Tag Archives: Opinion

To Mum, With Love: What It Means To Come Out As The Parent Of A Gay Son

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I’ll tell you a secret about my relationship with my mother. Each of our relationships with our parents is such an individual thing — even between siblings, sometimes — and they can be difficult for us to understand from a distance.

My relationship with my mother is far from perfect. Over the past decade, we’ve fought, we’ve cried, we’ve pulled our hair out, we’ve said mean things to each other that might put school bullies to shame, and we’ve had cold wars that have lasted multiple hours and meals. It’s been one hell of a roller coaster ride.

But that’s how most relationships are, they aren’t perfect. And that’s the beauty of it.

A child might not be perfect — not too bright, not too beautiful, not too charming, not too enterprising, not too much of a good thing — and still, a mother would love it to death. She’d nag, but love her child like a lioness loves her cubs.

My mother is like that.

She treats nagging and scolding me as a daily chore — it’s become a part of the routine. But then again, it’s ourlittle routine. It’s like a two-person comedy act — only there’s no background laughter — unless you count my exasperated older sister who stays miles away, but still hears of all my idiosyncrasies through the telephone. I love every little bit of it.

See, I might be a selfish, spoilt brat who might have more vices than virtues (here’s looking at you, endless bottles of wine and rum), and my mother might have reserved her dirtiest of looks for each and every one of them, but that’s what mothers do — they antagonise, because they adore.

And mine adores me to death. The past three years could have been turbulent — with the coming out and what not — but they weren’t. Twenty-five years of her having lived in an orthodox family, and yet, I’ve had some of the most remarkably open conversations with her. Was she okay with my coming out? Maybe not. Does she like it when I talk about being gay on social media? Definitely not. Has she any clue of what the LGBT life is all about? Clearly not. In fact, I thought we were going to live in a state of peaceful denial of my sexuality till thishappened last year.

My mum came up to me sometime in August of 2017, as I worked away on a deadline. She looked visibly upset. Sensing it was something I had done (and had no clue about), I asked her what was wrong.

A daughter of an acquaintance had just given birth, she said to me, and sweets had been delivered all over the society. Our family had been inconspicuously missed out. She suspected it was because I was gay, and they didn’t want to ‘rub it in’ that I might ‘never have a child of my own’.

I asked her whether she was sad that it happened? Kaju katlis are a big deal, after all.

She said she was, but only because she was surprised that she knew people who were so narrow-minded, that they couldn’t see beyond the boxes they stayed in. Then she went on to tell me how sugar was bad for your body anyway, and that we’d all live a more fulfilled life without any ensuing boxes of sweets. If people couldn’t deal with her son’s sexuality, then she didn’t need to deal with them (or their sugary gifts) at all.

I hugged her tightly then and there.

I hope this serves as at least one model for a positive way to react. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know for me, she couldn’t have reacted more appropriately (or heartwarmingly).

My coming out story might have been a breeze, but coming out as the parent of a gay child is no easy feat. Because I might have had to come out of the closet only once, but for my mother — as a supportive parent — it’s an everyday struggle.

She’s sat through awkward dinner conversations with strangers (‘…and then I told my son, you can marry anyone as long as it’s not a boy!’), shot down questions by distant aunts (‘’it’s okay if he’s gay, but does he have to be gay for the whole world?’) and even ignored jibs by concerned relatives (‘we understand how you must feel that your son will never get married…’) with the same stance.

One of cold defiance.

My mother is an exceptionally fierce woman. Her problem with most of these situations isn’t the quintessential ‘how-could-they-say-that-about-MY-son?’, it’s the more empowering ‘how-could-they-say-that-about-gay-people?’

And that is gut-wrenchingly heartwarming.

Is my mom completely comfortable with my sexuality? Maybe not. Is she curious about the gay life? Not really. Does she love me to death nonetheless? Always.

I don’t expect my mother to tag along as I march for LGBT Pride. I don’t expect her to flash the rainbow flag at a family lunch. I don’t expect her to ask questions about my love life (or lack thereof). I don’t even expect my mother to have a conversation with her friends about my sexuality. My mum’s not one of those mothers.

