Tag Archives: Gay Rights

The Unbearable Freedom Of Being

 

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Source: the Internet.

‘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.

The 111 Thoughts You Have While Talking To A Homophobe

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1. Uh-oh. Look who it is, I can’t do this again.
2. I hope he doesn’t see me, I hope he doesn’t see me…
3. This is the most interested I’ve ever been in my mojito.
4. Is that an ant in my drink?
5. Oh damn. He saw me. Why does this always happen to me? I swear to god if he comes and says hello right now, I would just kill —
6. Too late.
7. Umm, hello to you too…
8. Okay, that’s not an ant in my drink either. Phew.
9. Oh yeah, I’ve been great. Thanks for asking.
10. And no, I am not here with my girlfriends.
11. You find that surprising? Pity.
12. Yeah, it’s amazing how many hot girls I know….
13. …No, they haven’t converted me yet.
14. I am still into boys.
15. Yeah, funny how that works.
16. Not really.
17. Do I want to hear another joke?
18. Pray do tell. What am I here for?
19. Umm, no. Not THAT one.
20. Yeah, it’s really funny that I am not drinking a Cosmopolitan.
21. That wasn’t a joke. I was being sarcastic.
22. Maybe I should laugh a little too loudly so that he gets the point.
23. Okay, I might have gone overboard with the back thumping.
24. Yikes! My arm accidentally touched his chest.
25. Does he think I am hitting on him?
26. He definitely thinks I am hitting on him.
27. Look at the way he’s looking at me. So beady.
28. I am going to drink another mojito. Really, really fast.
29. He just started a sentence with ‘I’m not homophobic but…’
30. This is going to be interesting.
31. Oh no. I take that back.
32. Did he JUST say that penis and penis don’t go together?
33. They did in that sentence, sir. Just saying.
34. NO. Two men having sex is NOT weird.
35. Your face is weird.
36. Thank god my mojito is here.
37. Let’s chug this.
38. Oh yes, but you are ‘gay-friendly’. I am going to take your word for it.
39. That’s just going to be another lie I’ll pretend to believe and nod.
40. He said that again. Maybe I should nod again.
41. Okay I feel funny. Too much head shaking is happening.
42. Yeah, yeah, I am okay… I am not a lightweight.
43. Har har. You are so humorous.
44. No being a lightweight is NOT a gay thing.
45. How many other gay men do you know anyway?
46. Yeah, I did not take offence at what you just said.
47. Oh yes, it’s definitely surprising considering how ‘gay men love drama’.
48. We don’t, really. Drama loves us.
49. You know what else loves us?
50. Great metabolism, pretty girls and success.
51. And an amazing sense of style.
52. Yes, I am judging you for wearing those crocs to the bar.
53. It’s not even raining.
54. And yes, I am going to drink slowly. You don’t need to tell me.
55. You aren’t my mother. Don’t use that tone with me.
56. What do you mean do I even drink beer?
57. Yes, I love beer.
58. I can drink a whole six-pack.
59. Those are not the only six packs I love.
60. LOL. Sometimes I am so funny.
61. Does he think I am laughing at his joke?
62. He definitely does.
63. Oh great, he wants to call for beers for us.
64. Wow, I am honored that you think I’m like one of your ‘straight buds’.
65. Yes, I think we should do this more often too, ‘mate’.
66. Gah. I can’t fist bump him on that.
67. What if I pretend I didn’t see it?
68. Quick! Look the other way! Look the other way!
69. Too late.
70. Surprise surprise! Yes, I do know how to fist bump.
71. Yeah, we gay boys fist bump too.
72. Why am I even still talking to this person?
73. Where’s my beer?
74. Oh. There it is. I am going to chug it and scoot off.
75. Three, two, one…here goes.
76. Okay, that wasn’t a good idea.
77. Damn. I shouldn’t have had that beer.
78. Yes, I know that drinking a pint is like eating seven slices of bread.
79. How do I know that? What do you think I am?
80. I read about it on Mashable.
81. No, I didn’t learn about that on Pinterest.
82. Sweet mother of lord. Is this man for real?
83. No. I don’t even have a Pinterest account.
84. Yeah, I also don’t follow Kim Kardashian on Instagram.
85. Don’t ask me who my favourite Kardashian sister is. I won’t answer the question.
86. What’s that even supposed to mean?
87. I should most certainly punch him.
88. No wait. I won’t.
89. Or maybe I will.
90. I can’t do this anymore.
91. CAN’T EVEN.
92. Wait, look at the time!
93. Oh, is it time for you to head to bed already? Such a pity.
94. Should we call for the cheque?
95. Yes, we’ll call for the cheque.
96. No we are splitting it. Most definitely.
97. Yeah, gay men split cheques. Why are you so surprised?
98. You should write a book. You should call it ‘Stupid Things Not To Say To Gay Men’.
99. I’ll help you publish it.
100. You don’t even need to give me credits.
101. A mention in the acknowledgments would do.
102. OH YAAAAS! The cheque is here.
103. And that’s my half. Smile.
104. It was so great running into you. Yes, I’ll find my cab. What? I am not bad with directions? Haha, you really tear me up!
105. But not really.
106. Let’s never do this again.
107. Oh great, he’s leaving.
108. THANK GAWD.
109. Time to go home and watch RuPaul’s Drag Race reruns.
110. I should probably pick up a bottle of Pinot Noir on the way.
111. Maybe I’ll just get some beer instead.

