Journey to coming out – an international perspective

Although InterInvest’s work focuses primarily on driving inclusion in the UK investment industry, we welcome collaboration with firms or individuals internationally who reach out to us.

Most recently we heard from a young man called Anurag who is based in Delhi, India. He came to us armed with energy and ideas, among that kindly suggesting that he share his personal story. Not an easy read, it gives insights into the complexities of acceptance, of coming out, of being LGBT+ in a hostile culture, and on racism.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

I know what I want it to say, I know what I feel. But to do my story justice, I must take myself back to a dark place.

At this point, the world is going through difficult times – but much needed I feel. The systemic racism that plagues nations; industries and businesses that exploit more than they sustain; religions and laws that denounce identities; the Covid19 pandemic. 

It is a time of realization and recognition of issues at hand and I hope a time of change as a result. Which, in a way, reflects the journey that I have been on personally over the past few years.

I haven’t yet found the answers to the big questions in life – why are we here? What is my true purpose – will I ever find it? I also know that being in a situation where I’m able to sit and think about existentialism, as opposed to merely struggling to exist, is a privilege. 

On the flipside, my situation is not wholly one of privilege. The brown colour of my skin, being raised in an overpopulated country that wasn’t independent until the 20th Century, and where homosexuality was illegal until a couple of year ago means that I have been on the receiving side of discrimination at times.

I was born into, and remain, in a state of eternal contradiction. While this could be mentally paralyzing at times, I have learnt to use it as a strength. In fact, I now enjoy being able to join seemingly disjointed or contradictory things, thoughts or theories.

And if you have made it this far, then you may have realised by now that I am gay. 

Growing up, I didn’t know that I was gay. Being gay, or being called gay, was an insult back then. In the culture I grew up in, being gay meant there was something fundamentally ‘wrong’ with you. It meant that you were weak, that you would be condemned to live in shame. 

I worked out that I was gay between 2011 and 2014, and when I finally did figure it out, the first thought in my head was that all those people who called me ‘a girl, a fag, sensitive, so gay, not a man’ may have been right. There I was believing that I knew myself better than the bullies, whereas they had me pinned down all this while. This realisation was an uncomfortable one.

Had I been deluding myself all these years? 

Had I mistaken me standing-up-to-social-conventions-that-don’t-make-any-sense-to-me as my strength when in fact, it was just me being different by virtue of who I am attracted to?

Is this why I never had any interest in sports? 

Is this why I do not have broad shoulders? 

Is this where my ambition comes from, for I knew I had to work twice as hard to get half as much?

After the thought spiral that lasted for about a week, one of my many authentic selves (for I believe there isn’t just one authentic self) had had enough. I had to explain this away. My whole life cannot be a lie. I think of myself as a problem solver, critical thinker – surely there’s a way that I can come up with a theory that will not invalidate my entire life?

It seems common sense now, but in that state of mind it felt like an ‘aha moment’. I was obsessed with finding out why I was gay, what made someone gay, and what does being gay even mean? 

Was it because I never had a healthy relationship with my father (aka daddy issues)?

Was it because I was good at studying, which was perceived as something girls were better at?

Was it because, as a friend had casually mentioned once, I do not like what’s easy?

Was I choosing to be gay because I have spent my entire life not fitting in a box that now my comfortable place was outside the box?

Was this why I felt deeply?

“No!” I remember thinking this and smiling when I had finally figured it out.

There is no relationship between those things. I am a man who does not like sports, and I happen to be gay. There is no need to correlate them. Just because the definition of ‘normal’ according to the majority of the world is that guys like girls and guys like sports – their way of continuing to feel normal is denouncing everything that’s different.

So, they bully a guy who doesn’t play sports, they bully a guy who likes guys, and if a guy doesn’t play sports and likes guys – they bully ‘em twice.

It does not make it ok, but I understand. We are wired for survival which is why the pack mentality is deeply ingrained in us. It’s just a case of awareness. Being a gay man simply means you find men attractive. Simple!

Acceptance came in 2015.

Even after accepting that I was gay I didn’t call myself gay for the longest time. I used to say that ‘I sleep with men’ but that ‘I am attracted to a person’ or that ‘I think I am gay’. 

One reason I didn’t identify myself as gay was how being gay is still portrayed in large parts of the world and how it becomes a focal point for a person’s identity. It was my attempt to prevent anyone I came out to from automatically dismissing me or reducing my identity to this one thing. Especially at work. Just as racism and sexism in the workplace can be subtle – you know they are there, but it’s often difficult to prove – so too is homophobia.  