She’s so much more. She might never understand the depths of my struggles as an out-and-about gay man, but she’ll still school anyone who tries to question the same.

I am proud of the woman my mother has become, and the son she’s making me out to be. I might not be the perfect one, but she’s made peace with the fact that I never will be. And that’s the first step of any loving relationship. The peace to co-exist with all your faults and regrets. To confront what’s not wrong. To fight for what’s right. To know that I am loving (and living) my life to the fullest. To understand that I’ll go back to being the insufferable child right from tomorrow.

To all the mothers who are reading this who will ultimately have to deal with their own child’s coming out, I say this: don’t feel guilty about not being completely on board till you’ve asked all your questions. It’s okay not to be okay. As long as your child is not being made to feel unloved or uncared for, express your love (and confusion). That’s half the battle won. The other half is finding a nice, handsome and charming boy who can spend the rest of his life with your ungrateful child.

Thanks for meeting me on the other side of the closet, mom. #HappyMothersDay to you.

I promise it gets better.

— Illustration courtesy Amrai Dua

#GalentinesDay: 20 Women Tell Us Why They Love Their Gay Best Friend

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Valentine’s week is over, and if you are not sweeping the empty chocolate wrappers and confetti off the floor, you are probably dusting off the pieces of your lonely, broken heart (in which case you must go read the Guysexual’s guide to every heartbreaker in the world). What can I say; it’s a tough world.

If you are a single gay man such as myself, how do you find love? More importantly, how do you find love that cannot be bought in a bottle, or prescribed over-the-counter?

That’s where #GalentinesDay comes in — it celebrates the truest, most fairytale form of love there is — the love between a gay man and his girlfriend(s). After all, every one knows that the Girlfriend is the essential crown of every gay man’s crew, and the love they share is as real as Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker’s online feud. So why not celebrate that instead?

This Valentine’s Day, I decided to ask 20 different women what the gay men in their lives meant to them. The answers poured in through texts, emails and voice notes. One even sent a rap.

Here’s what the goddesses had to say:

 

Having a gay best friend has been one of the most empowering relationships I’ve ever had. Whether it’s been about shedding my insecurities, approvals I’ve needed for the length of my skirts or the boys that I date, or more importantly, conversations which have helped me decide which course I should study moving forward, the decisions made by my friend have always been spot on.

Just like him.

And when you’ve got razor sharp wit on a principled, loyal friend who’s always up for fun, who would want more?

PS: Did I mention he’s also handsome?

— Prakritee Yonzon, Law professor

What does having a gay man as your best friend do to your life?

Firstly, you get answers to ALL your homocurious questions (with the right amount of sass, of course). Plus, you get to have a partner-in-crime for all your voyeuristic ventures. Because, here’s the best thing about Galentine’s Day: with them, there’s no such thing as judging (or being judged). If THAT doesn’t make your life easier, there’s isn’t much scope for anything else to do so. Here, there’s never a monochrome scare; because having a gay best friend means having limitless colour in your life.

And we could all do with some colour in our life.

— Reema Mukherjee, journalist

One word.

Everything.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

— Richa Raut, architect

In a world where romantic love is celebrated and revered above all else, there exists this bond of platonic love between friends, which finds its best representation between a girl and her gay best friend!

He is the guy who gets rip roaring drunk with you at brunch, hits on the same boys as you do, encourages you to unleash your inner Goddess, and battles the hangover with you the very next day. He is the guy who is always a phone call away. He gives you pointers on sex. He tells you when you’re being a b*tch and when you’ve got to be a b*tch. He binge eats ice cream with you. He isn’t afraid to tell you the outfit makes you look fat/desperate/old. He sings along to Beyoncé with you. He lets you blast Adele when you need it. He reads the same books, and likes the same cocktails. He makes you laugh and he makes you shake your head with exasperation.

In short, he is the brother who is the soul sister you never knew you needed before you met him.  He makes you find space in your life for him because you’d be crazy not to want him around.  If I could sum up all of this in one sentence?

He is the realest and truest form of love.