#30DaysOfPride: 30 Gay Men Tell Me What Pride Means To Them

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June marked LGBTIQA Pride month.

To honour the #30DaysOfPride, I asked 30 different men what #Pride meant to them. The answers poured in from all over my little black book — from actors and illustrators, journalists and doctors, entrepreneurs and bankers. The fact that I have a huge social circle aside, here’s what they had to say about every gay man’s favourite little word (which is not Grindr):

‘Pride means spreading the rainbow love, just like a leprechaun. It’s about finding your pot of gold. Only, the pot of gold is acceptance.’

— Jaysh, film-maker

‘Pride is a platform to show that celebration has no gender or sexuality; and that we stand together as one — gay, straight, and transgendered. I feel like it’s a system that encourages more people to come out to themselves and then to the world.’

— Swapnil, computer whiz

‘Pride means the freedom to be whoever I want to be — fierce, feisty or fabulous. Freedom from prejudice. Freedom from hate. Freedom from Section 377.’

— Siddhanth (name changed), student

‘Pride is the distant hope of self-acceptance.  Am I okay being gay? Yes. Am I proud of it? Not fully yet. But I know I’ll reach there sooner than later. That said, I wish there was more representation for the LBT side of the community. Unfortunately, it’s still a ‘Man’s World’ here. Is there a Grindr for lesbians?’

— Akshat, advertising guru

‘Pride means pushing the government to legalise gay sex. Let’s be the democracy that we proudly say that we are.’

— Hayden, entrepreneur

‘Pride means not looking down on people who are proud to be the best version of themselves. Let’s stop the hate, and spread some love?’

— Arnav, video editor

‘Pride is a feeling of being comfortable with who you are, and being comfortable in your skin. It’s the simplest kind of joy there is.’

— Sumeet, fashion god

‘Pride is the one formal occasion where you can address the issue of your sexual orientation with the public without any preface — you simply don’t need one. It’s nice to have it out there, even if one doesn’t attend — that doesn’t need to bind you. But I’d love to see more allies attending. It’d be nice to know in person that our friends actually support us. The little things matter the most, don’t they?’

— Ganesh (name changed), copy editor

‘Pride means empowerment, freedom and inclusiveness. And the world (and we) could with a bit more of all the three.’

— Sahil, fashion manager

‘Pride for me is essentially doing away with any form of stereotypical associations and labels surrounding the community (yes, that includes rainbows and unicorns) while, it is also about NOT being judgmental. Each one of us is a distinct universe in itself, and our sexuality is a mere planet – this thought needs to percolate the mind of every human in the world.’

— Guru (name changed), cyclist

‘Pride means making the world a better place to live in, because we are better human beings, aren’t we? Now how about we welcome some gay bars in the country, and get some hot Latinos as well?’

— Oshan, marketing strategist

‘Pride means loving myself, and telling my demons to go take a hike.’

