Namaste ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and people of all ages and genders! Venkatesh here, an LGBTQ resident of the City of Joy—Kolkata. My city has so far celebrated its 16th LGBTQ Pride, and I have been able to attended Pride marches in 16 cities across India.
I went to Pride for the first time in my life in December, 2015, in my own city. Kolkata was not only the first city in India to host a Pride walk, but also the very first in South East Asia in 1999! That Pride was the second turning point in my life. That was when I met many people from trans community and had lovely interactions with them. The second time I attended Pride was in December 2016, in Kolkata again, that too walking down with my mother! But it wasn’t always this easy.
Since the age of 17, questions about attraction towards the same gender started playing in my mind. Is it wrong? Is it just a phase? Why am I getting attracted to guys and not girls? All of this kept revolving in my mind.
Back then, I was not aware of the term “homosexuality”. But at that age, internet access was was very new to me, and I started utilising it and browsing up on more regarding these questions. After several days of browsing, I realised my attraction towards the same gender was nothing abnormal. It’s very natural but many people just think its abnormal. I slowly started meeting guys from social networking sites who had the same feelings as I do. But a year later, things got a little complicated when my mother asked me “Don’t you have a girlfriend?”
My mother is my best friend, she always has been. I share everything with her. But this was something different. I asked her why was she asking about a girlfriend. She replied,” You always mention the names of boys when you go out, and I have never heard a single girl’s name. Are you gay?”
I was terrified that if I had told her about my orientation, she would react badly. I tried to change the topic. I was not sure if I was gay or bisexual, back then. I needed time too before I could come out to her. My mother use to ask me this same question once in a month or two. And when I was 20 years old, and pretty sure about my orientation, the day she asked me again, I replied ” Yes, I am gay.”
It was pin drop silence then. I thought the silence would lead to a major explosion. Then, after couple of minutes, my Mom said, “I knew about you but I just wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth.” That day I felt I was on the top of the world. A few days later, I asked my her if Dad knew about my orientation. She did not reply immediately, but later she said she had discussed it with him. Dad is a very calm and reserved person. He rarely converses. He follows the a “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. Even though he doesn’t say it, he is aware of everything.
At the age of 21, I first attended a public LGBTQ Event called “Queer Hugs” in Kolkata organised by the online group Harmless Hugs, and it was a turning point in my life. There, I met many individuals who became good friends later on and are still in my life. After that, I began attendeing all the LGBTQ events in the city. My mother too walks in Prides too, she’s done a total of three, as well as marching on March 31, International Transgender Visibility Day. She has been honoured and felicitated for the tremendous support by the Association for Transgender/Hijra in Bengal on April 15th, 2018.
During my journey, I slowly started moving towards activism. Till date, I am not associated with any organisation, because I work for the community as an individual—an independent LGBTQ Activist. It makes me happy to see that in 2017, five cities hosted Pride marches for the very first time—which included Lucknow, Bhopal, Islampur, Dehradun and Goa. Delhi and Bengaluru both celebrated their 10th Prides, while Kolkata hosted its 16th! In fact, today there are so many more pride events, that two prides clashed on the same date!
I believe the first torture of queer people begins at our own homes. When you have such a supportive mother, you are really blessed. It has been an amazing journey till date travelling across India for so many Prides, and meeting such beautiful souls on the way. None of this would have been possible without having such positive people around me, and most importantly the blessings and support of parents who accept me the way I am.