the last 30 years of his life. The inseparable nature of brotherhood, often romanticized in movies, is seen in person, between these men. Although rarely displayed, the bond between these brothers pours out in the stories and the images that we peruse through.
Read More: WHAT HINDUISM, BUDDHISM, SIKHISM AND JAINISM REALLY THINK OF LGBT PEOPLE WILL SURPRISE YOU
Growing up in an urban conservative family in Mumbai, Johann was aware of his sexuality since his school days but only could muster the strength to embrace it over the last few years. Shy by nature, it was the uncertainty of being accepted that made him keep his sexuality a secret from the entire world, including his brother. It was Johann’s first relationship that helped him gather the courage to tell Johitt about himself.
Johann confesses, “It was only when I saw Johitt feel and express his love for his girlfriend, the same way I did for my boyfriend, that I was sure he would understand and relate to me. We may choose to love a different gender, but the way we expressed our affection was exactly the same.”
Since then, Johitt helped and stood by Johann as he came out to his parents and a few other people close to him. It was this newfound confidence that spurred the acceptance within Johann. The journey to this acceptance was however a long one. More than being able to share the truth about himself, hiding the entire range of human emotions that he underwent, right from puppy love to heartbreak from his immediate family was the toughest thing he had to go through. In these troubled times of his life, his spirituality helped him to be at peace himself.
By the time he did confess to his parents he was not seeking acceptance anymore. As a courtesy to the people he loved and respected, he wanted to end the lie that he had never really said.
Johann recollects, “It was no more about what they might say, but more just to get it off my mind. I’ve carried my identity as a secret for 25 years. How much longer was I going to wait?”
He admits the events of that conversation overwhelmed him momentarily. Both Johann and Johitt had anticipated the reaction that their parents would display and it was much of what they had in mind. Bewildered and caught off-guard, the questions were then answered by Johitt, that helped to clarify the struggle in understanding that his parents faced. Johann knew they would be accepting of whatever he might confess, but the idea of societal pressures from distant relatives would be the only hindrance to their complete acceptance. The ingrained homophobia that stems from the lack of knowledge about the subject is prevalent within our country. It may not be realized on a personal basis, but it reflects in the various stereotypes that run rampant among the uninformed.
Johann states, “An aunt from Punjab had called me while back when I was transitioning from my corporate job to the world of make-up, to warn me of something strange. Her beautician in a village in Punjab had advised her that men who work as make-up artists end up with hormonal imbalance that turns them gay!”
Johitt adds, “I simply had to remind her that I had been a make-up artist long before Johann considered the switch in career and that I was straight. I did not have to say much as she knew of my past relationships with my girlfriend.”
Johann is almost altruistic in his approach to homophobia. While both brothers agree upon the absurdity of the laws such as Section 377 that helps in the marginalization of the LGBTQ community, their approach to countering it is one of much compassion and understanding. Along with a few like-minded men from around the world, the brothers have started an initiative to help others who may not be at peace with themselves. Using their knowledge of meditation and the power of positive reaffirmation, they wish to reach out and normalize the idea of homosexuality within the country. Through their subtle ways of exuding positivity, it is their dream to eradicate the taboo associated with homosexuality from within the minds of the people.
My conversation then with the brothers drifted far from the topic of sexuality and transcended to the idea of humanity. As I returned home from this evening of brilliant conversations, I realized I had just been educated in a way of life. The ideas of individuality, understanding, love and compassion had been reintroduced in my life though the words of the twin brothers. We had long surpassed the trivial squabble over which gender we chose to love. But then again, isn’t it supposed to be this way?