— Jacob, writer

‘Pride means positivity. It means that we have to stop discriminating within our own community based on body type and behaviour! You say “No fats, no femmes”? I say you are a douchebag.’

— John, analyst

‘I have an issue with the word Pride. To me, it is a reflective word wherein it segregates one kind from another. I would rather we use the world equality — for all sexes and sexual orientations, races, ethnicities and religions.  Equality will be a better goal. Not everybody was born equal, and not everybody wants the same things in life. I believe that we need legal and social-cultural instruments that allow for diversity. Beyond the legal and social struggles that plague the LGBT community in our heteronormative and patriarchal world, I have a sinking suspicion that the bigger challenge for the LGBT community will be fighting its own internal hypocrisy and inequality. I hope more people realised that.’

— Usmaan (name changed), architect

‘Pride is representation. It’s normalising the stigma that stunts diversity. For every little boy who goes to bed scared to keep a secret, Pride represents strength. To claim the life that is a privilege to many, but an everyday battle of coming out for us.’

— Anuj, consultant

‘They don’t call it a #Pride of lions just for aesthetics.’

— Kartik, copywriter

‘Pride here is San Francisco’s equivalent of Diwali or Christmas, without all the high-pressure gift giving or the elevator music. It’s a time for people to celebrate who they are, and unapologetically be themselves. But it’s also an occasion to celebrate everything that the LGBT community has achieved so far, and how much more work remains in the march to equality and acceptance around the world. Here’s hoping that Supreme Court of India finally acts on the issue, and more people speak up for the rights of the community.’

— Dhruv, doctor

‘Pride isn’t a week nor is it something that I seek. It’s not something that I wish for, nor does it define me. My sexuality is my business, just as a heterosexual man’s is. I don’t try to celebrate it, as I don’t mean to mark myself any different.’

— Kaustav (name changed), strategist

‘I am proud not for being a homosexual, but for the self-assertion that I am gay. Queer people just need a tad more self-acceptance and self-pride, because we constantly face challenges and doubts about ourselves. I want more and more people to come out; we need to show that we exist — after all, fighting for the rights of an invisible community will always be difficult, and we’ve already got a lot on our plate.’

— Deepak, psychologist

‘Pride is a bunch of mixed feelings. I believe in breaking the rules, and colouring outside the borders. For me, Pride represents emotions. It represents fight. It represents courage. It means that we are unequal, which is why one has to fight for justice.’

— Ronak, data analyst

‘Pride means homosexuality is so much more than just being a Lady Gaga song.’

— Raj (name changed), actor

‘To me, Pride is an amalgamation of three things.  To be comfortable with who you are and be able to exude the same, to acknowledge and be thankful for those who’ve stood up against the oppression, and to finally be cognizant of the fact that each one of us can be an agent of change in our own way, however big or small, to speak up about measures of inequality.’

— Ishaan, idea maker

‘#Pride means owning up to your orientation. It’s that simple.’

— Jaymin, founder at Salvation Star

‘To quote Albert Camus, “the only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion”. When myriad colours, flamboyant attire and in-your-face unabashed sexuality walks along with the skeptical mask-wearing first-timers, the one message that resonates from Pride is of upholding individual liberty and respecting choice.’

— Aman, health consultant

‘Equal rights and equal opportunities. That goes without saying.’

— Rafael, illustrator

‘Pride is the antithesis of shame. The shame that queer people feel for being who they are, and that most continue feeling periodically over time. I feel like it is one of the steps we take towards not feeling this shame. What the country needs are more spaces in the cities where LGBT folks can socialise, outside of the regular bi-monthly parties. A space where we can finally, be.’

— Vinit, finance consultant

‘Pride is the mainstreaming of a conversation that all levels of Indian society need to engage in. LGBTQ folk come from all sections of the society and have many shared concerns: acceptance and normalcy being the top of the list. Pride helps bring that to light. At the same time, it also means being aware, sensitive and having conversations that might seem difficult: About HIV, hatred that stems from ignorance, our own biases and widespread loneliness. Pride needs to be a life long commitment, not just a day of merriment and brash defiance.’

— Varun, journalist

‘It’s something we shouldn’t be needing if we received equal treatment, but which we now have to display loudly just to kick sense into the minds of mud heads. If that doesn’t work, maybe a baseball bat would do. Just saying.’

