'Out of the Closet' - Real Life Stories from the LGBTQ Community of Guwahati
Coming out takes a lot of courage.
Some people use humour to reveal it within a casual conversation, whereas some use emotions. Sometimes, the family reacts the right way, but other times, your luck might just ditch you.
Being closeted isn't a happy feeling; not being able to tell others who you are, that's not a good feeling. It was as if one had no voice.
Coming out as lesbian, gay or bisexual can be difficult, there's no point in pretending otherwise.
For 23-year old Gayatri (name changed) from Guwahati, coming out of the closet to her closest friends was not an easy task. Gayatri belongs to a very conservative Brahmin family, where girls are not even allowed to marry outside the same caste. Second among the three siblings, she was loved and pampered. Gayatri is currently pursuing her Masters outside her hometown. The first time Gayatri knew about her sexual orientation was when she was an18-year old, and her life hasn't been the same thereafter.
There was a constant emotional and physical battle that she had to fight within herself for several years, until she decided that 'coming out of the closet', at least to her closest friends, could put her war at peace.
Although she takes pride in putting herself in the ‘lesbian’ community, things have not been that easy for her. She has often been looked down upon as ‘abnormal’ and ‘not-a-good person’ by many whom she confided upon.
“I have never been able to connect to boys at an emotional level. Most of my friends would talk about their male flings, and I never knew this feeling till date. The more I heard from the ‘straight’ female friends of mine, the more I realized that I felt the same for girls. There was a female friend of mine with whom I liked holding hands, spending time, sharing things, and I understood it was different; I wanted to be with her physically as much as emotionally.”
"I often receive messages from educated females (read friends) on WhatsApp saying “I Love You” followed by ‘laugh until you cry’ emoji. That’s when I feel bad that Love for me most often comes as a mockery."
Gayatri understands that she needs to fight her battle alone, and there’s not much support she can expect from her family. She plans to open up about her sexual orientation to her family once she has a job in hand, although she fears her reality might get her parted with her family.
“I don’t know how I’ll gather the courage, but I certainly can’t get married to someone from the opposite gender only for the sake of my family’s happiness. I can’t play with someone’s life, and mine. So either way, I know, I’m going to face the loss.”
Many times, Gayatri has been shamed by people whom she knows and by strangers too. But walking away in silence has always been the best thing she could do, as she fears not many from the society would speak for her.
While she is happy that the law has finally spoken on their behalf, she still isn’t very sure if society would embrace her. All she can do is, hope, and keep fighting.
“When did you know you were Gay?” I asked.
“When I was born” he replied.
If you are from Assam, Dipankar Kashyap has to be a familiar name to you. He is an ace fashion designer and choreographer from Guwahati.
Unlike Gayatri, Dipankar had a blessed and easy life. He doesn’t remember playing with cars during his toddler-age; his room would often be filled with dolls, and he remembers dressing them up as beautiful girls.
As far as he could recall, everyone in the family knew about his orientation since the very beginning but never did anyone ask or discuss with him, making him feel that this is wrong. His family members and close acquaintances have always let him be comfortable in his own skin.
Dipankar takes pride in being the 'He' in his relationship, asserting that his gender has nothing to do with his sexuality. There is a sense of pride in it too, and one can get a feeling as to how he feels being with his partner, he is equally caring as any other man would be.
You can often understand a person is gay from his body language. Some people are very subtle, but some are loud. There might be reactions, hand movements or eye gazes. Most of the people are considered ‘bad’ for their behavior, but that’s how they are.
Gays have normal relationships too and share equilibrium in both emotional and physical level. “My longest relationship lasted for 8 years. But strangely, many in our society think we sleep around with people just for fun,” said the designer.
In his words, gay people go through the same relationship and break up phases, like the ones who are sexually straight.
He considers Guwahatians to be much more open-minded in comparison to metropolitan cities like Delhi or Mumbai. He takes pride in the fact northeast India shares a very broad outlook when it comes to the topic of LGBT.
All said and done, he, however, isn’t very happy with people taking the gay culture as an opportunity to be in the limelight. He feels that several ‘attention seekers’ have come out in the recent times, just to gain the sympathy of the society.
