Of loneliness and shame

I remember being obsessed with the idea of being in a relationship when I was little. So much so, that a lot of decisions I made early on (in high school mostly) were directed towards me finding spaces where there was a higher probability of running into guys. (I wasn't much into sports you see) Growing up, I realized long back that I wasn't exactly like other boys. I wasn't interested in the same things as they were. By 'they' I mean boys my age in my small locality in my hometown in Punjab. I began to retreat from those around me. My insurmountable want and need to be with someone started overshadowing every other ambition I had.

I distinctly remember being obsessed with an image in my head. I imagined a woman standing on the edge of a huge rock at a cliff on a seashore overlooking the sea. She seemed to be looking out for something....for someone, with a pained expression on her face. Perhaps, I imagined it to be me. Perhaps, I fantasized the idea of being that woman. Or perhaps it was just another silly scenario of me romanticizing loneliness. Now that I think about my adolescent and pre-adolescent age, I realize how actively and consciously I made myself feel comfortable with the idea of loneliness. Many of my relationships with people, including my family now are not what I would like them to be. Much of it is related to the image and idea I had inculcated within me, a long time ago, that I was meant to be alone. That being gay is synonymous with being alone.

Few days back, my mother and I spoke about my orientation for the first time. She had known about it since few years [thanks to my sister who answered her query of why I never show ‘us type ka interest’ towards girls; to which my sister responded 'mummy woh in cheezo main dilchaspi nahi rakhta' (he isn't really interested in such stuff)] but this was the first time we looked into each other's eyes and discussed it. Well, to summarize, it didn't go well. So much so that I (not a pleasant move to make...now that I think about it) told her that I have been in an intimate and serious relationship with another boy for more than 3 years. I was quite surprised by my mother's response. The name of that boy was on the tip of my tongue because I expected her (naturally) to ask me who exactly this boy is, the one I am in relationship with. Instead, she told me that this was what she feared the most since years. She said that why on earth would I act on my emotions.

I was quite taken aback by that response. To be honest, living in an overbearing Punjabi family has forced me to detach myself from opinions being thrown at me (with everyone in families feeling absolutely swell and not hesitating in asking intimate personal questions about weight, marriage, salary etc) but I was terribly hurt by what she said. I found it quite absurd that I would be expected to remain single my whole life. I know it is unfair of me to expect a particular reaction from her. Isn't every parent freaked out by the idea of their child experiencing their sexuality? Regardless of their orientation and/or gender identity? But what I was hurt the most about was how my home isn't really a safe space for me. For all the grand ideas that I had that tensions would unease greatly after me saying THE words to my family...I was immensely disappointed. It is, as if, the comfort with sexualities other than the hetero-normative ones only come in doses. The acceptable doses is evidently for a person who is 'nice' and doesn't have sex, doesn't kiss, doesn't hold hands in public, doesn't express his/her desires. Often the idea of repressing one’s sexual desires is seen even in progressive spaces like pride. For instance, one of the announcements made before the Bangalore Pride in 2014 was that people should restrain from kissing or showing any outwardly affection on the streets because it might ruin the chances of getting police permissions. Or many people being uncomfortable with the ‘queer movement in India’ being associated with ‘sex’ at all. What is exactly wrong with it? Yes, it is not all about THE SEX but it is an extremely important part of many of us.

Subtracting the sexual from sexuality does not really do persons who are already fighting internal and external battles with themselves and others any good. Even when I would be in the most intimate moments with another person in bed, I would crave the loneliness because being comfortable with intimacy per se is something even our ‘movement’ is not comfortable with. The sense of shame that I would carry with me to the bed would only be remedied by deliberately making myself feel alone.

I would feel suffocated with any sort of relationship whenever I would achieve certain level of comfort. I would deliberately pick fight with my friends because I couldn't handle not being alone. Is this behavior particularly related to my orientation? I honestly don't know. For all I know now is that, I really need to get that woman off that edge of the cliff and maybe help her start befriending people who live in the town nearby.

Akhil Kang

Akhil Kang is a law graduate from NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad and currently works with Partners for Law in Development, Delhi on issues related to gender and sexuality. He blogs at http://desi-underground-gay.blogspot.in/