Imran Khan, 30, lives in Delhi.
Lockdowns are not new to us, we’ve suffered these kinds of lockdowns for a long time now. We have even been looking for employment for years. My dream was to become a teacher, for which I fought tooth and nail. I completed my education, took the necessary exams to become a teacher and started applying for jobs in schools.
In 2016, I got a job at a famous school in Okhla. The principal interviewed me and I was hired. I trained for three days and lived up to the expectations of my senior teachers. But as soon as the officer in charge saw me, he asked me to come into his office. I walked in and was greeted with a disturbing question.
‘Are you gay?’ was his first question. Before I could answer, he bombarded me with questions. ‘You speak somewhat like a woman. Why did you become a teacher? You should’ve gone into the fashion industry or media. Your behaviour could have a negative impact on our children’.
‘Sir, I have trained for three days. Senior teachers are impressed with my teaching skills and I am happy that children were engaged when I was teaching’. I tried to reason with him, but he was really infuriated and refused to hire me.
The night shift
Disappointed and tired, I picked up a job at a call centre. My experience there affected me both emotionally and physically. I still don’t know why being gay meant that we were hungry for sex.
From guards to my co-workers, the advances and comments they made were awful. I started to hate myself for being gay. Our work is underestimated, people make fun of us and they think we are always available for sex. There are many others like me who have accepted this as their destiny.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, I decided to leave my job. I started taking tuitions at home and earned a living through it. Working from home in a way was a way out for me to stop interacting with the world outside because I wanted to avoid any unpleasant comments. Taking tuitions helped me earn enough money for food and medicines.
But then with the Coronavirus pandemic, things changed. Parents stopped sending their children for tuitions, which was my only source of income.
From bad to worse
Earlier the situation was bad, but now it has only gotten worse. There have been nights where I had to sleep without dinner. The last time I used milk or milk products was in February 2020.
Now, if the ration is distributed somewhere, I feel lucky to get my hands on any. I feel weak physically. I just don’t have enough to survive. That’s the reality.
I have been struggling mentally and emotionally. I only have a few relationships with people outside of the family. Some of them left Delhi while others who were around preferred not meeting because of the pandemic.
Everyone has someone or the other. Those who call themselves ‘normal’ have a wife or a husband, as well as children. They have a family. But where do I go?
The need for love
The taunts and teasing from people that included my family and coworkers made me aloof and the lockdown due to Corona made it worse. Whenever I cry, I am told, ‘stay strong Imran, don’t get emotional’.
I deserved a better childhood. I deserved love, care and respect. I deserved to have a job that helped me take care of myself. I did not get any of these. No matter how old we are, we always long for the love and support of our parents. And when we do not have such a presence in our lives, we start looking for our support elsewhere.
The Coronavirus pandemic has taken my employment away from me. It took away my relationships which helped me feel strong. Today, I don’t have a shoulder to cry on. At present, I feel I am not really living my life. I am simply existing.
It has been more than two years since homosexuality was declared legal in India and Section 377 was abolished. However, life is still hard for individuals and couples from the LGBTQIA+ community, as they do not enjoy the same rights and freedoms as heterosexual and cisgender people. For them, the fight is still on. So to mark the International Pride Month 2021, Love Matters India will publish a series of stories to highlight the LGBTQIA+ struggle for equal rights on issues such as marriage, adoption, insurance, inheritance, social acceptance as well as livelihood. #JungJaariHai
To protect the identity, the person in the picture is a model.