A coming out story from India

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    Jun 19, 2012 1:15 PM GMT
    I’ve been lurking on these forums for a while now, so I thought I’d make my first contribution. What follows is a description of my coming out process that started a few months back. Hopefully, it will help others who’re coming out relatively late in life, especially the many fellow Indians who also lurk around here.

    Background: 31-year old guy who works in finance. I wouldn’t categorize myself as a flaming queen, but I’m definitely not a “man’s man” either. I’ve never had a girlfriend, and my friends and family have forever tried to set me up. It took me several years to be at least self-accepting. That happened sometime in my mid-20s. At that point I thought I’d just stay single throughout my life and remain in the closet. However, I realized over the past few years that it’s really difficult and draining to be unauthentic with close family and friends. So, the process started this March…

    I came out to my elder brother first, who is married and has two kids. We’ve always been close, and share almost everything. He took it pretty well. He was a bit shocked at first, which he admitted, but said that he was fine with it. In fact, within the first half hour of our conversation, we started with the jokes! He said something that I think is pretty relevant when analyzing people’s reaction to your news. He said that when people are processing this information, the first thing they think of is how this is going to affect their own lives. He, for example, had a fairly low-key wedding and wanted mine to be like a typical grand Indian wedding. He also wanted his kids and mine to be super close while growing up. He said that none of that was going to come true now, but that ultimately he’s fine with it and happy that I told him.

    I came out my sister-in-law the same day, and her reaction was the most nonchalant. Something along the lines of ok, live the life that you want to.

    I broke the news to my mother about 2 weeks later. I was prepared for this to go either way. Her reaction was not as bad as I’d expected, but not as good as I’d hoped. The good part was there was no talk of going to the psychiatrist or something like that, and her being fine with the fact that I would not be getting married (this is very significant…in India, the social and parental pressure to marry can be immense). The negative reactions ranged from it being associated with diseases to me being able to ‘come out of this’. She felt that I shouldn’t do anything about it, and should not tell my dad or extended family, or anyone else for that matter. She didn’t cry, which I was totally expecting her to. We didn’t bring the topic up again, almost as if we’d never even talked about it. Overall, I understand her reaction, as she’s from a completely different generation. She spoke to my brother about it a few days later and according to him, her chief concern was that I’d be ostracized from society. This makes her reaction more understandable. We’re very close, and I expect her to become more comfortable as the months (or maybe years) go by. In any case, I’m not going to follow her advice of not telling anyone. I definitely intend to tell my close friends.

    I came out to one of my closest female friends a few days back. I’d actually asked her out in high school. She’d said no (I found out much later from her that that was because of her terrible track record with boys, and that she didn’t want to lose the friendship after the relationship ended). I’m kind of glad we never dated, since we continued to remain good friends. Anyway, as things stand, she’s the only person, guy or girl, which I’ve ever asked out. In my mind, she was always going to be the person I told first after my family.

    Her reaction, as expected, was good. She was completely fine with it. She was a bit surprised because I ‘don’t have any gay characteristics’. I was bit surprised by that reaction, because she’s always thought of me as ‘one of the girls’ and joked that she would find a boy for me because I was rejecting all the girls she suggested. We celebrated by getting drunk, and she now wants to go to Spain with me so that I can ‘feast on the hot Spanish boys icon_biggrin.gif But then, the next day I got a text from her making sure this wasn’t a prank, so she’s probably still processing this new information.

    To sum up, things have gone pretty well. I’m actually kind of excited to tell my other close friends, including my male friends. I’m a bit intrigued with what their reaction will be.

    As of now, my only objective is to relax and let down my guard around people I care for. I’m not sure if I’m going to start dating anytime soon. Hopefully, that day will come soon. Hopefully, I’ll have a picture on here someday. Let’s see…
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    Jun 19, 2012 2:17 PM GMT
    Congratulations - it sounds like you're doing just fine.
  • shutoman

    Posts: 505

    Jun 19, 2012 2:38 PM GMT
    This is one of the most well-written narratives I've seen on RJ on this subject.

    Strength to you, I'm sure there'll be some setbacks too - but your attitude seems positive and your approach well thought out. You should have confidence in yourself if nothing else.
  • OutdoorsJock

    Posts: 9

    Jun 19, 2012 2:54 PM GMT
    Congratulations for taking the step. I understand that in Indian culture, this is not ever easy.