— Ramya Dharmaraaj, lawyer

 Love is four-letter word that can be interpreted and used in so many different ways. But for me, each time someone says the word ‘love’, I can only picture a few people in front of my eyes.  My friend here is one of my lifelines.

I’ve had a number of straight guy friends and girlfriends but none can compare to this man. He comes up with unadulterated, impartial advice — something that you can trust even with seven blindfolds on. I bet God smiled when he made this beautiful human being and whispered chants as he poured in the purest of a soul into his ears. He made me believe in platonic love and having no expectations out of a bond. A bond of pure love, a friendship that comes with a smile each time he utters a word.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I’d trade all my straight friends for this one. As long as promises me that he’ll always be there.

Just like he always has been.

— Akriti Sheth, artist

The only thing that changed when I found out that my handsome friend was gay was the slightest crushing of my heart, and that’s only because it was unfair that I would never be able to date such an amazing soul.

It’s endearing to find someone who gets excited about my life more than I do — which is why I think he’s my official power source, on bad days and otherwise.

He lights me up. Pun intended.

— Komal Balani, brand strategist

Having a gay best friend is basically discovering a level of comfort you didn’t know could exist — they aren’t just the best fun you’ll ever have, they will be close to you in a way nobody else can even touch.

And that’s as uplifting as it can be.

— Saumyaa Vohra, editor

 I love my friend for his sass and honesty, and his unbridled positivity in life, a combination that most men lack — especially cute men such as him. Having him as a friend in my life is like a three-tier chocolate cake — because I’d never be able to have enough of him.

Only, his sexual orientation is the icing on top!

— Sakshi, photographer

First things first, I’m a realist. Ok Iggy Azalea song reference aside, I am a realist which means I know exactly how difficult it is to connect with somebody on multiple levels, and to always succeed in having a conversation where you feel an instant match of wavelength.

Thank the heavens I got that with my friend. We might not talk for weeks, but when we actually do, it’s like we never stopped. The best part is that our core beliefs and principles are the same. And our candour gets me, every time! Nothing is out-of-bounds for us; we can literally talk about everything outrageous under the sun without having to be politically correct with each other. From talking about all the boys who broke our hearts (because we have the same lives) to talking about pop culture references that broke the Internet (because we have the same tastes), it’s been one epic journey.

Someday we will travel the world together, living the good life and checking out cute guys but until then, I’ll just show him off to Mumbai as my hot and charming gay friend. Because #IGotMyOwn!

— Amrita Hom Ray, PR professional

Having a gay man as your best friend is nothing like the stereotypes that people talk about — instead, it gives you true perspective of how life can be the same and yet so different for the community.  It allows you to step back, and look at your own prejudices, your own self and your relationships — my friend here helps me become a better person and a better member of the community.

And that’s half the battle won.

— Devika Mehta, movement therapist 

I’ve known my GBF for all of three years, but it’s like they say — in true connections, the amount of time you’ve known each other is completely irrelevant. He has taken up so many roles in this timeline: confidante, bridesmaid, partner-in-crime, and a true inspiration in the way he lives his life!

His resilience, the character progress he’s shown, his utter and complete honesty are all things I value deeply. He’s never shied away from living his truth, which is a difficult thing to do for anybody, but probably more so for him. I know that we’ll continue to grow together as time goes by — as we already have — from being at constantly drunken social situations to sober-planning our future shenanigans!

— Zara Ahmed, psychologist

The best thing about having him as one of my best friends? Having someone who’s there to support and back me up no matter how ridiculous I’m being, and always having someone I can share my dreams and views of an idealistic future with — just because I know he wants the same things in life.

My life wouldn’t be half as awesome as it is without him, because he’s the Betty to my Veronica! The only difference?

We don’t have any Archie to fight over.

— Shivani Singh, B-school student

This is what I have to say to my friend: For all the laughter you bring to my life and for all the madness, I want to thank you for being you.

PS: Just know one thing, when the snow falls and the wind blows, I’ll never let you be that lone wolf.

— Madhuli Thakker, public health researcher

 Imagine befriending a man whose sole interest in you doesn’t depend on the size of your breasts or the width of your hips — that’s a gay best friend right there. As men, they are genuinely interested in YOU as a person and THAT makes all the difference.