Another reason was that I inherently dislike labels, being pigeonholed, stereotyped. I find labels limiting and divisive instinctively. But I understand they can also be liberating and uniting. That I can use them to communicate with you, and that they will help you understand me. And what you understand, you don’t fear. (Another contradiction – stereotypes are true for a reason, yet you shouldn’t operate on the basis of stereotypes.)

The final reason was that at the time I thought once I labelled myself as one thing, I that label would be fixed forever, just like something published to the internet. I no longer believe that. 

If you ask me what I call myself now, I will call myself ‘definitely not straight’ but for ease of communication, I will call myself ‘gay’. If there was a word for ‘liking someone for who they are regardless of gender, someone to whom the thought of relationships with men comes more naturally than it does with women, someone who is capable of romanticism with both men and women, someone who sometimes thinks that they might be fluid or asexual or pan’ I’d choose that word. There isn’t a single word for that. And if using a simple definition of ‘men being sexually attracted to men’ then I am gay, so I use that label. 

Why? This is me picking my battles.

I have given myself a label because I do not want anyone to think that this is just a phase. That one day I will be what they perceive to be ‘normal’ in a heterosexual relationship and all that comes with that. Especially my family.

I came out as gay to my parents on New Year’s Day 2020. It did not go well. 

I was asked how to we solve this as if this was a problem to be solved. I was told that they wished I didn’t do well in life so I would be straight because to them being gay is a choice accessible to those who aren’t struggling to just survive.

I was asked if I was unable to satisfy the women I had had sex with and whether I needed to see a doctor? I was asked if this is why I had piercings. Amongst other things…

And I understood where their reaction came from. They just didn’t know any better. I understood the pain I caused by taking the future they had imagined away from them. It didn’t make it ok, and it didn’t take away the rage I felt for being looked at as a lesser human being by the people who were allegedly supposed to love me unconditionally. 

There were arguments. I left home for a few days without contact. I even tried to hurt myself. I was drinking. I starved myself. All with the sole aim of wanting to be seen like an equal human being capable of choice, thought and action. 

I was so fearful that at one point that I genuinely thought that they were going to do something terrible to me . I am not proud of myself for thinking that. But when you grow up different, you build up a spidey-sense. You are on the look-out for danger all the time.

It turned out that my senses weren’t completely wrong after all. My parents engaged a facility to drag me out of the house. When I tried to call the police for help, the four men who had ‘broken into’ my home threw my mobile away and slapped me a couple of times on the way to locking me up in a facility designed to treat people with addiction. When I refused to get out of a car, the facility got a patient to impersonate a doctor, which made me feel safe. I now realise that my feeling safe was the result of an unconscious bias – I believe that doctors are ‘good, logical’ people incapable of partaking in what I can only describe as ‘crimes against humanity’ – that is how strongly I feel about what happened. 

Once in the facility, the first thing I was told was not to discuss my sexual orientation.

Thankfully there was one honest psychologist there. She understood what was happening and gave me the obvious clear diagnosis. 

After that, it was a hard two weeks spent saying all the right things, things I did not believe were true, in order to get out. Once out, I used our ‘scary’ legal system to get the facility to issue a formal letter of apology. I was not going to live in fear or shame.

My parents and I no longer speak. I am living with them at present but it’s now like being with flatmates you don’t get on with. My relationship with them is in a toxic phase. It may or may not get better, but I am no longer carrying the burden of not living my truth.

Love is love. The idea of consenting adults loving one another should not be offensive. I would never stand for someone saying it’s just their ‘opinion’ that homosexuality is wrong. It is not an opinion. Liking the rain is an opinion, not liking broccoli is an opinion, believing that gay is not ok is not an opinion!

Why have I decided to tell this story now?

Firstly, visibility matters. I wish the only gay guys I saw on TV weren’t just kooky. Or promiscuous. Or creative. Or a diva. Or mostly white. And secondly, I wish I had access to stories like mine growing up. And I wish that telling this part of my life story helps someone else in some way, shape or form. It’s important to know that you are not alone if you feel like you do not belong.

At this stage, I have let go of my anger but it saddens me to know that we still live in a world where coming out is a concept and the results are not always as you’d hope.”

Finally, I wanted to confirm that there is light indeed at the end of the tunnel. I have been accepted to a business school in Berlin so I will be in an open and accepting environment in a couple of months. This incident made me realise that I need to start giving back to the community so I reached out to InterInvest and honestly, I feel like my life is just beginning.

I no longer have something to hide or be conscious of what I say or to whom I say it. I can breathe again.”

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