Confessions of a Punekar: What’s it Like to be Gay in Pune?

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“Oh, you’re GAY?”

How come no one asks “OH, you’re STRAIGHT?” with an expression of shock on their face and eyes popping out. How come straight people never have to declare they are straight. How come they don’t have to come out to their parent’s as “straight”. Why is it assumed? Even the terminology is all wrong… if you are ‘straight’ and I’m not, what does that say about me? The word ‘queer’ literally translates to ‘odd’!

Strangely enough, Section 377 never bothered me. Yes, it should be removed on grounds of inequality but I never really thought of going for a march or learning more about it. Going to a boy’s school, same sex washrooms, and same sex changing rooms definitely caused a great amount of discomfort. It would have definitely helped to have a “MEN & WOMEN” option and I would have never had to pretend to hate the gym. Yet, even this conforming to a gender type was the lesser of two evils.

The bigger problem lay in the assumption and stereotyping of genders that sent a message that being gay is not normal. Growing up I was taught not to take interest in things like embroidery or making roti’s, because ‘boys don’t do that.’ I was always taught that it was not okay to like what I liked. So when I grew up and I wanted to take up arts, I never had the courage to tell my parents so. Being told “you can’t because you’re a boy” would have broken me.


Unfortunately, even the LGBT community of Pune seems to share this kind of mind-set. People aren’t open about their sexuality, making it difficult to meet people or date in Pune. Online dating is hardly an option, because people are only looking to get laid and have no interest in a meaningful relationship. Their profiles only talk about what they like physically, what kind of sexual interests they have and most profile pictures are only of their body or privates. It’s sad to see that they themselves use derogatory terms like girly and pansy and most of the feminine men are willing to be treated like slaves. It seems, that gender fluidity exists only when it comes to satisfying their sex drive and is otherwise ignored. If we as a community don’t accept ourselves, how will the rest of the world?

I always knew I was gay, that was the easy part. The most difficult part has been overcoming this mental conditioning that had set in through society’s subtle messages. 27 years is how long it’s taken me to realize that there is NOTHING WRONG with me. There is no ideal community in the world where gender discrimination and stereotyping does not exist, so there’s no way I would have escaped this inner turmoil. I will agree though, that a more accepting environment would have contributed, and maybe my 27 years of struggle would have reduced.

I’m in a much better place now, and if there’s anyone reading this that is going through the same thing, I’d like to say that the approval and validation you’re seeking has to come from within YOU. I would have also wanted to punch the person saying these words at the age of 16 or 17, but they’re true. You may have accepted that you’re different, but you must also accept that there’s nothing wrong with you. They stare not because you’re different, but because they are uncomfortable, and that is not YOUR problem. Stay strong.

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