    Thanks for sharing this. I can't tell you how many guys I've met in the past few years who are starved for more stories about how coming out to themselves and to friends. So many guys think that they are in this alone, but they can use others' experiences to help them plan their own way out of the closet.
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    Jun 19, 2012 6:28 PM GMT
    Same Coming Out I am creating, of my own icon_smile.gif I am telling my closest friends one by one and they are also taking it pretty much in a positive way. I am happy that it's turning out to be good !! Congrats to you icon_smile.gif
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    Jun 19, 2012 6:37 PM GMT
    Wow, a "tl;dr" post that I actually read! icon_eek.gif

    With your writing/communication skills, you should have no problem coming out to the rest of your friends. You seem to be able to handle yourself very well. icon_biggrin.gif
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    Jun 19, 2012 6:42 PM GMT
    Haha I've realised actual Indian society is a lot more open minded than my parents who are washed by over 40+ years of living abroad. My parents wanted to trap me living abroad in either middle east or india but I came out to my indian extended family and they ended up being my power base of supporters. They dint even know what being gay was but the first thing they told me before they even understood was they loved me no matter what even if i was 'Different'. They simply told me no matter what I am or who I am I have deserve the same birth right to be and feel loved as equally as everyone else, But they're now over protective of me because of that icon_smile.gif

    Love them like hell icon_biggrin.gif
  • tiddlypush

    Posts: 43

    Jun 19, 2012 7:25 PM GMT
    well written. well done too. i know just how hard it must have been. i did the same exactly 30 years ago when i was your age. have a wonderful life. if visas between india and pakistan had been easy, i would have come across just to give you a chaste hug.
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    Jun 19, 2012 7:51 PM GMT
    Congratulations for taking the step, and thanks for sharing your story. I hope the rest of your coming-out process continues this smoothly. (How about a sequel post about breaking the news to your father and extended family?)
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    Jun 19, 2012 8:00 PM GMT
    Congratulations - that's a very difficult step. Working in finance is its own challenge, in my experience. Add on top of that the cultural issues involved, and it's a unique perspective. How do you feel about telling your coworkers at some point?

    I worked at a private equity firm and brought my boyfriend to the Christmas Party one year. Nobody batted an eye. Then again we had a Managing Director who was also gay, which I'm sure doesn't hurt.
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    Jun 19, 2012 8:04 PM GMT
    Nice, the reward is in its own process...You could definitely help a lot of people in India coming out and make lots of friends in the process. What a great opportunity.... and a great challenge.
  • ShanksE

    Posts: 263

    Jun 19, 2012 8:44 PM GMT
    Congratulations Vm. Coming out is never easy and you have displayed great courage by coming out to your family and your friends. Things are changing in India these days and with Pride parades and the Supreme Court judgement on 377 becoming a regular feature in the media, there is a lot of active discussion about homosexuality. There are more people, especially in our generation, who have no issued with homosexuality. Most of my friends are pretty cool about my orientation, but my parents are still struggling to come to terms with it. But hopefully things will change over a period of time. My parents don't talk to me anymore about getting married or settling down. In fact, like you mentioned, its almost as if I never had the conversation about being gay with them. :-/

    The forum on RJ is an excellent place for you to talk to people and exchange ideas. You should also use PlanetRomeo to meet up and talk to people in India. You definitely need more gay friends to understand from their stories and their struggles, to receive support and inspiration from others and in some cases, to inspire others with your stories! All the best and may you have a wonderful journey ahead!

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    Jun 20, 2012 7:26 AM GMT
    Thanks everyone for your words of encouragement.

    Shutoman – I’m sure there will be setbacks. I may lose some friends. But I’m prepared for it. It might hurt, but I’m still prepared.

    OutdoorJock – I agree that its tougher in India, but I think many of the issues were/are in my head.

    FootballHawk – I agree, and I know I may be generalizing, that people who left India decades ago are still somewhat stuck in the past. I can’t comment on their views on homosexuality specifically, but notice it in other little things. Oh, and by the way, if I had guys who looked like you hanging around me, I’m sure I would have begun my journey earlier. There, even though its online, I paid a guy a compliment!

    Tiddlypush – I can only begin to imagine how incredibly hard it must have been in Pakistan 30 years back.

