Category Archives: The Things We Do

72 Thoughts You Have While Attending A Pride March

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Mumbai celebrated its eleventh ever Pride March two days ago, and being the socially anxious (but also out-and-proud) queer man that I am, I had a lot of thoughts.

Want to know what being at the city’s biggest gay parade felt like? An overdose of rainbows and unicorns aside, here are 72 different thoughts I had while walking the (most fabulous) parade:

1. OMG! It’s Pride today!

2. Should I put on a face mask?

3. Where is my face mask?

4. Oh boy, what should I wear?

5. Is this too colourful?

6. Is this too black and white?

7. Does this look like I am trying too hard?

8. Does this look like I am not trying at all?

9. Where’s the flag I saved from last year?

10. Will they have new flags to give away today?

11. Why do I have to make so many decisions, oh no!

12. What if I run into someone I know?

13. What if I don’t run into anyone?

14. Will I look weird if I am alone?

15. What if people laugh at me?

16. Wait… what if they really, really don’t.

17. Okay, I am going.

18. Maybe I should have a Plan B?

19. I don’t even have a Plan A. LOL.

20. *heavy breathing exercises*

21. Well, here we are.

22. Why is it so crowded?

23. Is the whole world here? WOW!

24. Look at all these people!

25. Look at all these colours!

26. Look at all this joy!

27. Look at all this energy!

28. OMG! That poster is so cool!

29. OMG! That poster is so funny!

30. Whoa! Look at that outfit. #SLAY4LIFE

31. Damn. Did they see me look? Quick, turn around. Hide face!

32. Should I take a photo?

33. No. No photos without consent.

34. Wait, are they taking MY picture?

35. Should I ask them to delete it?

36. Wait, I look great anyway.

37. Okay, let me go ask them for a picture too.

38. Okay, the march is starting…

39. Nobody can rain on this parade!

40. OOOH, look! A rainbow!

41. Another one…

42. And another one!

43. AND ANOTHER ONE!

44. Okay, how many rainbows does it take to screw on a light bulb?

45. All of these, because they ‘light’ me up with joy LOL.

46. GOD I am so funny.

47. Okay, it was funny.

48. You can at least pretend to find it funny.

49. Whatevs.

50. HOT DAMN. SO. MUCH. COLOUR.

51. It’s wonderful to see so many people who are absolutely free!

52. Gaaaaah. I need to learn a lesson or two from them.

53. This is so heartwarming.

54. Why was I even unsure of coming here?

55. Can’t believe it’s been eleven years since the city had its first Pride March!

56. Go #PRIDE!

57. Maybe I should make a poster for next year?

58. Why don’t I have a slogan for today anyway?

59. My hands look awkward not holding anything.

60. OOH. Wait, I’ll just ask that girl over there if I can take her extra flag.

61. Okay. How do I ask?

62. Here goes.

63. Well… that was easy.

64. Okay, now I am good.

65. Where do I look? Where do I look? I DON’T WANT TO MISS ANYTHING!

66. There’s. So. Much. Love.

67. It’s true. Love is love is love is love is love is LOVE.

68. Am I crying? No, YOU are crying!

69. This is honestly so empowering, man.

70. Wait. Is it over already? We just started!

71. Where did all the time go?

72. Okay, why can’t every day be just like this?

#PrideGuide: How To Be a Better Ally in 2019

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It’s time for the Mumbai Pride, people.

It’s going to be a celebration of queer culture, of colour, of everyone’s right to be (and more importantly, love). It’s going to be the biggest (queer) party of the year – think of an EDM festival without the claustrophobia and ear-deafening music. But only with lots of colour and joy.

While I might have already given you enough reasons to pull up your socks and walk the parade (irrespective of your sexuality), it’s important to know that just attending the Pride march doesn’t cut it anymore.

See, because Pride didn’t become an annual event just because queer people needed a party (but we do). It’s tied to a long history of struggle that shouldn’t be ignored, especially by queer allies and straight participants.

We march to protest against the rampant homophobia that still exists in our society. To celebrate our identity in a world that always discourages us from doing so. And obviously, people who don’t identify as a part of the community are the (root) cause of the struggle. No offence.