— Kurien, chemical researcher

‘Pride is about inclusivity, even for all the gay men with the white-collar jobs.’

— Karan, stylist

‘Pride means being proud of who you are. It means quitting comparing yourself with others and loving yourself for what you stand for. What do I see for the future then? Better, comprehensive mental health care services for the LGBTIQA youth and anti-bullying laws that are more stringent.’

— Alok, food blogger

Happy Endings: Myth or Miracle?

 

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Rohit, a business consultant from New York, met his husband when he was 24 years old. Hours into a special LGBT Holi Night at the local bar on a crisp March night, they locked eyes over a jazzy Bollywood number.

‘It felt simple, the spontaneity.’ Rohit tells me on chat. ‘Ravi asked me for dinner the very next day, and I said yes.’

How did he know it was one for the long run?

‘Immediately. I had hardly expected that I would meet someone who would understand my journey as a brown man, a gay man, and an immigrant — and here he was, someone who understood all three. We didn’t have to explain ourselves to each other, we found home.’

The proposal happened years later — over a quick Euro trip (Rohit’s first) during the summer. The question was popped over a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, in the their hotel room in the middle of Champ-Elysees. They shared half a dozen macarons after, and celebrated at a gay bar with go-go dancers all night long. It was all very fabulous.

‘What has marriage been like?’ I ask.

‘When we were getting into it, it was for very practical reasons, even though we knew that we were in it for the long haul. Marriage gave us legal guarantees of (hospital) visitations, inheritance, and partnership we wanted. People treat our relationship with greater weight and respect, now that the government sanctions it.  Also, there’s certainly a greater degree of closeness that comes with making vows — inviting 70 of your closest friends to come dance the night away — that is hard to describe. ‘

They both seem content with their lives — Ravi runs a bar in Philadelphia today, and they plan to raise puppies in a world that is both, peaceful and inclusive. It’s a wonderful plan for their future. I feel a dull ache in my chest as I type out my goodbyes, but I know it’s only the beginning.

Marriage, children and a house with a white picket fence might necessarily not be the dream for a lot of gay men anymore (I’d prefer a sea-facing studio apartment and a long distance relationship any day), but my friends, Bikram and Wren share a similar story across the Atlantic.

27-year-old Bikram is an environmental scientist based in Switzerland. Wren is a Human Rights consultant. They both the save the world, when they are not saving each other.

Their first date was a disastrous dinner at home. Bikram turns beetroot red even when he thinks about it today: ‘I word-vomited through three courses of dinner. Somewhere over the entrée, I thought I would never see him again.’

Bikram found it embarrassing. Wren found it endearing.

Two years later, they moved in together.

They decided to get married while on a walk, one wintry evening. There was no grand declaration of love. No rings in champagne glasses. No elevator ride on the Eiffel tower. No planetarium full of stars. No macarons, and definitely no go-go dancers.

It just made sense — it was one of those things that had to be done, the end of one journey, the beginning of another. They didn’t exchange conventional rings; instead they opted for toe rings at a Tam Brahm ceremony months later. Their parents cried, hugs were exchanged and a new family was made.

‘Have things changed?’ I ask. Domesticity has never been a strong suit for gay men. ‘I’ll tell you a secret,’ he says to me — his voice crackles — it’s the bane of long distance phone calls. I press the phone closer to my ear. Bad reception can be worse than a bad relationship.

‘Do you know what being in a relationship is like? (I actually don’t) Being married is no different; we just have a piece of paper now that lets us address the other as a husband.’ That sounds fair enough, but does that mean they do the crossword on Sundays?

‘We don’t need to do things together. We still lead our lives the way we used to.’ Bikram prefers trance; Wren likes his classical music. They both like chocolate ice cream.

‘Finding your happily-ever-after is not about finding someone who completes you, it’s about finding someone who lets you be. Being accepted for who you are is a powerful aphrodisiac. Do you know what I mean?’

I actually don’t. I’ve been a train wreck of bad decisions, failed relationships and boys who never text me back. But wait, there’s no jigsaw puzzle to be completed?

Only on Sundays, by the fireplace. Sometimes they even bake a cake.

