Krishna, a 40-year-old lawyer from Pune, knew he is queer when he was 19. He had been living his queer life since then. However, as is the custom in Indian families, when he completed his LLB and got a better job in a law firm, he was pressurised to get married. He did not think much and selected a girl from the proposals he had been receiving. Little did he know that he would one day screw his happiness.
Krisha and his wife were blessed with a baby boy, who is now 7-years-old. Krishna’s married life seems blissful from the outside, but Krishna has been suffering a lot, and that too all alone. He lost interest in his married life. After three years of marriage, he was blessed with a child but he believes it happened because he and his wife live together, not out of love. “I thought I won’t reveal my sexuality to anyone and get married and enjoy two lives at a time- the married life and the queer life,” says Krishna.
However, because of his mistake of not refusing to get married, he is now an unhappy man who is suffering all alone. His wife is forcing him to plan a second child, but Krishna has lost interest in his wife. He does not get aroused with his wife, no matter how hard he tries. “I try everything from watching porn to foreplaying with my wife, but it doesn’t happen. I don’t feel anything. On the other hand, when I am with any man, I am at the peak of my sexual desire. I enjoy sharing the bed with men,” revealed Krishna.
He sometimes plans to reveal his sexuality to his wife because he can’t take it anymore, but he is scared. “I cry a lot when I am alone. I feel sad. I can’t focus on my work. But I can’t reveal my sexuality to my family since I know I will not be accepted and consequences may be worse than what I imagine,” added Krishna. “I curse myself for not standing up for my sexuality and refusing to get married. Society is also equally to be blamed because if society would be aware and gave the freedom to choose, I would have not got married in the first place,” said Krishna.
Krishna is not the only one. There are many who despite knowing their sexuality deprioritise it because of social stigma and non-awareness about the LGBTQ community and get married. Few years down the line, they suffer alone or their marriages gets called off. Moreover, they also affect the life of married spouse and children.
Shruti, from a city in Uttar Pradesh (she refused to mention the city name) always wanted to be an independent woman. She finished college and then was forcefully married, despite her refusal for the same. She had two reasons to refuse marriage – she wanted to be independent and she is a lesbian.
She got married and was asked to take care of her husband and in-laws by sacrificing her dreams. “I could have compromised my dream of becoming an independent woman once, however, how can I ignore my sexuality and suffer all my life?” She sought divorce within a year on the pretext of studying further and became independent, against the wishes of her husband and in-laws.
“It was frustrating, but eventually it was done and I was relieved. I had to fight with my parents and my in-laws. But I did not let them know that I am lesbian because the situation could have been worse because of their mentality and non-acceptance of my sexuality,” revealed Shruti.
Shruti moved to Delhi and started working. Now she stays alone and earns enough to send some money to her parents and also manages her expenses. “Initially, my parents were not happy with my decision. But as they started receiving money and with the passage of time, they are now happy with me,” added Shruti. She doesn’t think it is important to come out because she is living her life anyway without any hurdles.
Many gays and lesbians get married and live dual lives. However, very few manage both lives with happiness. Even if they are managing both straight married and queer lives, they are risking their spouse with sexual diseases. “Although you are managing both lives, you are sleeping with other people which may cause sexual diseases and you may transfer them to your spouse. This means you are giving your spouse diseases while enjoying your queer life. You have to be very cautious if you want to live both lives,” said Hemangi Mhaprolkar, a clinical psychologist who specialises in issues faced by the LGBT community.
A queer man from Chennai called Aishwar shared his life and said that although he is managing both lives, he is happier and feels solace with men rather than his wife. “Moreover, it’s frustrating as your attention gets diverted. First, we spend time on dating apps to find a suitable person, which is time-consuming, and then spend time making love. Most of the time after office and on weekends that should be spent with wife and children is gone in living my queer life. It will of course affect my married life,” says Aishwar.
Moreover, living dual lives is also considered cheating on your spouse. “How can you sleep around with other people and also with your spouse whom you promised loyalty and togetherness in every situation. You have to choose one life from the two-either queer life or heterosexual married life,” said Jatin of Awadh Queer group, Lucknow.
Many gay men and lesbian women in India get married under social pressure, locking them in unhappy marriages, sometimes with tragic outcomes. The figure can be high—nearly 70% of gay men in Mumbai and 80% in smaller cities across Maharashtra, according to a 2009 survey conducted by Mumbai-based non-governmental organization (NGO) Humsafar Trust.
Many queer people opt for Marriage of Convenience, also known as MOC. In MOC a queer man gets married to a queer woman. They both mutually discuss that they will live their queer life individually without interference and the marriage is just an event, not out of love.
They do this to please family and society, to show that they are living a heterosexual married life. “However, the marriage of convenience does not work as planned. Because everyone comes with their baggage. Anyone from both partners can blackmail the other partner and anything can go wrong. Nobody wants his or her partner sleeping around with other people even if the marriage is out of convenience. It won’t work and I won’t suggest anyone for MOC. There are many other and better ways to deal with marriage pressure on queer people,” cautioned Hemangi.
“Queer people think they can get away from the societal pressure by opting for a marriage of convenience and lead a happy life, but, they fail to understand that MOC hampers the ultimate purpose of life- (happiness),” added Hemangi.
If you are queer and married, living both lives means you are doing wrong in some way or the other, that is the reason it is important to prioritise your sexuality before you get married. Here are a few pieces of advice from psychologists, LGBTQ activists and people belonging to the community as to how to handle marriage pressure.
Coming out is an option:
Queer people think that to delay or refuse marriage, they have to come out. But, marriage can be delayed without even coming out. You can delay or refuse on the pretext of higher studies, wanting to settle down first or – “Simply by saying you don’t want to get married because you can not or do not want to handle the married life responsibilities and want to spend life all alone. Even many straight people don’t get married because of their own priorities,” said Megha Nandi, who is a graphic designer and LGBTQ+ activist from Lucknow.
Hiding your sexuality doesn’t mean you are not proud or accepting of it, it is because society is not so accepting and you don’t want to face homophobic consequences if things can be settled down with ease. On the other hand, if you think coming out is the better way because your family has no problem with it, then you can come out.
Be financially independent
You can only be privileged to choose what you want when you are financially independent. In Indian society, finance is a way of somewhat controlling decisions and life. If you are dependent on your family financially you will have to do what your family asks you to. “Financial independence gives you the freedom to live your life the way you want to. I know many gay, lesbian and transgender who got acceptance in their families because they are supporting the family financially and managing their own expenses,” told Mannu, who works with Humsafar Trust in Delhi.
Explore your sexuality better:
Many a times, people get married without knowing and exploring their sexuality enough. After a couple of months or years of married life, they get frustrated and lose happiness in life. “It is better to explore one’s sexuality and gather as much information as possible about different sexualities. This helps to make better decisions in life and also helps to avoid ruining anyone’s life because of your sexuality,” says Physiologist Hemangi.
The best way to deal with marriage pressure, if none of the above works, is to stay separately on the pretext of anything. When you live separately, you have the freedom to enjoy queer life without questions from your family. “Once you start living separately from your family most of your problems will be resolved, even marriage pressure. However, you have to be financially independent to do that because you can’t run away from supporting your parents financially, especially when they are in need,” suggested Megha.
Note: Names of some people who are interviewed for this article have been changed to hide their identities.