Of course, straight people can – and must – attend the march to show their solidarity. But there are some things heterosexuals need to think about when joining us in celebration, especially when the celebration isn’t about them. Remember, you are coming to an LGBTQIA+ event as a guest, and it’s something you need to be cognizant of.

But this is where I come in. Hold on to your rainbow socks and glitter shoes, because I am more than happy to help. Want to know more?

Without much further ado, here are six ways to be a better straight ally at Pride this year:

Do: Go in judgment free

You may see some things you’re not expecting at Pride. There are going to be men in drag. Women in suits. Boys wearing corsets. Guys wearing fishnet stockings. Dudes in leather. Dudes without. Guys in their finest jewellery. Ladies in their finest mohawks. But no matter what you see, keep your opinions to yourself. At Pride, let queer people express themselves as they want. The best versions of themselves.

Don’t: Stare at people

You don’t like it, and neither do we. It’s not a zoo, people. We aren’t here for your entertainment. It’s really that simple.

Do: Understand your privilege

Even if you’re the ally of the year, you’re entering Pride with a lot of privilege. The privilege of being straight, which automatically, according to a large part of the Indian populace, makes you ‘normal’. Understand that, but more importantly, understand that Pride is a LGBTQIA+ safe space, and you need to keep it that way. So walk out and proud, but know that the queers need to be in the limelight here more than you do.

Don’t: Take pictures of people without consent

Do we need to give you another lesson on consent? Especially when people’s personal and professional lives are at stake? Find someone interesting and want to take a picture? Just ask. If they refuse, walk away like a nice human being.

No pictures without permission. Now repeat it with me till it becomes a part of you.

Do: Enjoy it, but know that it’s not only about you

Loved the colours? The joy? The display of fabulousness? Great, now you also need to love the fact that at pride, ‘it’s queer first, you later’. Like I said many times before, it’s really not about you.

Side note: The A in the LGBTQIA+ doesn’t stand for Ally, it stands for Asexual and Aromantic — grossly misrepresented, but needing their space in the spectrum more than anyone else (especially you, straight cis folk).

Don’t: Assume people’s identities

No matter how people present themselves at Pride, it’s important not to make assumptions. There’s no better place than Pride to start asking for the pronouns of the people you meet, and to go neutral with the pronouns of people you don’t. Be mindful of the words you use, and the way you use them. Always ask, instead of assuming.

See, going into Pride as an ally might seem intimidating (and I am really sorry if I made it seem so), but it’s really not. Keep this list of do’s and don’ts in mind, and you’ll be more than welcome to walk (fabulously) with us. We’ll even take a group picture!

#PrideTalk: 37 People Tell Us What #Pride Means To Them In A Post Section 377 World

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We’ve come full circle, boys and girls.

In less than a week, the city walks its eleventh ever Pride March – which means, the city’s (and the country’s) gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brethren will take to the streets to walk for freedom, for love, and for everything in between.

This year is a monumental one as it marks the city’s first ever Pride March after the Supreme Court’s decision to read down parts of Section 377, thus making same-sex relationships legal (and the world a happy place again)!

Which is why, to honour the day and prove how important the cause is, I asked 37 queer folks what #Pride means to them in this (ever-so-slightly) progressive world. Our relationships may be legal on this bright(er) day, but we still have miles to go before we get the rights we deserve: workplace equality, the right to marry, anti-discrimination laws. The list goes on, but the questions don’t.

I asked, and the answers poured in from everywhere. Here’s what they all had to say:

Finally being and cherishing who I am and not giving a damn about what the neighborhood aunties will think.
Arnav, poet

Not having to assure people that you like ‘girls and boys’.
Harikesh, legal consultant

Being able to express myself the way I really want to. As the best (and truest) version of myself.
Kartik, copywriter

Stop trying to obsessively define queerness. Be inclusive. Be loving. Be kind. Be cool.
Mahima, writer

In fact, it shouldn’t need a definition. I don’t need to explain what, why or who. Straight people don’t come out or give explanations, so why should we?
Thangsing, blogger

Self-acceptance. As a biromantic homosexual, it took me 17 years to accept who I really am.
Arunava, chef

