Abhijit Arun Gadakh went through a lot in his life. Even so, he rose up to victory and now believes in helping and supporting others in the LGBTQ community.
How it all started for Abhijit
I come from a middle-class farmer family. My childhood was like any other middle-class Indian upbringing. As a child, I was always attracted to wearing lipsticks, heels and other accessories that were typically worn by women or girls. And hence, I ended up getting along really well with the girls in my school. Although, my distant relatives and the boys in my school would always bully me. Mostly because of my camp and flamboyant personality.
Coming out for the first time
One year ago I spoke to my cousin’s wife who we call ‘bhabhi’. My brother and my bhabhi live in Mumbai. I generally tend to stay with them during my holidays. My bhabhi has always been very close to me. We share almost everything together. One day she saw my WhatsApp status, where I had put up a picture of two men holding hands. She came up to me and asked me directly, “Are u gay, Abhijit?”
Hailing from a small town, it was hard for me to open up easily. But being in a city like Pune, which is one of India’s fastest growing cities, I started to feel more at ease with myself and my sexual orientation.
When I came out to my friends they reacted very normally. But it was not the same as my family. My mum was taken by surprise and shock when I came out to her. Coming from a small village, my mum didn’t have much education in her younger days and hence she couldn’t comprehend what I was saying to her. It was hard in the beginning to convince both my parents about my sexuality. But I never stopped trying. After a year I tried again for my acceptance and they finally accepted me.
When I was in 11th grade, I was going through a lot of mental trauma. I thought I had mental health and gender identity issues. Therefore I decided to visit a government hospital in my area. There was one doctor who told me about “Gulabi Mela.” Before this, I did not know what that was. After he told me I started researching more about the Gulabi Mela.
The Gulabi Mela is a workshop conducted for LGBTQ+ individuals organised by The Humsafar Trust. The Mela or festival generally features LGBTQ & pride themed food, merchandise and lots of game stalls for the community to interact. It was at the Gulabi Mela that I first realised that I was not alone.
“That was when I accepted my self as being Gay.”
It all starts at rock bottom
When I was studying in the 11th grade, I would have been about 17 or 18 years of age. This was one moment in life that changed my life forever.
That one day I was raped by my school teacher. He was 35-years-of-age at that time. Before the incident, he would always touch me, talk to me nicely, pull my cheeks and so on. Frankly, I would enjoy the attention being completely unaware of his intentions.
Once there was an event happening in my college and I remember the event ending at around 12 pm. He insisted I stay with him in the campus as my house was far away from college and it was too late to go back. That was the night that he forced himself on me and raped me. I was petrified and to be honest uncertain of what to do next.
After that, for over a month he forced me to do that again. But I refused. After which luckily he left college. I did not report the case. I was too young at the time. Moreover, I had not even come out at the time. And more than anything I was scared.
Later I started to realise that what had happened to me three years ago was a criminal offence. I thought of reporting the case then but again the fear of what people will think about me took over and I didn’t go ahead with it.
It was a really bad phase for me but I got over it by myself self after being in a very bad mental state for over a year.
Abhijit Raising victoriously
After this whole incident, I have been quite social from the last two years. And I have been stronger than ever. I also ended up meeting some people on Grindr. And I became friends with them.
And then I came across something even more disturbing.
After having a conversation with my friend, I found out that he was being blackmailed by another man. He had my friend’s nude pictures and was threatening him to share it publicly. We decided to call the blackmailer to a park nearby. It was a plot. As soon as he came to the spot where we asked him to meet, we took him to the Police. The blackmailer immediately started apologising and started begging us not to report him.
After all these incidents I have been through, I suggest that one must fight for themselves and not be scared. I feel that if you are not ready to fight, others will not be able to help you. You have to start fighting for yourself and then you will get support from your family and friends.
Now that I am very active on social media sites, you can see how I’m not afraid to be who I want to be and share what I want to share. My birth name is Abhijit but on social media, I call my self Abhishekh. I play my part by talking to other people from the community who are going through difficult times, their families, especially their mothers and sister and I try to give them as much information as I can about the LGBTQ+ community.
“I feel that lack of knowledge about the community is the main issues in rural areas in India. So I try to do my part to spread awareness.”