Thousands of Mosques, Churches and Gurudwaras glare in your face at every bend of Indian streets establishing a resolute presence on the map of our society. These minorities in a Hindu majority country have permeated into an ever evolving culture weaving a seamless fabric. They may be small in numbers but they are largely visible: they have entrenched their existence through a series of enduring landmarks and indelible impression on the Indian Culture. However, this privilege does not extend to all minority groups. What shrine do we build to mark the presence of an LGBT community?

The problem of the LGBT community throughout history has been that of visibility. Because they were ostracized by societies, the community chose to hide amidst the majority by wearing the same bland outfit as everyone else. Those who dared to paint themselves pink, did so in forbidden ghettos or between costume changes when no one was noticing. Yes! Gay men, lesbians, transgenders have existed since the dawn of humanity. You just didn’t see them.

Let me tell you my story. My self-awareness began when I was at the threshold of adulthood. Even while I was discovering the reality of the ‘vulgarity’ that is sex, I desired a firm arm, rock hard chest and a deep voice to hold me and say ‘I Love You’ and repeat it every day. Teenage is a difficult time for all, but for a few like me it is barbaric. All the outside voices synchronized to silence those inner desires. Imagine living in the middle of such conflict every day for 9 years; to wear an undersized outfit for so long that your soul begins to shrink and wither. Over the years, the conflict only gathered more allies on either sides rather than subside. It was a conflict between desire and duties, a conflict between righteousness and hypocrisy, science versus belief, fulfillment versus compromise and the list goes on. While I struggled alone, others like me stayed in their camouflaging costumes or were conspiringly kept out of common knowledge.

Towards the end of my teens the formidable and unmerciful world had forced me to compromise for a life of dejection and discontent. To my relief, this disquiet did not last long; for it was on one of those days that I strayed into the forbidden ghetto and found solace and joy. It was the backroom of the world where my existence wasn’t shunned upon, where the voices were in sync and for the first time I had friends with similar stories.

I continued to live in the outside world for a while, making frequent visits to the ghettos. But like a Bollywood movie, there were some more twists awaiting down the road. I was spotted making these visits and confronted, at which I began to spin a web of lies and deception so thick, that after a point, no joy could penetrate it. I then decided to clear out the web and discard my costume once and for all.

You see, I had felt freedom with my hands; I had seen happiness, content and acceptance up close and I did not want to hide anymore. As I began to shed my disguise, people began to notice, some even discarded their own. Having loved me for the person I was, some continued to love me regardless of the truth while others empathized with my struggle and found goodwill. That is how I brought about a change; a change in people around me, who care enough and love me. Inadvertently, I had erected a shrine for the community at the end of my street.

Shivayogi Gajare
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