I want to break free
From the doctor’s files >>
>> A 22-year-old Indian boy who was confused about his sexual orientation in his late teens had come to understand eventually that he was attracted to men. He spent time to change his mindset and also forced himself to get attracted to girls but he felt that a certain part of him always wanted a relationship with a man. This is indicative of the denial phase.
>> Imagining it to be a phase, he assumed that it will disappear if he ignores it or indulges in experimentation. But with time, he found that his feelings became stronger. Very gradually, he started to understand that it wasn’t temporary and that these feelings might never go away. This was indicative of acceptance of one’s sexuality.
>> He expressed that the tougher part was to tell his family and friends. He was certain they will not accept him. It was mutually decided to take some time to tell them until he was comfortable and accepted his sexuality and understood the changes it brings in his life. He experienced anxiety, sadness and loneliness at that time.
>> When he told his parents, they were in disbelief. It was normal as they had always seen him with his girlfriends and weren’t expecting the news. Upset, they suggested that his generation was spoilt and only wanted to have fun getting involved in such unacceptable things. It took his parents a while and counselling to accept their son’s orientation.
>> It took more time for them to take him seriously and give him the same respect and affection as before. Typically, one of the fears that parents have is that their child has changed and will not lead a ‘normal’ life (marriage, kids). The son’s and parent’s concerns are addressed; both are helped to cope with the new identity and reality.
1) Am I, really?
The Internet might be a liberating medium but Shobhna S Kumar, publisher at Queer Ink, a pioneering publishing house on LGBQTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) issues, warns, “Read up on definitions of sex and gender, coming out process, dealing with families, health issues, and queer-friendly resources.
2) Now is (not) the time
You have just stepped into college and are free from any kind of restraint. It might feel perfect to proclaim your sexual self, yet Vikram Doctor, organiser of the GayBombay group shares, “It might be a good time, but then again it might not and perhaps waiting a bit may help. The most important coming out is personal, to you yourself, and if you have done that, everything else can wait a bit.”
3) Whose counsel do I seek?
As a confused individual, counselling is often highlighted as the best route. Doctor cautions that only informed therapists should be resorted to. He stresses, “Many therapists make money treating people in dubious ways, including ‘curing’ their sexuality. It’s best to look for a counsellor with tolerant views on issues like women’s rights, and they are likely to be supportive. LGBT groups will connect you with queer-friendly counsellors to help you and your parents. Kumar adds, “In India, the best contact in most states is an agency or NGO that provides HIV/AIDS health services. The services, these agencies include are gender and sexuality sensitisation or providing referrals to relevant agencies and/or professionals.”
4) Confide is the way
Who to trust can be a confusing matter. Doctor feels that finding ‘allies’ is important. “Sometimes, these allies are the people we are closest to, but at times, this closeness can cause the worst reactions”, he shares, adding that “it’s useful to find people you are not that close to -- the slight distance can make them objective and less emotional than people who are too close. Aunts are often useful, because as women they might be more understanding and have seen you growing up, but they aren’t as personally affected as mothers. They might find it easier to be sympathetic and supportive, without feeling that much personal loss”.
5) What’s money got to do with it?
Families can often react in extreme measures in the most unexpected of situations. Both Doctor and Kumar assert that one should always take stock of their financial position before confronting one’s close ones. They quote that the worst-case scenario can be of being thrown out of the house. To combat such dire situations, Doctor suggests, “There are plenty of jobs like call centres and retail where young people can work and get some measure of independence.” He further suggests going abroad for further studies as it is a “good way to put off the pressure to get married, put some emotional distance between you and your family” as well as grounds to assert that you are a gay or a lesbian on your own turf.
6) Tweeting your freedom
With Facebook, Twitter and other tools of social media becoming compulsive platforms of announcement, think twice before heralding your new identity in front of strangers. Doctor says, “This is a newish problem. Another big problem is when you are careless about separating your profiles on dating sites where there is a lot of pressure to put up pictures, particularly revealing ones and you can get tempted to do so -- before you realise it, your photo is on all sorts of sites. So, people must really be careful about how they come out online as much as they do offline.”
7) Support along the way
In 2010, MiDDAY, published how ‘Mumbai is India’s Gay Capital’. Thus, it comes of no surprise, when Doctor recounts several organisations: “Humsafar has its office in Vakola and has experienced counsellors and support of all kind. GayBombay organises events that are safe spaces for queer people and you can choose between different types -- parties, film screenings, general meets, special issue meets, picnics and more to find out what is of interest to you and what you are comfortable attending. Yaariyan is a group for younger queer people doing similar events. Lesbians And Bisexuals In Action is a group for queer women, Sampoorna helps people who are not comfortable with their gender and have either changed their sex or want to consider it.” He conveys that most of them can be contacted online.