BENGALURU: "When I realised I am gay, I figured if I don’t stand up for my rights, if I don't shout against bullying, my life will never be worth it,” says Mahi Arora, who is an LGBTQIA activist. She goes on to talk about how she got bullied in school, “It was really bad. I couldn't even tell my parents because it (realising I was gay) was news to me. It would've been news to my parents too.” Today, Mahi Arora is a proud cross-dresser.
Adam, also known by his stage name Empress Xara, says, “I am an artist. I believe in art. So drag was my way of coming out.”
Adam continues, “I didn't come out to anyone personally. I came out to the whole nation because after winning the Indian Super Queen, I was on the nine o'clock news. That is when my Dad found out and the whole of Bengaluru found out. I was then thrown out of my house for six months.”
The problem the LGBTQIA(Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual communities) face is the fear of being an outcast in the society. Arun Kumar Senthil Natha was going to get married because of the societal pressure. “I always knew I was gay, but just to please my family, I was going to make the mistake of marrying a girl. Thankfully, I got the support of my friends and well-wishers, and I cancelled my marriage last minute. I decided then, if I am going to do this, I'll be an activist,” says Arun. Today, he is in a happy relationship and he celebrates who he is.
Another activist, Tushar S says, “When you are young, when you're 16, crushes and heartbreaks are real. It hurts enough when you're straight, imagine now, you don't even the liberty to talk about it. I was a part of this youth collective, and I saw people come out there. They shared their stories and that inspired me.” Tushar also spoke about his Catholic friend who was scared initially when he came out, but today, is helping people feel safe and has prevented multiple suicides.
Sonu Mulchandani says, “I always felt that if there was someone who said to me 'It is okay, you don't need to be anxious. You are loved,' it would've been so much better”. Arun Kumar N hasn't yet come out to his family. His family is from a village and don't know that a gay community exists. “The pressure to get married is real. I've told them that I'm not into girls, But they don't exactly know that I'm gay,” says Arun.
Twenty five-year-old rapper, Aishan Vali says, “Prejudices are often deeply embedded in our perspectives and in the little things we do or say every day. For example when someone makes a tasteless joke about a marginalised community, I try to gently ask them why they think it's funny. This gets people to think, and gradually change their mindsets. The first step towards making things better is to educate ourselves about LGBTQIA community. We've got to recognise and embrace our differences.”
Sanjana G, a college student, says, “My friend who has been very good to me and whose place I've stayed at, her roommates weren't comfortable with her being gay. They were homophobic and wanted her to move out. Even people in general I've noticed are homophobic towards my gay friends. In my journalism class where students are supposed to be informed, some use religion as a way to discriminate and call it ‘unnatural’. All of this makes me stand up for my friends’ rights strongly.”