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Living with pride

For the last seven years, Tejas, a 20-year-old Communication Design student and graphic designer, has been on a path of self-discovery and knocking down closet doors

Published: 01st July 2020 06:46 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st July 2020 12:33 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: I was 13 years old, studying in an all-boys school and indulged in every possible activity an adolescent would (some, which I regret). Life seemed pretty normal until that one day when a friend marched up to me, out of the blue, and said, ‘Dude, you could be gay’, and walked away. I was perplexed and stood in my school’s hallway not knowing how to react. How could I when I wasn’t even sure what the term meant? But luckily, I was only a few feet away from the school’s library and made my way to read about the newly-acquainted word.

I was taken aback when I learned its meaning. I didn’t know what to do and just walked back home. Though I nipped the thoughts in the bud initially, what my friend told me kept gnawing at me. I felt like I needed to look into it, read, understand and process it. Thus, I began researching, reading online articles, watching videos and whatnots to get a better understanding. A lot of information I was consuming seemed to make sense and I resonated with it. I was perhaps ignorant of who I really was and my friend noticed it. As the first step, I dove into the process by beginning to accept my feelings.

Only when I did that, did I realise how I was trying to gel with my classmates and attempting to ‘be them’. It was a revelation and the journey was quite hard. There were internal conflicts; I used to cry in the washroom almost every day and then head to school, and spend several sleepless nights. While the debate on if or not watching pornography is harmful/ wrong is never-ending, in my case, it helped me put things in perspective. It made me realise my preferences and helped me pick pieces of myself and understand it better.

After a few months, I was getting pulled down by the loneliness of not being able to share my journey with anyone, the struggle of having to be in the closet and pretending to be someone else. I gathered the courage to come out to my best friend. It was a balmy morning. My friend and I rode our bicycles to the Marina Beach to catch the sunrise. As the sun came out of the horizon, I did too. My friend was quite taken aback. But after a few days, he came back to me and said that ‘it was chill’. I was glad that he was mature enough to accept me for who I was and that act was a huge push for me in life. That gave me the courage to share my story with my friends.

When I did, I was pleasantly surprised by how supportive most were of me. I didn’t care about those who didn’t and decided to focus on all the goodness and support that I was receiving. Classes 11 and 12 were the best years of my school life because I could finally be myself around my classmates. When I transitioned into college, I was open about my sexuality with my peers. In fact, the faculty members of my college in Pune know and everyone has been accepting of it. I am not sure if everyone will have such a supportive environment in life. Some might have had to traverse and probably still live through a very hostile and toxic environment.

That being said, I have also been in situations where I’ve had to hear comments and homophobic slurs (including at home) but my support system, including my sister to whom I came out a couple of years ago, has kept me going. I’ve come out to a couple of my aunts and my uncle too... after initial hesitations and doubts, they are now understanding of it. Sometimes, movies and TV shows can exaggerate the lives of gay people and how they are treated by society. While there is a certain truth in the representation, that is not the norm. People have become more accepting now and such repetitive negative and intimidating portrayals will only demotivate and scare people and push them further into a dark abyss. Despite having the courage to share my narrative with so many people, I haven’t been able to have ‘the talk’ with my parents.

I have left several hints but I don’t know if they’ve picked it up. But sitting them down and talking is on the cards...just not anytime soon! Those who know about me have given me the strength to face the world head-on and positively influenced my life. If sharing my journey gives at least one person the courage to come out, I will be glad. Apps like Grindr have helped me connect with people from the community and has been a great way to meet like-minded people. But I haven’t reached a point where I am on the lookout for a partner. It is a challenge, especially when there are so many taboos attached to it. But I still have time to find the right person! I am grateful to my friend who first drew my attention in the direction of discovering my sexuality. If my parents are reading this... here’s my coming out story! ( The story was picked after Firefly, a mental health service handle on Instagram shared Tejas’story)

(As told to Roshne Balasubramanian)

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