Can you imagine getting that kind of attention from the opposite sex (without any expectations) and having fun at the same time?

That’s exactly how refreshing it is.

— Ankita Thadani, interior designer

 

Who doesn’t love a bundle of delight that’s always ready to give you advice from the male perspective? It’s the fun bit of mansplaining!

— Reema Paranjpey, student of health policy and administration

Having a gay friend opened up unheard of avenues in my life. I might have come from a background where the word ‘gay’ was taboo (and I blame society for that), but my friend sprung into my life, opening it up — and made me realise that no man can be a better friend than your gay best friend.

Especially one that makes you his priority.

— Shreea Kadam, film producer

 Look! Up in the sky!

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane!

It’s your Gay Best Friend!

That guy who’s still dancing when the party ends.

He never cans on spontaneous holiday plans,

But somehow has time for your failed romance!

With sassy comebacks and heartfelt words,

He knows just what to say when it hurts.

I’d exchange 10 girl friends for my GBF, honey,

Especially when this one’s worth more than all the money.

— Ila D’Cruz, architect and rapper

I can’t speak for all the ladies with gay besties, but mine sure does add a whole lot of sparkle (and glam) to my being. He’s got his cheeky comebacks down pat, death stares to kill and a sassy style to match. He’s got a way with words and a way with the world.

Yes, he might be really cool, but that’s not the only reason I love him. He’s there for me in times of need, is all ears when I talk about life and whine about love endlessly. And, most importantly, when my life feels grey and glum — he appears like a rainbow in the sky.

Here’s hoping that come rain or not, he’ll always be there to make my life more colourful.

— Namrata Kedar, fashion writer

I frankly don’t know how my life would be without him, because a life with a sassy partner/friend is just endless hours of laughs and eye rolls and more laughs (there’s a lot more, but I was told to keep it short).

A gay best friend might have started off as a season’s must-have accessory a few years ago, but now he’s so much more. Which is why I think that having a close gay friend is a perennial must-have/indispensable/can’t-do-without necessity of life.

I miss my GBM, now that we are in different countries. But our love and friendship is just as strong, if not stronger. After all, distance does make the heart grow fonder. Supporting his right to live and love is just about the basic most thing I or anyone could do for such a man (men) who does so much and brings so much warmth and radiance in my (our) life(s). Happy Galentine’s day to my GBM, who’s no longer just my gay best friend, he’s my family. For now and forever to come. I love you and I pray your light shines even brighter with the years to come.

— Shamika Haldipurkar, marketing executive

Having my best friend is undoubtedly the most ‘awesomesauce’ part of my life – I use this word only because it encapsulates our entire relationship. It’s that delightful.

There are times when we don’t talk or meet for days on end but when we finally do, it’s as if we never stopped. Every time we meet, I feel happier and lighter! I could go on and on, but that’ll never do him justice. I truly admire him, and wouldn’t want him to be any other way (i.e. straight).

— Sshruti Barrve, stylist

#PrideTalk: 21 (Fabulous) Men Tell Us Why We Need To Walk For Pride

 

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What’s that faint buzz that you hear (and feel in your bones)?

That’s the sound of Mumbai gearing up for its tenth-ever Pride March – and it’s charging up as you read this sentence. In a few hours, thousands of straight, gay, bisexual and transgendered folk will take to the streets for their right to love, their right to live, but most importantly, their right to be.

But are these numbers enough?

As these thousands take a stand and do their bit to make a difference, countless others choose to sit #Pride out instead  (and their excuses are equally abysmal.)

Which is why, to honour the day and prove how important the cause is,  I asked 21 different men why walking the talk was necessary. The answers poured in from all over my little black book — from actors and illustrators, journalists and doctors, entrepreneurs and bankers.

They even poured in from my Tinder account.

Jokes (and accusations) apart, here’s what the men had to say:

Simply to stand up, and be counted. Wear a mask if you don’t want to be identified, but go nonetheless. Experience it and contribute to it, in however small a way.

Each attendance counts. 

— Varun, fashion editor

For one reason — continuum, because we owe it to our future generations.

