As archaic as it might sound, even with all the media hype, touting celebratory strides forward for LGBTQ rights, there’s still a dirty little societal secret getting brushed under the rug… gay men, in droves, are still being forced, shamed, and belief-poisoned to do the right thing — marry heterosexual women even though they know they’re gay.
Let’s start from the beginning. Coming out is a difficult experience for many young people. But when your sexuality is at odds with everything you have been taught, it can be deeply traumatic.
Many gay youngsters brought up in the Islamic faith face extreme opposition when they reveal their sexuality to their communities.
For 29 years old, Aamir, it was a terrifying experience. We got the chance to interview him and he poured his heart out.
How did you find out about your sexuality?
I come from a Muslim family. As a kid, I was not a typical religious boy. I was a very outgoing kid and very open to my friends. But at that age, I didn’t know that I was attracted to the same gender. So one day, this guy approached me and it felt quite right from inside. I felt, this is good, and this is who I am. In the process of owning my sexuality, I gathered the courage to tell my mother what was going on but it didn’t go well with her.
When and how did you try to come out to your mother?
At that time, it was no such thing as ‘coming out’, I had never come across the term itself. So, one day I decided to tell my mom that there is a guy with whom I really like hanging out. She initially dismissed my statement thinking its nothing more than just friendship. I reiterated that it’s something more. I tried to explain to her that I like him the way she likes my father. Her reaction after that was shock and she immediately took me to many ‘maulanas’ to cure me. Obviously, my mother told my dad about this and he completely stopped talking to me for a while. Now he pretends that this phase of my life never happened. So, it was never really a coming out phase, I was never really able to come out to them. After a while, my parents got on a mission to get me married.
How long after that incident your family started looking out for a girl for you?
There was a guy I used to talk to. We never openly talked our romantic relationship, even between us, but we both felt the same from inside. One day he told me that his parents want him to make other friends and not just hang around with me only. After that, we started drifting apart. I also tried going out with girls but it never really worked out. There was always a voice in my head telling me that it was not right.
I stopped talking to everyone and that’s when my parents started looking out for a girl for me to get married to. They were worried that I was going into depression and they thought getting married will help me get out of ‘the phase.’ That’s how I met my wife. She is actually 3 years older to me.
Does your wife know that you are gay?
I never wanted to get married to a woman. So, when the talks of our marriage started, I used to completely ignore her, that was my way of denial. But one day I decided that it has to stop. I realized that I cannot continue that kind of attitude since it wasn’t her fault and it wasn’t fair on my part to treat her that way. So, I called her and asked her to meet me. I was expecting that she would understand my situation since she was very well educated and seemed quite progressive despite of coming from a Muslim background. I asked my boyfriend also to come along with me.
When I met her, I came straight to the point and told her that I am gay and I cannot marry her. was concerned that I would not be able to give her the happiness she deserves. Apart from that, I was also not comfortable marrying someone older to me.
She was situated in Hyderabad and just like me she was getting married only because of the family pressure. It was her idea for us to get married, she told me that we can live separate lives while staying with each other. She convinced me that she was not at all interested in enduring the responsibilities of a marriage because she is very much busy in her career so I would be having the freedom to do anything I want, whether it be travelling to Mumbai to meet with my boyfriend or asking him to come to Hyderabad. In this way, both our families would stop bugging us.
I liked the idea and agreed. But just 2 days before our wedding I received a call from her in which she said that if I don’t do everything she asks me, she will tell everyone that I am gay.
I still have that special person in my life. I go to Mumbai once in a while but since my family lives there, there is that constant fear that someone will catch us together leading to chaos in our lives.
Do you feel that you are living a lie?
I don’t think I am living a lie. Yes, I am living away from the person I love very much. And if it would have been up to me, then I would have stayed in Mumbai with him. But it cannot happen. It’s not a lie, it is just a compromise I am doing for my family.
Do you think you will ever be able to live a life where you and your boyfriend are living together happily?
I hope so but it is very difficult. Every night we make plans with each other to go far away from everyone, someplace where no one will judge us. But those are just plans, we don’t know if we will be able to execute it ever.
We actually planned a trip to Paris. Since we don’t have any picture of us together, we have this dream of getting our pictures clicked as a couple in front of Eiffel Tower. People go to Eiffel Tower to propose to their partner, in comparison to that this a very small wish we have.