Not making a conscious effort to hide my sexuality.
Saumya, student

Feeling brave enough to wear makeup and heels as a cis man.
Harshvir, daytime diva

Pride means, to be you.
Harsh, poet

Not feeling guilty for loving or wanting what your heart truly desires.
Tanvi, team leader

Joy.
Arzoo, illustrator

As a bisexual woman, I want reactions to be ‘OMG tell us about her!’ instead of ‘Oh, so are you gay now?’
Diya, Netflix addict

Being as proud of your crush as your straight friends are of their’s.
Ronak, marketing intern

Breathing freely.
Ananya, student

The strength to come out to my parents.
Soham, not disclosed

Being able to take all the negativity that has been thrown my way, and make it my personal strength.
Arjun, MBA student

Companies capitalising on a social movement.
Alankrita, HR professional

It’s plain, pure joy. The joy of homonormalisation!
Tushar, baker

Professing my love without the fear of trolling.
Pokhraj, student

People not saying things like ‘I’m okay with queers as long as they are not affectionate in public.’
Hiranmayi, Tumblr connoisseur

It’s all about being someone you’re proud to be and not ashamed to accept.
Anukul, management trainee

A sense of knowing and appreciating who you really are.
Iti, architect

Finding love and the strength to finally come out to my parents.
Dirk, entrepreneur

Educating others about the LGBTQIA+ community and not feeling uncomfortable because of it.
Prajwal, fashion student

The right to just be. To be treated without prejudice or discrimination, just as an equal.
Chittajit, science enthusiast

A colourful world.
Eklavya, college student

Focusing on the rights and freedom of the lesser-known members of the queer spectrum.
Rakesh, chemical engineer

Pride still means the same, pre or post Section 377: Be yourself unapologetically.
Paartho, columnist

Freedom.
Abhilash, consultant

The granting of civil liberties and marriage rights.
Kavita, panel moderator

Finally owning that runway walk I pretend to do on the streets — fierce and liberated.
Shethin, lawyer

Developing positive self-statements.
Naveed, writer

Greater responsibility to ensure some real change happens in the society.
Indrajeet, queer rights activist

Loving myself first.
Hruday, actor

To be more positive towards my sexual orientation and fellow 250 million queer folks around the world.
Rashi, chartered accountant

Breaking stereotypes, and making straight people realise the different shades of the queer spectrum.
Lokesh, researcher.

Being ‘normal’.
Rishabh, graphic designer

The Queer Guy’s Guide To New Year Resolutions for 2019

2019_resolutions.

 

2018 came to an end, and so did my dreams of ever finding a happy ending.

As I pretend that my seventh glass of champagne is only my second, it’s time for me to ask those questions all over again – what do I remember 2018 by? The number of boys I ghosted? The number of boys who broke my heart? The bad decisions I woke up to (and with)? The bottles of prescription drugs I wolfed down? The shots I downed to forget? The hangovers I’ll never be able to forget? The hours I spent at therapy after? The resolutions I vowed to make? The resolutions I’ll effectively break?

As gay men (such as myself) parade into the new year making resolutions (and asking questions) that we’ll only give up on a week later, here are a few that I hope that don’t get lost in the sea of confetti, cheap champagne and regrets.

Want to know what they are? Simply slide into 2019 with this queer guy’s guide to NYE resolutions (but not like those ugly dick pics that slide into your Instagram DMs):

Ditch the dating apps, but don’t ditch out on the dates

There really is a high chance you’ll find the next big love of your life at the bookstore, or your favourite neighborhood bar (and we won’t judge you even if it happens at the gym.).

Then again, don’t lie about your age, height or weight on your online dating profile

72 kilograms are sexy, and so are you.

Don’t dismiss someone who’s considerably older or younger than you are

But make sure he’s legal.

Put an end to the ‘New Year, new me’

You’ll always be you. If people could change overnight, we would never have so many seasons worth of great television.

Be a nicer person. If you can’t, try till you succeed

Gay men have the potential to be a lot of things – charming, well-dressed, effortless, established, articulate, artistic or even high on drugs. But still, a lot of us choose to be d**chebags.

Take an active interest in politics

Because some of these decisions actually prevent gay men and women from receiving equal rights, which is just plain sad.