I am only slightly disappointed, but both couples are still surprisingly happy. Their families accept their husbands, and speak to each other on the phone every other weekend. They shop for groceries, cook dinner, do their laundry and watch repeats of The Bachelorette on television. There’s no drama, just domestic bliss.

It’s here. Men are getting married, and society isn’t crumbling.

The cake does though, the one that they bake on Sundays. But still, they genuinely seem to enjoy their delightfully boring routines.

The thing about fairy tales is that we never know what happens after ‘Happily-Ever-After’. Stories end with grand weddings, but there’s no epilogue to tell us what happens next. Sometimes they come up with a sequel, but they skip past the settling in, and head straight to the next big bad — heroes and heroines fighting it out, rather than fighting each other. Fairy tales never have time for the every day and the ordinary. But neither do we.

It’s important not to forget that my friends also live in countries where gay men enjoy the same basic rights that other people do — the chance to make your vows, or even break them. Marriage equality abroad hasn’t just changed reality for gay men, it has also tamed romance.  It isn’t as nuanced as Disney makes it out to be, they all tell me. I’d have to agree.

While gay marriage in India might be a far away ‘fairytale’ concept (side note: But then again, being gay in India is 2017 is like being gay in Europe in the ’50s), we still have a long way to go before we reach our own versions of matrimonial mediocrity. It might take time to reach that point where we bake a cake over the weekend, but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

It might take a year. It might take a decade. It might take two. Until that day, I raise a glass to all the brides and groom in the world, and know that if the day comes when I decide to get married, I’d want red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting…

…and preferably a groom who doesn’t run away before I do.

Time to be fat and fabulous: Let’s say no to gay bullying?

 

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It’s a balmy night in 2014.

I am at an LGBT party in the suburbs with a drink in my hand and grinding couples on the side. I feel a tap on my shoulder. It’s Daniel, an American expat who moved to the city almost a decade ago. I smile.

Our relationship can be summed up by ‘pokes’ and staggering witty banter on Facebook. It’s one of many dalliances I’ve had that die an early death, even before numbers can be exchanged. He squints at my face.

“You look a lot different than in your pictures; have you been drinking a lot?”

I suck in my stomach and my self-respect. Is it that last French fry that I just popped into my mouth? Is it too much alcohol? Is it too less sleep? A heavy bone structure? Just bad genes? Or simply the fact that I have my heart in my throat?

I mumble out a lame excuse and blend myself with the background. Daniel busies himself with a pretty boy by the bar, as I exit out of my guest-starring role in their soon-to-be love story. I can walk back home in shame, but this is 2014, and I don’t have a Fitbit to count the calories I will burn.

If you are a human being who wasn’t born with a set of six packs to flaunt at the beach, you’ve probably witnessed it firsthand — every gay man has either been at the receiving or serving end of body shaming (or sometimes even both) — it’s like Mean Girls but with men. Don’t believe me? Just walk into the next LGBT party.

Or simply log into Grindr.

You’ll hear a storehouse of excuses. He’s too fat. He’s too thin. He’s too skinny. He’s too chubby. He’s too square — the entire concept of the perfect body is almost as fictitious as Donald Trump’s chances of winning the presidential election. (I wrote this before the results were out, sadly). While the glorification of the male body has always been an important part of gay culture, social media is partly to blame. Hiding behind Instagram edits and Snapchat filters, it only becomes easier to project the most perfect versions of ourselves. Plus, you can do this while scoping out the competition and secretly judging everyone who doesn’t look good in a tank top (Side note: I have a love-hate relationship with tank tops. I’d love to wear them, but they hate me.)

As a self-deprecating, but self-loving gay man, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t done the same. Are we trained to put the more gym-toned, ripped men at the top of the pedestal, at the very height of the LGBT food chain (right next to the celebrity A-listers)?

We pump ourselves with protein supplements, count our meals by calories and sync our steps with fitness apps, while laughing at the ones who don’t. Think of it this way: Every time you do, more and more men are pushed back into oversized cardigans and Internet diets. More and more men are pushed into eating salad as an actual meal.

Let’s be honest.