The liberties that we enjoy today, the relative ease of coming out, the parties, the social acceptance, are all a result of  the social movement built over decades by people who had to face ridicule and discrimination.

It’s only imperative that we continue it all and play a role for furthering the cause for future generations.

— Aman, health professional

To spread awareness about the fact that it’s not a taboo to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. As a community we are extremely prone to protesting AGAINST something, but rarely in favour of anything. If more and more people walk the Pride, the other margin of the society who still think that it’s a taboo, will get to know that if a large part of the society is supporting a small community, it ‘probably’ isn’t taboo anymore.

Since the fear of homosexuality is so deeply rooted, primarily because of our attitude of rarely doing anything out of social sanction, the society in general needs to walk the pride and tell everyone how they accept homosexuality, in turn telling everyone else that it is ‘normal’ to be homosexual. The more the people, the more the acceptance, the lesser the fear of taboo.

— Paarth, filmmaker

The sole reason we need to walk the pride is to create awareness. To be taken seriously. To help explain that homosexuality isn’t a disease or abnormality you can cure, but an orientation.

— Sumeet, fashion designer

I think everyone should walk the Pride, whether they belong to the LGBT community or not  — straight, gay, bisexual or transgendered,  if you support us it’s time to take some time out, show those numbers to the society and show your level of acceptance to the government.

— Rehan, screenwriter

To show the world that queer people exist.

And that we exist in large numbers.

— Ujjwal, PhD student

Pride March to me is a yell of existence; we’ve been hidden in the dark for so long we need to be in the light so that no one has to live in the dark anymore.

Not just this time, but for many more times to come.

— Arnav, video editor

A Pride March is (still) one of the very few places and ways queer people can own and express their identities. And if we want the conversation around equality, rights and non-discrimination going, we cannot afford not to be visible.

— Jacob, writer

This year, our numbers need to be visible even more, especially since the political class needs the stats to even consider us to be any kind of vote bank.

— Anand, marketing executive

The reason why I love Pride (apart from the free service eye candy) is because, like almost all queer people in our generation, there had been a long period of feeling alone in my experience.

It’s a shell that is very tough to break out of.

That feeling of being the only one to live something so different was so heavy, I would not go even to gay parties for fear of being singled out. Which is exactly why — when I went to my first Pride after much contemplation — I was overwhelmed. It was a cathartic experience that heavily soothed this feeling of being the only one queer that I knew of.

Since then I have been going to at least one Pride a year. It is impressive because despite all this ‘growing’ that has happened since the first time, it is STILL a cathartic experience every single year. It shows to what extent we are unable to find things to relate to in the quotidian life.

And that is exactly why I will continue to go to pride. Apart from being the lovely celebration that it is of being yourself, it is a day when you contribute to the visibility of SOGI rights.

And this aspect holds not only for queer people, but also for everyone else. It is an opportunity for any ally of SOGI rights to make his/her/their own contribution by showing their support.

— Kaushik, research scientist

The single most important reason to march for Pride is to make sure the judiciary, the government and the country knows that we are not a minuscule minority, and that our rights matter.

We are not criminals (and never will be) and have the same rights as any other Indian citizen!

— Maanav Dev, restaurateur

To get a sense of community beyond what one might see on apps — there’s strength in numbers and if we want change at an institutional level, we are going to need our voices heard!

— Siddharth, academic and translator

Because it’s important that people see that we exist. That we exist in different age groups, that we are queens and that we are butch. We have beards and we put on make up, we wear heels and we have moods — and that’s just the gay men!

We are so much more with the LGBTQ community put together.

— Laksh, digital entrepreneur

The struggle for LGBT equality is a long and tireless one. Over the years, as societies have relatively evolved towards us, the LGBT community has regressed in its understanding of the long battle people have fought for this world and leaders to have conversations around ‘homosexuality’.

Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, George Cecil, Jeanne Manford, Harvey Milk and others who shaped this movement in times so difficult and extreme have been conveniently forgotten… sadly most LGBT youth would hardly even know them. How can we celebrate our ‘gay-ness’ when people in authority, like Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya, pledge to persecute gay men or when statesmen in the Middle East criminalise and dehumanise us?

