Many straight people grow up only hearing negative things about homosexuality. So then what happens when you actually meet openly gay people for the first time? We ask three young people.
– Maryushka Pereira, 28, personal assistant, Pune
I’ve been friends with Preeti since college. I always knew she was different – she preferred boy cuts, motorbikes and baggy clothes. She never joined our girly chatter. Others thought she was weird, I found her cool. We spoke about boys and sex very often but I never learned about her dating life. I just assumed she wanted to keep it private.
Two years ago, she landed up at my home, late at night. She was drunk and got very emotional. Through her sobs, I learned that she had just ended her four-year-old relationship. She even told me she was gay. She hadn’t mentioned anything about her sexuality earlier. She knew I came from a conservative Catholic upbringing. Perhaps, she thought she didn’t want to lose me as a friend.
At that time, I couldn’t care less about her sexual orientation. I felt helpless for what she was going through. All I knew was I had to be there for her. That helped me overcome my initial shock. It took me weeks, but now I am able to accept my friend for who she is. Also, if I can accept her sexuality, I can accept others’ too.
-Clayton Gomes, 24, accountant, Goa
My family is super religious. We are church-going Catholics. If you’re a god-fearing Catholic, you will know that the priests and the Bible don’t acknowledge homosexuality. That’s putting it mildly, they condemn it. So I grew up condemning it. I wasn’t the preaching, flag holding type but I would try to stay away from such people.
When I joined work last year, I realised my team included a gay man. It made me a bit uncomfortable. I couldn’t just speak to him or focus at work around him. I always ignored him. Before Easter, during confession one day, I spoke to my priest about my behaviour. He told me I was being unfair and rude to my colleague and it wasn’t a Catholic thing to do.
A few days later, I questioned my priest about the Catholic Church’s behaviour towards homosexuals. He said something that changed my outlook. He said that as much as the Bible tells us that homosexuality is bad, it also tells us to love your neighbour and to spread kindness and light wherever you go. He said my foremost duty as a Catholic was to love everyone and judge no one.
Those words stayed with me. The next day, I went and spoke to my gay colleague and apologised for being rude to him earlier. I told him honestly about my feelings and he was very understanding. We have spoken a lot about homosexuality and religion. He has helped me realise that homosexuality was just as normal as heterosexuality. After this incident, I would like to think I am not judgmental or rude to homosexuals anymore.
-Vivek Deshmukh, 25, journalist, Mumbai
As a junior journalist, I was sent to cover all sorts of events in my city. They may not be the events that you like or dealing with subjects of special interests to you but you just have to do it. One of the events I had to cover in my first year of internship was a pride march. Back then, my knowledge about LGBT rights was very limited.
I knew the government didn’t recognise them and their choices were considered illegal. I also knew that most religions condemned it. If you ask me, I was impartial. I’d never met any open and out homosexuals, so I was blissfully ignorant. When I was given the task, I tried getting over my ignorance. I didn’t want to attend the event but I had no choice. Braving myself, I went for the pride parade.
As part of my job, I had to talk to participants there. I spent three hours doing just that. I spoke to a lot of people, gay, lesbian, transgender, open and people who still preferred to keep their sexuality a secret. Their stories moved me. They spoke about ordinary feelings – love, lust, betrayal, friendship; of their struggle – being considered outcasts, mocked for their choices and bullying. At the end of it, I had discovered a whole new respect for the community. I realised that they were too fighting for acceptance, like many other human beings. However, their struggle was for the right to live their life the way they wanted to.
All names have been changed.