It’s body shaming and we do it to each other and ourselves. It might be in the form of ribald jokes at the gym, hushed whispers at a party or drunken barbs on a date, but it still doesn’t change the fact that these are negative connotations that single-handedly target someone’s image issues.

Fawad, a business mogul, moves between London and Bombay every other month — his hectic life keeps him busy enough to not bother himself with weekly dates, but he still partakes in the occasional drink. Unlike Daniel from 2014, Fawad is a friend. A friend who told me about a date that went disastrously wrong.

“What else would you call a fat person, if you don’t call them fat? Cellulite isn’t sexy,” he scoffed. Clearly, the date in question wasn’t an Abercrombie & Fitch underwear model.

I gently push away the pizza we are sharing. Four hundred calories that’ll never help me find true love. Fawad, with his fitted shirts and angular cheekbones, on the other hand, has it all. Apart from my respect in the given situation.

“I don’t see what the problem is,” he says nonchalantly, sipping on his gin and tonic. But one wouldn’t expect men who wear fitted shirts to understand the problem in the first place.

Body shaming in the gay world is as serious as global warming — think of people’s feelings as the ozone layer. You are depleting them, and you aren’t helping the world by doing so. Want to do your bit to change the world? The next time you even think you might be body shaming a fellow gay man, just make sure you aren’t saying any one of these things:

“I feel so fat. Do I look fat today?”

“You probably shouldn’t be eating that…”

“Those pants don’t look good on you at all. What were you thinking?”

“Did you see the love handles on that one? I swear he had a muffin top…”

“‘You want to get with someone? Why don’t you just lose a little weight?”

“His ass is flatter than a plasma TV.”

“I swear he had boobs.”

“I wish I was as skinny as you, damn. I wish I was anorexic.”

“He gained so much weight after we broke up. I clearly won the relationship.”

“… At least you are not a twink!”

Let’s face it, we come in different shapes and sizes, and it’s unfair to think that we can be all cast from the same mold. Whether you are skinny and thin, big and muscular or a Venti and decaf (that’s just my coffee order), you need to know that everyone is unique in their own way — the first place to start over is your dating profile. What you say out aloud or through those 250 characters can say a lot about you. After all, when you say “No fats, no femmes” on your Grindr profile, you aren’t critiquing the kind of men you wouldn’t want to charm over dinner, you are critiquing yourself.

After all, we don’t need to pack ourselves with protein, boys, we just need to pack ourselves with positivity. And that’s something you can share over a plate of fries.

The Guysexual’s Guide: Every Possible Guy’s Handbook For Attending Pride

 

Pride

Today’s a special day.

Is it my birthday? Is it the day Bradley Cooper finally tells me he loves me? Is it the day I inherit a trust fund? Is it the day I find the miracle cure to obesity?

No. It gets better.

Today is Mumbai’s annual LGBT Pride parade – the city’s ninth, with more than 7000 people marching in from across the city (and the world) – it’s the day we all get to stand together for equality. Stand together for basic rights. Stand together for love, but most importantly; stand together because we make a really good-looking picture.

That includes you, straight folks. Are you a red-blooded heterosexual who doesn’t understand why he needs to walk the talk? (‘Why do I need to meet gay guys?’ the average straight bloke would guffaw in my face, ‘How will it help me?’)

Support for your LGBT friends aside, here are four selfish reasons why you need to keep those PlayStations away and walk for Pride today:

  1. We’ll motivate you to join the gym if you haven’t already.

Let me tell you a secret. We got to Cross Fit when you were still struggling with crunches – it’s no surprise that gay men are more aware of their bodies than their straight counterparts. We might come in all shapes and sizes, but we’ll still make sure we look the best version of ourselves whichever way we are packaged – we are giftwrapped with gym memberships and protein supplements.

And we also do Pilates. Forty-five minutes at Pride can do what hours of staring at fitness videos on YouTube can’t. After that, a few months of motivation is all you need to end up looking like the next big underwear model.

2. Get style advice straight from the expert!

When your idea of making a style statement is cycling through your three Zara shirts with a pair of cream khakis, you need help. I am not saying every gay man is a writer with GQ magazine, but when it comes to fashion, we have the common sense not to wear socks with our sandals. Pride walk is the fashion parade that tells you what works and what doesn’t.

