André Jennings, a student of University of Maryland University College and a gay South Asian activist, talks to Ravi Batra, a fellow South Asian gay activist and graduate from Georgia State University about what it means to be gay and South Asian in America
I met dashingly handsome and gorgeous eyed Ravi Batra, about a year ago on twitter. Little did I know; he would become one of my closest friends. We met on a warm summer’s day, sat down over some homemade chai and a warm batch of jalebi, and had a great chat about being gay and South Asian American.
André : Namaste Ravi, tell me and the readers a little bit about you!
Ravi : I am Ravi Batra, 24, born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. I recently graduated from Georgia State University with a biology degree and plan to pursue a career in healthcare. I ultimately would like to become a physician assistant and for now I am going to nursing school to become a registered nurse. I am a humanitarian and activist and hope to see change in my life.
André : How do you feel the LGBT community treats South Asian gays?
Ravi : Well, I have only encountered racism once with this “twink-ish” talking about curry and going back to my country. And this friend who I think was just joking around but comparing me to a Muslim. I know he is welcoming of all faiths and cultures though so I know he was joking. However, I think that it has to do with how they were raised and not that they were LGBT.
André : Makes sense, do you think it’s harder being gay and Desi in America than India?
Ravi : No, I think it’s a lot easier actually due to the fact that in India, people are even more harshly discriminated. Not saying everywhere, it is mostly the rural areas. However, I think gays in India are probably a lot different than South Asian Americans who are gay, because it’s a different culture there. Here there is a melting pot of cultures interacting, whereas there it is primarily just Indian culture having influences.
André : What was your coming out experience, and did you experience any backlash from friends or family?
Ravi : (You can show my video if you want for that) I don’t know if backlash is the right word. My mom was really upset and still struggles with it, but she is starting to respect it. I think my dad is supportive though for the most part. We don’t really talk about it much but. My mom is more comfortable with it, but my dad says he doesn’t understand it and is not trying too.
André : Working with HRC (Human Rights Campaign) , what advice would you give other gay desis to become comfortable with their sexuality and coming out?
Ravi : I would ask them to seek out other gay desis and understand that they’re not alone. At first I felt very unique (sometimes I still do) in being the whole South Asian American who is gay. There were other gay Indians that I knew about but they were either immigrants to America or more into Indian subculture than me. Then I started exploring more and meeting other individuals similar to myself and was able to discuss our experiences and it helped me a lot.
André : In the media, we rarely see a South Asian gay male, how do you feel about this?
Ravi : It is true, but in the media we barely see South Asian at all. They are just now beginning to come up with Aziz Ansari and Jay Sean, to list just a couple. So although it sucks that the diversity is still little, I think that there is still some time.
André : Do you agree or disagree with the statement “Being gay is not for white people, being gay doesn’t make less a South Asian!”
Ravi : Lol, I don’t understand, what does being gay have to do with race? Although some races have their LGBT sub community from sub culture, I don’t think the statement is referring to that.
André : It was a statement by another desi writer, he said all he saw was white gay males and felt that he being desi and gay wasn’t right because of what he saw on TV.
Ravi : Ooh okay, I say no, I never felt that way
André : Do you feel being American and South Asian we have a harder time with self perception and body image? Being a little bit more hairy etc..?
Ravi : OMG!! Yes, for the longest time. I felt like I needed to shave my body to get guys to like me. I felt like the media portrayed the “white skinny twink” as the preferred male of sexual interest. It wasn’t until I started meeting people who are more communicative about their interest in hairy men, and getting a scruff for a few months then. I realized that it was the media that portrayed that; and that I am beautiful the way I am. I don’t need to shave or be underweight to find love.
André : OMG, I am going to start crying! You are very beautiful! Have you experienced more racism or hetero-sexism than homophobia for being gay and desi?
Ravi : I haven’t had much of a problem of either actually. I grew up in a diverse area. Although I was a minority for a few years at my middle and high school, there were other Indians. And there were one or two gays. I always met people, though they were gay I didn’t feel any less great being who I am. When I came out in high school, I actually felt superior because I was unique and different. I was more a nerd than an outward gay guy. But I didn’t experience much homophobia or hetero-sexism. When I got to Georgia State it was even better. Everyone at my school was so welcoming of me being gay.
André : Wow we have so much in common both of us came out in high school, but I did the whole desi move and said I was bi, but a few months after I came out as gay.
Ravi : Haha!! I did that too.
André : Haha really! It’s an easy way out
Ravi : Lol. Exactly!
André : Even after coming out do you feel the pressure to get married?
Ravi : Yes, very much so! I have to figure out how to avoid that.
André : Have you ever thought of marrying a lesbian? They have these dating websites in China for gay men and lesbians to marry for their family?
Ravi : Lol. It was a passing thought, as a joke, but not seriously. No! I want to marry a man. I want to show a man; my public commitment to our monogamous love.
André : Awww, I do want a big shaadi, with lots of colors and maybe an elephant or two. How would you like the future of gaysi to be?
Ravi : I think I want the future of gay desis to be able to talk about homosexuality without taboo, for it to show up in movies not as a parody but genuine love and part of society. I want Indians, especially Hindus, to realize that Hinduism does not condemn homosexuality but welcomes love of all kinds.
André : Who is your favorite movie and actors?
Ravi : Hmm… favorite movies are Mean Girls, Easy A, Lol and Devil Wears Prada! Actress is I guess Emma Stone and Anne Hathaway.
André : Thank you for your time, where can people contact you to know more about you?
Ravi : My Facebook, twitter, and tumblr are all zzravizz. And by email ravihrcAtlanta@gmail.com