    Novo – I’ll definitely post updates. They will probably be about my friends’ reactions. I think I’ll let my mom decide about my father and my extended family. My aunts and uncles are old enough to be my grandparents’ age, so there might be a few unpleasant situations, but they’re generally fond of me, so I think I may have some pleasant surprises too.

    Principal0 – Once I’ve told enough friends and am generally comfortable, I’m not going to deny it if some coworker pointedly asks. However, I’m not going to volunteer this information because I believe there’s nothing to ‘inform’ as far as coworkers are concerned. More importantly, even though India is making progress, the workplace still continues to be homophobic, unless you work in the fashion or media industry. And I’ve definitely not even heard of a gay person in the Indian financial sector! A big reason holding me back was also that I thought I’d never do well in my career if people find out. These things have a strange way of playing out – I’ve naturally started caring less for professional success, as in it doesn’t really matter anymore if I’m not a Fortune 500 CEO or something.

    ShanksE – From what I hear, Planet Romeo is quite the meat market. I don’t think I’m ready for that (yet!)

    I also wanted to point out to everyone that while the cultural context is relevant, the only person holding me back was me. I’m financially independent, have a great set of generally open-minded friends, and live in such a set of circumstances that the archaic sodomy laws won’t affect me. I think it had more to do with my expectations of myself and my desire to live a ‘normal’ life. Steve Kornacki had an excellent piece on Salon.com titled ‘The coming out story I never thought I’d write’. While not all aspects of his situation apply to me, I thought his thought process and internal struggles were fairly similar to mine. Even some of the comments on that story resonate with me big time.
  • araphael

    Posts: 1148

    Jun 22, 2012 8:05 AM GMT
    Your culture appears to be much more accepting of your homosexuality than mine. Although, if your cultural background is Indian from India, there are some anthropological and religious realities which actually favor your possession of a feminine spirit within your male body. However, I would still caution you, just as a friend and fellow gay person, to be aware of how you continue to unfold the reality of your existence. But I am proud of you for the courage you have displayed in telling your truth to those closest to you thus far. I will pay attention to your example, although our cultures are quite different (but actually may be similar in some ways) on this one aspect regarding sexuality. Good for you bro.
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    Jun 23, 2012 7:03 PM GMT
    An update to let you know that my mom and I spoke some more yesterday. She brought it up - its almost as if she knows that I told my friend and posted my story here on RJ. We spoke for nearly 3 hours. While I won't go into the details of everything that we talked about, I was glad that we discussed it, because earlier I felt that she'd just blocked the whole thing.

    She continued to insist that I musn't tell anyone, but then said that she still hadn't discussed it with my father, and asked whether she should. Thats a big improvement, but somewhat surprising because I never asked her to tell him. I'd originally intended to tell him myself right after I told my mother.

    I had a wry smile on my face through most of our discussion. When she asked me why I was smiling like that, I told her that I'd hoped for a different reaction from her. She then said, "What did you expect? That I'll open my arms wide, hug you and say that I'm very happy my son is gay? No parent will be. This is shocking news, and it will take time to process"

    I'm actually quite happy with that statement, because it sounds as if eventually she'll be able to absorb the shock and become more comfortable with it.
  • araphael

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    Jun 25, 2012 4:31 AM GMT
    Dude, if your mom shows any acceptance, it's just a matter of time before the rest come around. That was your big challenge--mom. You are a warrior on a mission with this aren't you? Cool.
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    Jun 26, 2012 2:57 PM GMT
    araphael saidDude, if your mom shows any acceptance, it's just a matter of time before the rest come around. That was your big challenge--mom. You are a warrior on a mission with this aren't you? Cool.


    I'm not sure if I can predict others' reactions based on my mom's. While some of my friends might have a better reaction, I think the average Joe (an old co-worker, for example) will not have unconditional love for me, so to that extent their reaction might be very different from my mother's. But then again, I don't really care about the average Joe's reaction anymore (I did, in the past). Which is why I'm not a warrior on a mission, just a regular guy who want to share an important part of his life with his loved ones.
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    Jun 26, 2012 3:06 PM GMT
    This is very interesting to read VM. I'm also Indian but I'm born and raised in the UK. Coming to my parents was very difficult. They immediately turned against me. My mum ended up having a breakdown and my dad went mad. However, I've come out to my friends, well back then I didn't have a single friend at all. But my parents told me to not tell anyone because it brings shame to the family and if I do start dating they'll disown me. They said things like being gay is bad as pheodaphiles and criminals. They are also pissed off because I'm an only child and they won't get any grandkids.I

    I'm a very lonely person and for my parents to say awful things like that made me feel really bad. Because of my sexuality and my parents I isolate myself from nearly everyone.

