Skip to navigationSkip to content
FREE TO LOVE (NOT)

A personal account of what it means to be gay in India

REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma
Matter of pride.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

This post was originally published on Quora as an answer to the question “What is it like to be a lesbian in India?

Homosexuality in India is not about unicorns and rainbows.

When I tell people that I am gay, they often ask me, “You mean lesbian?”

I refrain from using the term “lesbian” to label my sexuality because of the widespread kinkification of lesbianism.

Marriage proposals

My partner and I have received a fair number of marriage proposals from straight and gay men. Some of these men want to marry me to save me from lesbianism, some want to fulfill their fantasies while others want to marry me because I haven’t had a “real man” yet.

Quora, Apoorva Malhotra

Lack of awareness

My classmates often gossiped about Karan Johar and Shahrukh Khan.

I grew up the glorified 90s in a time and place where people called each other gay to mock and insult them. It was a time where gay and eunuch were used interchangeably and people were highly ignorant and intolerant towards homosexuality. My classmates often gossiped about (Bollywood producer and director) Karan Johar and (actor) Shahrukh Khan. It was a subject of ridicule and mockery. The stereotypical portrayal of gay and effeminate men in Johar’s movies was in unfair representation of the queer community. Even the popular sitcom FRIENDS was riddled with casual and sometimes blatant homophobia.

This is how much a friend is aware:

Quora, Apoorva Malhotra

Dating scene

As of 2016, we have had no Pride in my city. The number of openly gay women here is negligible.

Dating was hard. When I was a young teen, there were hardly any dating websites, and nobody was openly gay at my school. All the girls I dated until I was 15 were closeted. Another girl who was open about her bisexuality was only so she could be more attractive to men.

The number of guys on lesbian dating sites is alarming.

There were girls who wanted me to let their boyfriend watch/participate in bed. Also, the number of guys on lesbian dating sites is alarming.

These are some WOMEN interested in Women:

Quora, Apoorva Malhotra

Lack of sensitisation

If I had a dime for each time someone told me that it’s “just a phase,” I could afford to move to a more accepting country.

When I told a friend who had a thing for me that I am seeing a girl, he went ballistics and said, “why a girl? It is not like you are deprived.”

Quora, Apoorva Malhotra

When I was in school, there was a guy who was often severely bullied by the “masculine” classmates because he was effeminate. Kids who weren’t “manly enough” were often a subject to ridicule and bash. No one stopped that. People thought it was normal and the right thing to do. Even now I have friends who find hijras scary.

Lack of support from family

My parents do not support homosexuality. They never will.

My parents do not support homosexuality. They never will. I know that one day I will have to leave them to be with my partner.

I hate having to keep my relationship a secret. I want to show my partner off. I want to have it acknowledged. And I know that I will never have that. In some years, my parents will expect me to marry a man. They will want grandkids. Being in a closeted relationship is extremely emotionally draining.

This is what my mother commented on facebook a year ago:

Quora, Apoorva Malhotra
Translation: Do not remove Section 377 or the citizens of the country will feel unsafe.

Draconian laws

Section 377 Of IPC states:

Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with [imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Surrogacy bill: It prohibits commercial surrogacy and allows ethical surrogacy to needy infertile couples. It also prohibits single parents, homosexual couples, live-in relationships couples to opt for altruistic surrogacy.

Marriage: Same-sex couples cannot legally marry or obtain a civil partnership in India.

Religion

It feels scary to live in a place that has more than 330 million gods, and yet I can count on neither one of them for blessings.

India is a secular country. Every major religion in India condemns homosexuality. It feels scary to live in a place which has more than 330 million gods and yet I can count on neither one of them for their blessings.

Society

The attitude of Indians towards homosexuality can be hurtful. The society makes it so hard for us as if it isn’t hard enough already.

Protesters slander us with picket signs reading unnatural, un-cultural, anti-national, anti-social, etc.

People tell me that I do not know what love is. But how can they see love when they are blinded by their own hatred?

Let me tell you what being a lesbian in India is like: I was 12 when I figured I wasn’t straight. I tried to conform to societal molds, tried to be straight and be what men wanted, even though men were not what I wanted.

I was in an open relationship with a girl when I wanted to be monogamous. It lasted years because I was scared that if she’d leave, I’d be all alone with nowhere to belong. I was told I would not be accepted, I was told I have no future with my wonderful girlfriend who I want for a wife, I was told that all of this is just a phase, my LIFE is just a phase, my LOVE is just a phase.

We welcome your comments at ideas.india@qz.com

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.