Chow Poran Gogoi
“I am 28, and I am an open gay person”
Poran is born and brought up in Guwahati and is a renowned fashion choreographer of the city.
For Poran, it all started when he was a student of class VI, and was studying in an all boys’ school in Bangalore. Poran has been very feminine since his childhood. While the rest of his friends were busy playing different sports, his interest was into dollhouses and makeup. While it was okay during the early years, things started changing as years passed by.
As he grew up, he realized that he was not attracted to anyone of the opposite sex, but with people from the same sex. By the time he reached class X, he started reading about LGBT culture, and all that he could understand was ‘gay people are very lonely,’
For Poran, the amount of support and hatred came in an equal amount. While his sister has been supportive towards him, many others from the family have been distant from him for years now.
Poran is one of the popular figures in the fashion and showbiz industry of Guwahati. He shares that anyone from the LGBTQ community who have failed to be in the closet for a long time, tend to be creative.
Further, he is of the opinion that the glamour industry is a better platform than the mainstream professions because it gives one the scope to be themselves. For him, a private or government sector job has always been a frustrating chore. He is against dressing up in formals and living a different life by the day and return home and dress up as someone else, by the night.
Poran isn’t very happy with media and people talking about the recent Section 377 verdict as one which ‘decriminalises gay sex.’ For him, that’s quite offensive. He rather wants people to talk about this verdict as one which would bring equal rights and opportunities to the LGBT community.
“There is more than just sex that this section calls for. We don’t want a section which would allow us to have sex, we want basic human rights and that’s what the Supreme Court decision is all about,” says Poran.
“I am disgusted and hurt at the same time to see well-educated people of our society circulating offensive messages and statuses on Facebook and WhatsApp after the Section377 verdict. My chat box is full of messages on g**** marna. This shows the mentality of our people and you can well expect where we are heading to.”
Love is Love for me. Now if love came to me in the form of a female, is that my fault?
27-year old Ananya grew up in an all girls missionary school.
“I am a woman, and that by default puts me in the marginalized community. On top of it, I’m a lesbian. So you can understand how the society perceives us. I had opened up about my orientation long back. I received support, but have been shunned by my own people, too.”
Ananya came out of the closet after years of suppression, but life for her hasn’t been fair. She has often been thrown vulgar names, and shamed in public, so much that she has been considered a subject for rape at times. For her pretending to be someone who she is not, has been exasperating and tiring at the same time.
Life of a lesbian is much more difficult than a gay person, she says. Away from pride parades, meet-ups, and heated discussions, she feels she is being loathed by her own people. “It is easier for men to come out and express themselves, whether at protest rallies or public gathering. But in my case, I see no hope,” said Ananya.
In spite of hatred flowing to her life with every passing day, she takes pride in being able to challenge patriarchy; she doesn’t need a man to be complete.
There have been days when she was forced to live by the rules set by others. When choices became unbearable, she even thought that suicide could be her last resort. She recalls dark days when she overdosed herself on depression pills.
Despite the loneliness, Ananya hopes that there will be a change in attitudes, and will one day be considered ‘normal’ and just as human as others.
Shivalal has always been open about his orientation. For him, things and life always seem to be easier when one stands for themselves. He works as a private tutor and does freelance projects, and is also an LGBT activist.
Although he never had any formal conversation with his family regarding his homosexuality, he has never tried to cover it either.
For him, his sexuality has never been a hindrance to his education or professional expertise. Although he is open to the society as gay, he doesn’t think this something that needs to be talked about. “We are as normal as anyone else. There is nothing to discuss about or make it a topic,” he says.
See, every job comes with a sense of comfort and acceptance. Not many job places open their doors for a gay or transgender.
He believes that for a person from the gay, lesbian or a transgender community, certain professions.
No matter how historic the decision of the apex court is, gay people in this city know that their landscape remains treacherous. Changing law is one thing, and changing mindsets is altogether a different ball game.
Considering the city that Guwahati is, same-sex marriage, right to adoption, and other major victories still lie at the distant horizon.