Nakshatra Bagwe (23) is a filmmaker and actor
I was 16 when I sat down in an Internet café and typed the words “I am a boy and I like boys” into Google. Until then I’d never heard of the term ‘gay’ and had no clue what it meant.
My teenage years were spent in a small village in Maharashtra. When I was 16 I first started noticing that I had strong feelings for a boy I knew. It was more than a feeling of friendship. I did everything to be close to him. I studied his moves and wanted to be his best friend. It confused me, because I’d never felt like this about a girl.
Without telling my parents anything about my feelings, I left our village. I needed to discover myself. And I realized that a village without internet or even electricity wasn’t the place where I would find my answers.
It was a relief to find out there was a word for how I felt. In Mumbai I discovered there were more people like me. I had never minded feeling different. Being gay made sense in a way because of my rebellious nature. But I wasn’t sure at all about how my parents would feel.
My dad, being a banker in a small village, was perceived as a god. And my mum, with a background in politics, was never afraid to give her opinion. It wasn’t going to be easy to tell them.
It took me a year to sit down with my parents over dinner and tell them about my preference for men. Thought I felt nervous, I also felt that they loved me enough not to throw me out of the house. I had kept the secret long enough, it was time to get this burden off my back.
Sadness and relief
I said, “I like boys” and everyone stopped eating. My mum’s first reaction was harsh. “Why didn’t you die when you were born?” she said.
We never finished that dinner, everyone got up. I locked myself in my room and cried. But to be honest, it wasn’t only out of sadness. I felt relieved too, because I had finally told them the truth.
I was right, my parents didn’t kick me out of the house. But they never spoke about it either. They wanted me to focus on my studies, they said, and left me alone. We did make one agreement. I wouldn’t publicly be gay until I’d finished my studies. I think deep down they hoped I was going through a phase and would grow out of it.
A year before I was allowed to be publicly gay I broke the promise. Asia’s first LGBT flashmob was hosted in Mumbai. I love to dance and just had to be a part of it. Because of my skills they gave me a spot to dance in the front row, dead centre. The next day India’s largest national newspaper ran a big colour picture of the flashmob with me standing at the front. I was officially out of the closet now.
Last year I produced a short movie about what it’s like to be gay in India. The movie won an award at an international movie festival. The night I came home with my trophy my mother was waiting for me. In the same dining room where I had my coming out five years before, she told me how proud she was of me.