At 21, I was ‘out and proud.’
“I’ve grown up being called ‘Chakka’ and ‘Meetha’. I was never the boy who played sports; I loved dancing. And because I didn’t fit into the stereotypical notions of a ‘man’, I’d get bullied. Once, a few boys even touched me inappropriately in the washroom; traumatized, I ran.
I questioned my identity; I genuinely thought something was wrong with me, especially because I had no interest in girls. But since this wasn’t the case with the other boys, I told myself, ‘It’s a phase, you will figure it out.’ And to get over this ‘phase’ I dated many girls in school. But it was in college, at 18, that my awareness grew. I actually met people from the community there. Seeing such openness around me encouraged me to experiment. So, for the first time, I got into a relationship with a boy I liked.
After, I went out with a few more guys. But I wasn’t ‘out’ yet; in my head, I was still experimenting. But the truth was that the connection I felt with men was nowhere close to what I had with the girls I’d dated. One guy proposed to me at midnight on new years eve, we shared the most passionate kiss under fireworks– it was magical.
That day, I knew. When I looked at the sky and said to myself, ‘Lokesh, you’re GAY!’ All my inner turmoil eased and the only emotion I felt then was… liberation! At 21, I was ‘out and proud.’ The first person I shared this with was my brother's girlfriend. She squealed and said, ‘WOW!’ Then, I told my brother, Rohit, who said, ‘Ah, okay. That’s cool!’ Relief washed over me; they’d normalized it.
I knew I had to tell Mom and Dad, but I was scared. So, for 2 years, I hid it from them. Rohit would always say, ‘Tell Maa, she has an inkling already!’ But I couldn’t gather the courage. And then, 3 months ago, when I came back home from work one day, I saw Rohit and his girlfriend sitting in the living room with Mom.
That was a rare sight–everyone’s usually doing their own thing; I knew something was fishy. A few minutes later, Mom said, ‘Lokesh, do you think I won’t accept you?’ I realized that Maa had asked Rohit about my sexuality and when Rohit confirmed, she came up to me and went on for fifteen minutes until I said, ‘Yes Mom, I’m gay!’ She was so happy! She later told Dad and together, they embraced me and said, 'We love you and that's all that matters!' It was the best day of my life. And then even my colleagues at Croma embraced my identity! Today, I’m my healthiest, happiest self. I’m even ready for THE relationship of my life. So,if you know someone who knows someone, let me know?"