Let your biggest regret this year be not eating that last cupcake

But you should go ahead and eat it anyway.

Stop answering texts from the ex

There’s a word for it. It’s called ghosting.

Read more, but don’t read more into what other people said to you

Books are sexy and mysterious, just like the hot guy who makes eye contact with you at the bar (and then disappears forever). Reading online lists doesn’t count though, unless you are reading this one.

Do something that frightens you, not someone who frightens you

The list can include learning how to tap dance, skydiving and eating alone at a restaurant. Things the list should not include? Having unprotected sex with a complete stranger.

Exercise for health, not your crush’s phone number

If you want those six pack abs that you can eat sushi off, make sure you are doing it for yourself (Side note: even though eating sushi off your stomach can be quite unsettling).

Be okay with being single

There’s always 2019. And 2020. And 2021. And 2022. And so on.

Understand that brands don’t make the man, manners do

Very few men who have the latest Louis Vuitton bag will want to hear about your day at work.

Don’t be afraid to end a relationship that’s not going anywhere

Especially when the only place it’s going is downhill, with prescription bills.

Actually enjoy experiences, instead of just Instagram-ing them

And if the ratatouille doesn’t look as good as it does under the Aden filter, don’t eat it.

Tell the next boy you like how you really feel about him

The world would have more romances if less people were scared of sending two text messages in a row.

And if he doesn’t feel about you the same way, respect his choices

Because, boys and men, consent really is key.

Stop all the self-hating

If there’s one thing that I love more than money, it’s myself.

Be happier

Go on, you deserve it.

The Queer Guy’s Christmas Wish List for 2019

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The ‘Most Wonderful Time Of The Year’ is here. That time of the year when we drink our weight in alcohol, forget our love-hate relationship with sugar, and greedily tear open gifts just to get them exchanged a couple of days later.

IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME!

While the Section 377 verdict might have been an early Christmas present for the queer community, when have we (read: me) ever stopped wanting more? Since I’ve been incredibly naughty relatively nice this year, I tried to compile a wish list of all the other things I (and other gay men) would want this holiday season – and as you can clearly see, I tried not being too selfish. (PS: It’s the season of giving after all, and all I’d want to do right now is give you ideas.)

Now pour yourself another glass of rum-infused eggnog, and scroll through my wish list just like you’d scroll through the men’s section of your favourite online shopping portal:

  1. A dating app that changes everything.

Goodbye, Grindr. It was great knowing you, but I think it’s not working out.

Whatever happened to good ol’ fashioned dating, you ask? 2018 did. Most dating apps are breeding grounds for fuckboys (and other such men) who’d rather have you than the crème brulee you plan to share with them after dinner. How about we go for a movie, have fajitas and cola at a hole-in-the-wall, drinks at the friendly neighbourhood gay bar (read below), and then laugh over how great a time we had over dessert before I decide whether I want to be your dessert or not?

  1. An end to homophobia and oppression

Wouldn’t that be an excellent little treat for the Yuletide season? An end to bigotry? Giftwrap it for me, please.

  1. Heartwarming gay fiction.

How about we see a LGBT story that doesn’t follow the same coming out trope? I want to read a love story between two men that didn’t seem like it was written by a middle schooler (or their mother) – one where the leads don’t have loose wrists, and looser morals.

Here’s to reading more gay fiction (and non fiction) that tells untold stories, books that you can snuggle up to and read with multiple mugs of accompanying hot cocoa (or a bottle of wine – who’s to judge?)

  1. A lifetime supply of condoms (and lube)

Think of it as a lifetime supply of pleasure and protection. Now go wrap your troopers, just like you wrap those gifts tonight.

  1. Diet love.

 It’s almost 2019. If we can have diet chips and diet coke, where can we get rid of the empty calories and find ourselves some diet love?

Hold the sugar.

  1. Acne cream that actually works.

Here’s looking at you, pimple-on-my-temple that just won’t go – If I wanted to look like my geeky high school self, I’d go back to 2004 (not really). How many of us want our skin to match our glowing personalities?

Everyone.