Our celebration lacks recognition and acknowledgement of this ongoing journey but remains a mere annual social gathering that fails to make any concrete statement beyond a single day’s headline. At the Stonewall March, there were no floats, no music blasting through the streets, no extravagance, body glitter and scantily clad dancers: it was a political statement and a test!

We’re working against deeply ingrained social mores that have been around so long no one even remembers how they got there anymore, and a visual of loud and proud, yet naive and un-informed men and women chanting and screaming and kissing is not going to cut it.

— Kartik (name changed), social worker

People should come out and show solidarity because in one way or the other, we have all shared the same (or similar) experiences while growing up.

A young LGBT kid, unable to understand or cope with his own desires, often one feels alone. Unable to talk to someone about it coupled with the feeling of isolation potentially scars each one of us. The pride parade and consequent publication of articles, photos and media coverage of the parade can, to my mind, lend immense support to a kid struggling with his/ her own sexuality.

I sure wish the concept existed in Delhi during my adolescence.

Additionally, often times such coverage of the Pride parade tends to focus on men in drag and other elaborate attire while ignoring the huundreds of people who are from the community and at the march, the ones who choose to dress more — for lack of a better word — conservatively. While I fully support everyone’s right to be themselves and dress as they wish to, the sole focus on the stereotypical ways of the parade, to my mind, takes away from the seriousness of the parade and the issues involved. As responsible citizens, the journalists/media must focus on the core issues, as opposed to just restricting their coverage to attention grabbing colorful pictures and headlines.

— Ansh* (name changed), lawyer

The word Pride itself suggests the whole purpose of why one should step out and join the march.

For someone who has ‘pride’ in his/her orientation, it becomes integral to participate and send the right message; so that acceptability (and more importantly, awareness) becomes more commonplace.

— Tushar, architect

To show the world that  we are not a bunch of crazy colourful people — we are doctors, engineers, artists, your co-workers, your brothers, neighbours, the person you think is your idol — for all those men  hiding in the closet because YOU make me an outcast for coming out of one.

— Karan, fashion entrepreneur

Visibility.

For too long gay men and women have been poured in casts of assumed professions, temperaments, and allowed limited places in everyday lives. People need to come out to represent diversity — cis, trans, gay, straight, femme, masc, camp, or even butch… but remain unapologetic, at the end of the day. We need enough representation for younger lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and straight people to find a bit of themselves in us, just so no one feels alone.

For too long we have been assumed minuscule, when owning our authentic self is every person’s dream.

— Anuj, consultant

Pride is not only limited to LGBT community but it is for all the oppressed sects of the society. So, if you think you are not exercising your freedom right, it is your one-way ticket to Utopia.

— Prashant, sales executive

To show people that we can protest with love and without waging a war.

But more importantly, because each voice counts.

— Vikas Narula, restaurateur

People, gay or not, should walk the Pride March this year to show that even while the country is in a state of turmoil over a movie screening that pushes India back in time back in time rather than moving forward, there’s a united front that wants change and people who are ready to be a part of the process to bring that change.

— Raghav, banker

What I Mean When I Say I have A Gay Voice

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Over the years, I realised I have had a lot of talents.

I can roll my tongue, impersonate a pigeon (my head tut is phenomenal), fly a kite without any help, and most importantly, lie my way through a resume even when I am asleep.  It’s a lot for one person.

But faking a baritone is clearly not one of them.

I realised my voice was softer (read: more girly, for the masses and the misinformed) at a very early age. Being all of eight, I wasn’t great at pretending to be someone else (at least back then), and booming out like a blue whale wasn’t something they taught at kindergarten. I chose the only plausible solution.

Silence.

I would reluctantly answer questions in the classroom (or avoided the teacher’s eye), never yelled out to friends across the road (either out of surprise, joy or an incessant need to go slap them across their faces), and would pretend to be ‘shy’ in front of people I didn’t know. It’s lovely how many things you can pass off; when you tell people you are an introvert.