    I hope your parents won't disown you but I think your dad will be very angry with your sexuality. I know what people are like in India, they see everything just the one way and it's all about the image of the family.
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    Jun 28, 2012 2:00 PM GMT
    warrior123 saidThis is very interesting to read VM. I'm also Indian but I'm born and raised in the UK. Coming to my parents was very difficult. They immediately turned against me. My mum ended up having a breakdown and my dad went mad. However, I've come out to my friends, well back then I didn't have a single friend at all. But my parents told me to not tell anyone because it brings shame to the family and if I do start dating they'll disown me. They said things like being gay is bad as pheodaphiles and criminals. They are also pissed off because I'm an only child and they won't get any grandkids.I

    I'm a very lonely person and for my parents to say awful things like that made me feel really bad. Because of my sexuality and my parents I isolate myself from nearly everyone.

    I hope your parents won't disown you but I think your dad will be very angry with your sexuality. I know what people are like in India, they see everything just the one way and it's all about the image of the family.


    I'm sorry it didn't go that well for you. I'm not going to pretend I know anything about your family situation, but it may have something to do with what FootballHawk mentioned in his post (about Indians who left India being stuck in the past).

    My dad is very Type B. I don't expect him to be overtly angry or to threaten to disown me. Rather, I think it might be some sort of silent treatment wherein he may want to interact with me as little as possible. Honestly, I'm not that worried. My mom was the bigger challenge. If she accepts it then she should be able to convince my dad one way or the other.

    In your case, do you think you came across as unsure/scared/apolegetic while talking to them? That might have something to do with their reaction. When I spoke with my mom, while I told her that her acceptance was important and that I was telling her because I wanted to stop pretending, I was very firm that this is not a phase or a disorder, and that I wasn't going to change. I specifically told her that it isn't something wrong. I think the way I told her may have moderated her reaction somewhat.

    I also sort of understand why you're trying to isolate yourself from others. I was becoming that way a few years back. But then I realized that my sexuality isn't the basis of my friendship with these people. I may not be telling them everything, but as long as I wasn't blatantly covering it (fake girlfriend, mocking gay people etc) then there really isn't any need to isolate myself. Having said that, like I mentioned earlier, it was getting a little burdensome being unauthentic with close friends, and that played a big part in my deciding to come out.

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    Jun 29, 2012 6:29 AM GMT
    I think the first time I spoke to them I came across as apologetic. But when we spoke about it the second time I was saying things like it's not wrong it's natural and my parents got even more angry.
  • ShanksE

    Posts: 263

    Jul 06, 2012 2:48 AM GMT
    vm1981 saidThanks everyone for your words of encouragement.


    ShanksE – From what I hear, Planet Romeo is quite the meat market. I don’t think I’m ready for that (yet!)



    It can be, but it isn't necessarily one. I've made some fantastic friends via PR and one of them ended up becoming my mentor and friend-philosopher-guide. The big advantage that I found with PR when I was in B'lore was that I got to meet people locally. Talking to people online is one thing, meeting up with someone just to chat with them and talk to them about their experiences is something else altogether. RJ is a wonderful online forum, but if you want to grow more comfortable with your sexuality then you need to interact with other gay people in a public place and there aren't enough RJers in India with whom you can hang out.

    I also read your updates! Kudos to you. Great to know that your mom took it better than anticipated! Good luck for the future and I am sure things will be great for you. In case you need any help or access to any resources feel free to hit me up!

    Warmest regards..
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    Jul 09, 2012 5:31 PM GMT
    ShanksE said

    Talking to people online is one thing, meeting up with someone just to chat with them and talk to them about their experiences is something else altogether. RJ is a wonderful online forum, but if you want to grow more comfortable with your sexuality then you need to interact with other gay people in a public place and there aren't enough RJers in India with whom you can hang out.


    Oh, I didn't mean to imply that I'm simply going to continue to interact with people thousands of miles away! What I meant was that I'd rather tell a few more close friends before I specifically look to meet gay people. Actually my extended social circle does consist of a few gay people, so I'm hoping to start interacting with them more and meeting new people naturally. Eventually, of course, if I don't find people in the normal course of life, then I'll look to PR and other such sites.