I am officially done with activated charcoal masks and DIY scrubs, give me something that is as effective as Ariana Grande’s ode to her string of ex boyfriends.

  1. A friendly neighborhood gay bar

 No, we don’t want a bar that seeks us out every other Saturday of the month – we want a bar where we can be ourselves every single day of the week. Although we might like drinks and drunken banter at the niche pub halfway across town, we’d love it a lot more if we could have them without the masks and your musky colognes.

  1. Adoption rights for LGBT folk

India does not routinely allow same-sex couples to adopt a child. That’s a shame for both, couples looking to start a family, and kids missing out on one.

I think it’s safe to say that having two dads (or two mums) is better than having none – because we can all agree, the world can never have too many self-aware fashion conscious children who know the benefits or organic eating and working out five times a week, can it?

  1. Socks

As a very important man once said, one can never have too many socks. I prefer polka dots.

  1. Nicer gay men.

We might have religious fanatics, bigots, homophobes and extremists in this world, but no one hates the gays like the gays themselves. The Mascs hate the queens. The gym boys hate the chubs. The cubs hate the twinks. The bears hate the daddies. The Katy Perrys hate the Taylor Swifts. Everyone hates the sapiosexuals.

This hamster cycle of homosexual hate needs to stop. How about we enter 2019 with nicer, gay men instead of entering a heated argument over who’s better – Britney Spears or Madonna?

Let’s not go there now.

 

How We Met Each Other: A Brief History Of Finding Queer Love

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Rizvaan, 20, and Sumeir, 22, met each other on Instagram.

Somewhere over their matching flower crown filters and millennial names, they found and added each other, and (over a period of many Instagram stories and inappropriate GIFs) hopelessly fell in love.

Rizvaan calls it fate; the other calls it public privacy settings. It’s been a relationship of many ups and downs, but they’ll always agree on one thing — they look their best with the puppy dog filter (which they use extensively to woo each other).

Dating is that simple today.

There’s no denying that Rizvaan and Sumeir have had it easy.

Before Instagram became an overnight phenomenon for men (and women) to flirt with each other, the dating world for the quintessential gay man was a very different place (even sans the filters); over the past few decades, we’ve come a long way — and it’s nothing like the world we live in today, or the one we read about.

It all starts many thousands of years ago.

Throughout our ancient texts, there have been various descriptions of a multitude of saints, gods and demi-gods breaking gender norms much before Jaden Smith even knew what it meant –– Vedic literature speaks of Mitra and Varuna, gods of great intimacy who were often mentioned together. They ruled over the universal waters; the former controlled the ocean depths and the lower portals, while the latter governed over the ocean’s upper regions, rivers and shorelines (no wet jokes allowed by the editor).

Then, there are mentions of Agni, the god of fire, wealth and creative energy, having various same-sex sexual encounters that involve ‘accepting semen’ from other gods. Elsewhere, Mohini, the ‘female’ avatar of Lord Vishnu has been worshipped throughout Indian culture — gay, bisexual or transgendered — it’s evident that LGBT men have existed ever since mankind did.

And they’ve been finding each other ever since.

Over the decades, we’ve gone past searching for the next big something under the neighbourhood streetlight — we’ve fondled other men in unused washrooms, signaled each other with colourful handkerchiefs at traffic signals, and bumped into one another at seedy, dingy bars (and then a few drinks later, in bed). Was it the whirlwind marathon that I make it sound to be?

Not really. That’s close to four decades of gay cruising, concised in four sentences.

And then everything changed. The nineties happened.

In 1990, the country saw its first LGBTQ platform in the form of Bombay Dost, also the nation’s first queer magazine. It welcomed men seeking men to write letters to each other, making personals popular much before Shaadi.com did. But that’s not all — as we excitedly filled in our classifieds and preferences, trends changed once again. Online portals like Yahoo Messenger and MSN Chat provided a substitute to the magazines in the mid-nineties, and we moved from personals to personal chat rooms. We hid behind usernames and blank silhouettes, stepping into a new sexual revolution that would slowly fashion itself into the one we know today.

