(Trigger Warning: Homophobia, Suicide)
Perhaps one of the most difficult things in this world is accepting your own sexual orientation when you’re not straight, and it’s clearly a billion times more difficult when you live in a homophobic society.
Thanks to social media, the awareness level has increased manifold within a very short period of time. However, the harsh reality is that we are still homophobic, and making jokes about homosexuality is as common as it is considered acceptable in our society. Personally I feel ashamed when I see my fellow social workers (who are extremely vocal about the movement in public) show the same level of insensitivity towards queer people in private.
Under such circumstances there are many who try to ‘get rid of homosexuality’ through ridiculous suggestions. And these are the most common ways I have witnessed.
The very first thing you can do is “just pretend you are straight”. They want you to do this not only in front of others; you have to learn the critical art of pretending to yourself. Sounds like a very effective method. But it’s short term. After all how long someone can lie to themselves?
A friend of mine was bullied by her female cousin in her early 20s when she was struggling with her own sexual orientation. Her cousin used to whisper in her ear “LESBIANNNN” to make her uncomfortable during different family reunions.
I asked her, “Why did you share your personal feelings with someone who is not a trustworthy person at all?”
Her reply baffled me. She said her cousin had opened up about her own attraction to my friend and so my friend felt comfortable enough to open up as well. Later this cousin got involved with a man and tied the knot. Post her marriage the cousin thought she had the right to mock my friend, because marriage had ‘cured’ her sexual orientation.
However, that method was also short-lived; because, after 10 years of marriage, her cousin suddenly wanted to rekindle their relationship. Suddenly she was pretty supportive of the entire LGBTQ+ community. Now, what was the reason for that sudden change? Well, my friend’s cousin realised she could not lie to herself or her husband anymore about her true sexual orientation. Presently, she is carrying the coffin of their marriage all alone.
Yes, thanks to societal pressure, many people who are attracted to the same sex (including bisexual and pansexual people) do date people of the opposite sex just to avoid revealing the truth. Now, the most adverse reality of dating like this is you are involving another person in your own mess. Continue the charade, and you will either have to get married or break someone else’s heart. I don’t know which one is more ‘convenient’.
Homophobic society will ask you to attend regular counselling sessions. Personally, I know someone who went to a psychologist to ‘change her sexual orientation’ and she was paying ₹1500 for each session. That counsellor promised her he could and would change her sexual orientation. There were many sessions. And guess what? She is in a live-in relationship with another girl and both of them are doing pretty well. Now all she wants is a refund from that psychologist.
I can remember at least two incidents where some friends of mine were so determined to deny their sexual orientation that, they even consulted a psychiatrist for medication. Luckily the psychiatrist sent them to a psychologist, and after proper counselling they were able to accept the truth. Presently, they are living much more peaceful lives with their inner truth.
This, ignorant people will tell you, is the most convenient step to ‘get rid of homosexuality’, since, after marriage no one will bother about your homosexuality.
I am not against of that option but if you have to marry, then maybe marrying someone within the queer community will at least assure you safety in the bedroom. Of course, it does not mean you are immune to social pressure. After marriage, the next pressure your family will put on you is children!
Perhaps it is the final step.
Recently, one of my friends informed me that she is planning for baby. Exactly two years ago, she got married under family pressure and that was a ‘marriage of convenience’. Since her husband is a gay man, and therefore she is confident about her own ‘safety’. However, now after two years of marriage, under social pressure, she has to have a baby.
She is not alone. I have heard of many such scenarios. Once you have baby, then homophobic society will say, “CONGRATULATIONS! Finally, you got rid of your homosexuality!” Well, actually you’ll have to suppress your sexual orientation for the sake of your child.
Sometimes family pressure can hit the roof, and then ‘home sweet home’ can turn into a metaphorical ‘gas chamber’.
I recall the story of two individuals who found an ingenious way to avoid the crisis, and that is to roam the city till midnight, spending as little time as possible at home. Now, I am not sure you can change the status of your sexual orientation that way, but I am sure you will definitely change the status of your health and safety. Sadly, you will be put in a situation where you have to choose which one is more important for you.
Think about Devdaas who jumped into a pool of alcohol when he could not ‘get’ his Paaro. I have seen many such community members who jumped into an ocean of all kinds of addictive substances just to ‘get rid of’ homosexuality. I don’t know about your sexual orientation, but you’re sure to get rid of your life this way.
No life, no tension of sexual orientation.
Recently a friend told me about a new drug that she has been taking. She introduced that drug to me as the ‘younger brother of Cocaine’. I was shocked, and unable to comprehend this ‘escape route’.
The pressure to ‘be normal’ can become so much, and I have witnessed many such instances where queer people have, as a result, attempted suicide. If you succeed in your attempt, then you shatter your near and dear ones. And if you don’t then you have to face everyone around you for the rest of your life. I don’t know which one is worse.
Our society can be so insensitive it can extract fun out of anyone’s misery. One woman I knew, attempted suicide by consuming phenyl. Overnight, people started to call her ‘Phenyl Aunty’.
Yes, this is our society.