Don’t you think India is slowly changing? How do you think we can change the conservative thinking of the people?
Sex education is very important. It should be made mandatory in India. If someone would have taught me about that when I was young, I wouldn’t have taken so much time to accept myself.
According to you, what is the best possible way for LGBT people to meet similar people like them?
I would say that the best option would be to try an app. I would suggest going on Grindr.
Is your family not expecting an offspring from you and your wife?
Till now, my wife has been very upfront with parents from both our sides that she doesn’t want a child now because she wants to focus on her career. But, in a year or so, it can become a problem.
Actually, I don’t want to have a child with her because then the whole focus will shift to the child and it will become very difficult for me to get out of the marriage even if I would want to. But if the parental pressure increases for a child then I’ll have to end this relationship.
How do you manage your relationship with your boyfriend while living so far away with your wife?
Every day is a struggle. Trust issues happen all the time. But I have that much trust on him that he won’t cheat on me because we have been through a lot together.
Have you actually thought about leaving India and perhaps shift to some other country where you and your boyfriend can live together peacefully?
I have already applied for PR in Australia. The plan is that I’ll go there first then call him.
Right now when I go to Mumbai, we avoid public places to meet because there is this constant fear that if someone will see us together and find out about us then our lives will be ruined.
It would be great to live in a country where we won’t have to hide our relationship from others.
Is your boyfriend not out to his family?
His siblings know but his parents don’t know. He is a Punjabi so it’s quite difficult for him also to come out to his parents because of the typical conservative mindset.
Would you call yourself religious?
I believe in God but I don’t believe in the religious books because there are some hurtful things written in them.
I went to a church once in search of guidance and that day only the people in the church were talking about how wrong homosexuality is and those people should be banished from the community. So, I left from there. Then I went to a Hindu temple once but I found the similar mentality there.
My boyfriend is very religious. Although he is a Punjabi, he goes to church every Sunday. I ask him all the time the reason behind his faith in God. He always says the same thing, it doesn’t matter what others say, God will help us.
There are many churches all over the world, probably not in India, where masses on Sundays are held by the LGBT community. Would you like to go there if given a chance?
I’ll be honest with you. When you face so many problems because of something that is a part of you, you reach a saturation point and you don’t want to associate yourself with that person or that place. It doesn’t matter when the damage is already done. First, they said God should kill us and now they are saying God will help us. It doesn’t work like that. I don’t think I can go there.
So, every day after work you go back home to your wife. How does this relationship work?
We have separate bedrooms, separate lifestyle. If there is some event in her office then she takes me with her. But if we are sitting together, I prefer to be on my phone or laptop rather than having a conversation with her and she prefers the same.
Because of your situation, do you ever get any kind of dark thoughts?
Yes, I do get those thoughts. But my boyfriend consoles me, he tells me that there are people who are in worse situations than us, we will get through this.
But there have been times when I just wanted to end my life. I remember going to Dargaah when I was a kid and praying to God to end my life. I didn’t have the guts to take a knife and do it myself so I just prayed to God that he should do it.
Are you now in a better mental situation?
I would say that it is better but there are times when I feel alone. I cannot rely on my wife and tell her everything I am going through because it is not a real relationship. I have someone I love but then again he lives so far away that he cannot be there for me all the time. So, sometimes it becomes quite lonely for me.
I don’t think of ending my life now but I do intoxicate myself with alcohol to the extent where I am not able to think of anything. It helps me sleep.
Have you spoken to a health specialist who can help you with some pills or maybe therapy?
When I was a teenager, someone suggested my parents to take me for conversion therapy. So, apparently, they pass electric currents through your nerves during that therapy. We couldn’t get through it because my mother became very afraid of the procedure.
But I have taken anti-depressant pills. I must tell you that it doesn’t work. There was no change in my mood. It used to just make me numb. For conversion therapy also, I must say that it doesn’t work. You cannot cure yourself from being gay because it is not a disease. It is just who you are.
Do you have any message to other closeted LGBT individuals?
I just want to say that don’t try to change who you are. First become independent then tell your parents about yourself, so that even if they don’t support you, you will have the financial backing to move on with your life on your own.
We really hope that Aamir is able to go to Paris with his boyfriend and take a picture together. He promised us that if that happens he will definitely share the pictures with us.