This was the beginning of a new form of liberation. Now, we got to type out our ASLs in anonymous Yahoo chat rooms and giggle over gay personals in queer magazines. The trip from the streets to the sheets has been long and hard (no pun intended), but it’s been an interesting journey indeed. Vijay, a 40-something friend who runs an NGO, has seen both sides of the millennium, and he has a lot to say about it.

‘I’ve found myself in a public washroom more than once,’ he tells me over drinks one night. ‘And I found myself loud and clear, if you really know what I mean,’ he adds with a lecherous wink.

really don’t — he’s an activist, so I think that nothing he says can be inappropriate (politically correct, yes).

‘What do you mean?’ I still ask, not being able to help myself.

‘I’ve had help, and it was beautiful.’

‘How so?’

It turns out it was very beautiful, indeed — and a lot of men helped over the years. A cab driver from Bhilai, a student from an Arts college in town, two stockbrokers who work in the financial district, a waiter from an Udipi restaurant down the road and a television star with a girlfriend who stays by the sea (the one time). His list goes on for 10 more minutes — detailed musings of his encounters and escapades, as I drink glass after glass of diluted rum. ‘I know it’s easier now, but there was an adrenaline rush every time you found someone new — was he gay? Would he understand the signal? What if he told on me? What if someone walked in? That made up for more than half of the excitement of having sex.’

Where do we go from here?

Not the restroom.

We evolve (So did Vijay, who is a veteran). We’ve moved on from clandestine trysts in wash rooms to ones on our phones in ways that were previously unimaginable. It’s 2018, and dating apps today are the manifestation of what mankind has been doing for centuries — devising new forms of communication, and then manipulating them for finding love, sex and long-term relationships.

Technology is revolutionising romance. Over the past few years, we’ve sent ‘footprints’ to torsos on Planet Romeo, favourited boys on Grindr, woofed at hopefuls on Scruff and super-liked our way through a dozen matches on Tinder. And we’ve even got the numbers to prove it. With more than 10 million users worldwide, Grindr recorded a surge from 11,000 to 69,000 active new users every month — simply within a span of four years, and that was back in 2015. Scruff, on the other hand, deals with smaller pools of men. And even though they only have an outreach of about 15,000 users in India, they still saw a 25 percent growth within two months of their launch. Numbers never lie; unless it’s the phone number you pass on at the end of a drunken night.

Today, even though online dating has been in the headlines (of mostly trashy online magazines and internet sex columns) for ‘hijacking modern love’ and trivialising the concept of everyday romance, we are at the dawn of a new age. Every year, new dating apps and websites sprout, making it easier for men seeking men to find each other, and fall in love (or in bed.)

And now, we are only moving on to better things — retweeting tweets to rekindle romances through Twitter, poking men indiscreetly on Facebook and waiting for them to salaciously poke us back, sending Instagram love to anonymous strangers, sharing their intimate brunches, birthdays, all the while gushing at pictures of Bobo, their cocker spaniel, when you’d rather be gushing over a romantic breakfast in bed for two. If you look at it, things haven’t changed much. We still scout the roads and send winks, only now we do it from our smartphones — social media has never been more sexual.

Technology makes trysting easier, because now you longer need to explain to a policeman why two grown men are parked in a side alley at midnight, with their pants (and inhibitions) lowered all the way down to their knees. The underworld of gay romances is so out and about, it could be a badly written Karan Johar movie.

And yet, we are nowhere near the end.

Like I said, this is just the beginning. All you have to do is break in.

Just make sure you use the right Instagram filter.

How I Found The Freedom To Be Myself

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‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ a ninth grade English paper once asked me. It was a 20-mark essay, and I had 20 minutes to earn them. I rolled up my sleeves, and pulled out my cursive best.

The thing is, I wanted to be a great many things.

I wanted to be a chef, I wanted to be an actor, I wanted to be a painter, I wanted to be an astronaut, and for two weeks after I turned 11, I even wanted to be a National Geographic correspondent, if only because my older sister said that she wanted to be one. My essay – and the time allotted to write it – might have come to an end at this point, but my story didn’t. From the age of six to sixteen, I raced through changes. My styles, my sexual leanings and my haircuts changed, and so did my dreams.

Only, what did I never dream of being?

Myself.