Want to know what colour belt works with your Italian shoes? Do stripes really go with spots? What’s the point of wearing a bow tie? Now you know whom to turn to, oh sweet summer child, so keep your Crocs where they rightfully belong.

Back in your closets.

  1. Find a gay best friend

Carrie Bradshaw isn’t the only person who needs a gay best friend – everyone could do with one. We know the best places to get brunch, we understand how cufflinks work and we’ll honestly tell you what not to say to your girlfriend when she’s threatening to break up with you. We are the Chandler to your Joey, without the girlfriend who got in the way.

  1. And finally stop being homophobic and go!

Fashion tips and gym buddies aside, the main reason you should go walk the pride is to show your support for the LGBT community. Contrary to popular belief, the gay men who are at the parade won’t hit on you. They won’t even look at you. We have other important things to worry about – like inequality and basic rights.

Also, walking for the LGBT Pride won’t make you gay – because surprisingly, things don’t work that way. Throw those old fashioned ideas in the trash can and step out. We did it ages ago, and let me tell you that it’s very fulfilling.

Or at least most gay men did.

‘Why should I go?’ asks Jai, a flamboyant digital marketing manager who’s a year older, but eons cuter. ‘I am not an activist; plus it’s a Saturday afternoon, I’ll rather sleep in!’ he sips at his peppermint tea, handing me his almond biscotti.

Sigh. If only his sensibility matched his swagger.

If like Jai, you are one of the many gay men who don’t think it’s their calling (or place) to participate in the parade, don’t fret. I’ve got you covered too. Here are a few reasons for you to pull back those bed covers and pull up your socks just in time for the walk today:

 

  1. It gives you the same sense of belonging that a clearance sale does.

 Let’s face it – you might love your straight friends to death, but they’d never be able to relate to the bad Grindr date you had last week, the one with the man who thought it’d be okay to get his ex along.

It’s different at the parade – here, as you are surrounded by fun (read: fabulous) people who are just like you, you feel the same way you felt when you bought clothes at half price. Do you know what that lovely feeling is?

It’s the overwhelming sense of community. The feeling that you belong.

Without any dates with exes involved.

  1. It’s better than finding love on Grindr.

Sick of rummaging around the dregs of online dating, sifting through the same pool of shirtless men?

You have more chances of running into the love of your life here than you have of having a decent, fulfilling conversation on Grindr. Can you imagine the possibilities of not having your heart broken by yet another torso that asks you for ‘a dick pic?’

Well, now you can. How about you go say hi to the cute boy waving the pride flag across the road instead? You no longer need to lie to people about meeting your future boyfriend at Starbucks.

  1. A chance to dress fabulously.

Remember that multicoloured jacket you drunkenly bought online after a bitter break-up and an even bitter bottle of wine?

Now’s your chance to tear out the plastic wrapping and wear it like you own it (side note: because in this case, you actually do.) Pride’s the perfect excuse to be proud of your identity and keep the inhibitions at bay – feather boas or floral shirts, if you think you can pull it off, pull it out of your closets right now.

  1. And finally stop the internalized homophobia.

 The only people who hate gay men more than bigoted straight men are gay men themselves. The twinks hate the chubs. The bears hate the cubs. The intellectuals hate the social butterflies. The mascs hate the femmes. The models hate the geeks. The activists hate the slackers. The queens hate the discreet. And everyone hates me.

It’s finally time to end the internalized homophobia, guys, and there’s no better place to start than walk for Pride itself. What about me?

I’ll see you at the finish line.

 

 

 

 

Pssst. Did my words stir you enough to attend? Here are a few quick details for you if you plan to swing by The LGBT Pride Parade later today:

 

Where: August Kranti Maidan, grant Road, Mumbai – 4000036.

 

When: Saturday 28th January, 3 PM onwards!

Mumbai Queer Pride ’16 : Don’t Rain On My Parade!

 

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What: Queer Azaadi’s Mumbai Queer Pride 2016

When:  3:00 PM onwards, Saturday, February 6th, 2016.

Where: August Kranti Maidan, Mumbai.

Why: Because one never needs a reason to walk the Pride, and hey, what would you rather spend your saturday doing?

So let’s walk the talk, shall we?