But there would be times when I’d forget, and my shrill voice would ricochet out like a distress call, in multiple high-octaves and increasing pitches. And then the hushed whispers would come, empty sniggers from emptier souls. ‘Why do you sound so nasal?’ my friends would laugh, and I’d retort with a stiff-lipped jab about my ‘respiratory problems that they’d never understand’.

That would silence them all, up until I changed schools, and changed bullies along with them. I’d come up with new reason every single time, but they’d all get shot down (or laughed at) in a week or two.

Over the next two decades, I grew up — and grew out of these insecurities (and my shrill, pre-pubescent voice). I’d learnt to adapt the way I spoke to whoever I was speaking to, and I used it like a shield.

I’d conveniently gruff up with a North Indian accent while speaking to a male colleague, and soften up with a breathier, breezier Mumbai undercurrent while chatting up an acquaintance. I reserved my ‘it’s-too-loud-in-here-to-hear-you’ blur solely for my mother.

Only my close friends got the real version of me. Highly excitable.

But yet, my voice was, and is…still the same?

It sounds worse on the phone, solely because I suffer from a recurring nightmare where I have to hear my voice on an answering machine on loop — which only makes it an every day affair with telemarketers.

‘Hello, madam? Can we interest you in a home loan…’

‘Dear Miss! Vodafone has an exciting new offer for you….’

‘Yes, ma’am. Do you want to try our double cheese burst special with that?’

I’d gruffly tell them I was man, and hang up.

Truth be told, I hated the way my voice sounds, and I absolutely hate that I hated it, and I hated the way that a voice like mine was usually hated. It’s a hamster-cycle of hate, only here the proverbial hamster (read: me) was running on a wheel of increasing decibels.

It’s the same as shrinking away from something that is even remotely effeminate -— including pink linen shirts, Cosmopolitans and peroxide hair — but what are we so afraid of? To sound like ourselves, or to be ourselves? Generations of (gay) men have cleared their throats, deepened their voices and raised their walls so that they could reek of everyone’s favourite perfume.

Toxic Masculinity, by you. I wore it proudly myself.

And then everything changed a few months ago.

I was meeting a few friends for a reunion halfway across town. It was a champagne-fuelled brunch, and everyone (including me) was buzzed and giggling, as people at champagne-fueled brunches are wont to. There were kids running around and playing with their tablets, like kids are wont to. In the midst of an extremely ribald joke that I am not very proud of, one of my friend’s kids tugged at my trousers. It was a little boy in blue, holding a tablet in one hand, and a Transformer doll in the other.

‘Why does your voice sound like a girl?’ the little child asked me curiously. I’ve never really liked little children — they are cocky, brash and solely rely on their cuteness to get away with inappropriate things — sort of like the quintessential f**kboy, only two decades younger. Call it an occupational hazard of being a gay person.

But yet, it had come back, the fear — it had followed me all the way out of every classroom and playground, and come back to haunt me almost two decades later. I felt like I was in school all over again. My facades went up, just like my voice had a few moments ago.

“Because that’s how my voice sounds when I am drunk,’ I said to him shamelessly, ‘It’s my happy voice! Your mum has one as well!’ (Sue me for being scathing.) We all laughed aloud, because it was all in good humour, but the mother avoided me for the rest of the evening. I compensated for her absence with three extra mimosas. (Side note: The mother wasn’t that close a friend, so the jabs were all well founded.)

But that’s when it struck me. People might say it is not, but my voice is gay (but not in the derogatory slur kind of way, but in a more empowering sort of way), just like the rest of me. Let’s get it straight. Do you know what you sound like when you laugh at someone for having ‘the’ gay voice?

An asshole.

Just like the fact that people come in all shapes and sizes, voices come in multiple octaves and tones. Some men sound like a double measure of single malt, some men sound like fingernails on a blackboard. Some men sound like twittering birds, some men sound like mean tweets by trolls. We are all born with our vocal chords, just like we are born with our sexuality.

And it’s high time we learn to deal with it.

At least I plan to. If it’s a dead giveaway that I am gay, so what? I think being a homosexual is pretty cool. I’ve got too much to say, and that is exactly why I won’t stop talking.

And neither should you.