All my years of adolescence, I had struggled to find myself, even though I struggled comfortably – I was so used to push my problems under a hypothetical carpet, and pretend they didn’t exist, that I never realized the lies I was hoarding up – little white lies, they wouldn’t hurt anyone, would they? It was an easy, lazy life.

I used this complacency as a security blanket, and wound it around myself whenever thoughts of the future terrified me. What would coming out (as a gay man) be like? Would it be a cakewalk or a walk down the plank? Would I have to talk about my feelings? Would I have someone to talk about my feelings to (a fair question, because I grew up thinking that you were only allowed to talk about your feelings at expensive therapy sessions, sappy book clubs or when watching romantic tearjerkers)?

Growing up was always a mark of independence – no more school, no more staying at home, no more rules, no more restrictions, no more getting worried over your mother’s eighteen missed calls (well, almost) – it seemed like a technicolour dream, being so free-spirited. But honestly, I didn’t know what I would do with all the freedom. Independence (or the mere thought of it) petrified me. What would I do being free?

Would I finally have to be myself?

People are terrified to be themselves, especially when bravery is an option, and not an obligation I’ve been called manipulative, selfish, a coward, a sore loser. Why would I want to be myself then? I’d rather be someone nicer and more admirable; I’d rather be someone else.

And that’s exactly what I did.

Some enjoy the peace that comes with accepting who you are, but most of us waltz on the fence in the middle. Take sexuality, for instance. We can stir ourselves to walk free and fabulous, but we’d rather stay safe and sound in the cage of heteronormativity. I made myself feel at home in the cage till I was twenty-one.

The thing about independence is that it doesn’t come gift-wrapped and express delivered to your front doorstep. It needs to be earned, or fought for.

Coming to terms with your sexuality and stepping out of the closet isn’t easy – especially when in a country like India, where minds can be as narrow as Bandra’s bylanes, even if you are an upper-class well-educated man (and sometimes, especially if you an upper-class, well educated man). Everyday life is a battle. As countless films and American television shows have told us, you don’t just wake up one morning and walk out into the sunlit world. To reach the closet door, you need to push through your woolens, those ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ shirts you bought on an impulse but will never wear, and the odd tangle of smelly socks, greying underwear and smutty novels you don’t want your mother to find. It will be tough, especially if you’ve been hoarding – and holding back – all your life.

And even when you do, it’s a never-ending process – those closet doors that everyone talks about? They are revolving. Week after week, you will find yourself coming out to friends, family, acquaintances, and (occasionally) drunken strangers at the bar. Perhaps one day it will not be the big deal that it is today, and you won’t have to worry whether your words are followed by a kiss to the cheek or a punch to the mouth. Every new acceptance is a fresh slice of independence, and you’ll wolf it all down without worrying about empty calories or complex carbs.

It will be liberating, the way you feel after you’ve survived a last-minute clearance sale. Only this is the clearance sale of regrets.

Fortunately, my personal coming out story reeks of acceptance and Hallmark cards – it happened at the dinner table, one Friday evening back in early 2015, over cups of chamomile and desiccated coconut biscuits. I sat my parents down, and told them everything in a diligently rehearsed 17-minute monologue.

In 18 minutes, it was done.

Questions were asked, hugs were exchanged, a tear was shed (that would be me). My mum went for a walk with her friends, and my dad continued solving the crossword puzzle. They accepted it with a simple shrug (and lots of love and support over the next couple of years, but this is the not a story about that). My sexuality was just another fact.

What about the war of words I had been expecting? The emotional bloodshed? The years of torment at the hands of society? They never came, even though the history books said that they would. Times are changing, and somewhere over pop culture references and more inclusive media representations, my parents and peers had changed as well. The history books had it wrong.

What they did get right was this – freedom felt liberating.

The freedom to stay single. The freedom to be a sexual deviant. The freedom to wear a skirt (if you are a man) or a jersey (if you are a woman). The freedom to wear both. The freedom to wear neither. The freedom to never find your way back home. The freedom to stay in for the night, with Netflix and a bottle of wine (that would be me again).

What do we do with the freedom then? Do we let it consume us? Terrify us into never seeking it out?

We do neither. We simply unwind and enjoy it with a cup of tea.

Preferably chamomile.