Out of the closet, and gay about it!
“When I saw Hrithik Roshan in ‘Kaho Na Pyaar Hai’, I knew I was gay. I’d have his posters on my wall! My friends would ask, ‘Why aren’t you attracted to actresses?’ In school, I was mocked and I’d isolate myself. And when I confessed to my family, my mom didn’t accept me.
She asked, ‘Have you never tried making love to a woman? Women make better lovers.’ From then on, I’d educate her by showing her LGBTQIA movies and taking her to pride marches. She then visited a psychiatrist to understand what I told her. As she gained more knowledge and interacted with the community, she accepted me!
But despite being comfortable in my own skin, I was afraid of revealing my identity at work. I knew of people who’d been fired for being gay. So I';d lie to my colleagues about going on dates with women.
One day, my team asked, ‘Are you hiding that you’re gay?’ I hesitantly replied, ‘Yes.’ They told me that they were there for me; I felt relieved. In fact, my work friends were so supportive that they gifted me Rs. 25,000 so that I could participate in the Mr. Gay India pageant!
But other people at work still looked at me differently. Once, a colleague asked, ‘Are you a transgender because you like men?’ That’s when I realized the need to educate my workplace about the community, and I asked my superiors to organize sensitizing workshops.
I even began speaking about my journey at work, what LGBTQIA stands for and how one could make the workplace inclusive. When I’d be told, ‘Being gay is unnatural’ and ‘Religion doesn’t support the community’, I requested my colleagues to be open-minded.
I worked with my office to include same sex partner benefits for LGBTQIA members in their policy. When I learnt that we couldn’t file sexual harassment claims at the workplace, I helped reverse that policy too! I also educated my teammates about gender pronouns.
Recently, I organized a pride party at work. I walked in wearing heels and my boss said, ‘You walk better than me in heels!’ Everyone wore pride badges and brought pride flags to work. A colleague of mine said, ‘Thank you for changing my mindset!’ My co-workers and I are even working towards making gender neutral washrooms.
And now the change is tangible. When I invite my colleagues to pride parties I host, they don't just show up– they dance with every single person in the room, regardless of who they are. We don’t ignore what makes us different anymore, but rather celebrate it. But more importantly, we respect it.”