Rohit, 24, is a student.
Together as friends
Many gay couples dream to live the life that Ankur and I were living in Bangalore. All our friends and colleagues knew about us. We attended various events as a couple. We appeared in a music video and ran our own Instagram account. Our life was truly amazing. But this golden era of our life came to an end when we came to Delhi in March 2020.
Ankur and I have known each other for a long time now. My family also knew about him. However, Ankur had not come out to his parents. After spending months discussing pros and cons, he decided the best way to do it would be if I accompanied him on a trip to meet his grandparents, who live in Shamli, a town in Uttar Pradesh.
He wanted them to get to know me, as a friend, so it wouldn’t be a complete shock when we would come out to them as a couple eventually. Things went okay at his grandparent’s house and before we could rejoice in the moment, something happened. On our way back to Delhi, Ankur received a phone call from his father. He picked up the call and what I heard was truly revolting.
Ankur’s father was verbally abusing him and was very angry. ‘Let me see how you give birth to that gay’s children and breastfeed them’. Ankur disconnected the call in revulsion and we returned home. However, we could not get his words out of our minds. He too kept calling him everyday.
Exposed by social media
While Ankur’s father was busy hurling insults at him every day, his grandfather informed us that one of Ankur’s cousins had found a few of our YouTube videos, where we had mentioned that we were a couple and living together. The video spread like wildfire in his village and Ankur’s entire family, including the cousins, who had abused and teased him during his childhood, reached his grandparents’ house.
I deleted all our videos but it was of no use now. The damage was done. In one of the videos, we had mentioned that we wished to adopt a child. I could now understand the abuse Ankur’s father hurled at him on the call.
Ankur’s cousins continued to instigate his parents. ‘If he keeps kissing men, no girl will ever want to marry him.’ Taunts had become a daily affair.
His father grew increasingly concerned about his reputation and called him to hurl more abuses. ‘Why did you do this to our family? People are laughing at me because of you. I am not able to step out of my house. Villagers have started calling me ‘father of a hijra’, he roared.
Ankur was overwhelmed and retorted, ‘Tell them I am not your son!’
His father started calling him every day. One day he began to cry on the phone. ‘I want to see you, Ankur. I will die if you don’t come to Shamli to see me. I’ll drink poison and write on my death note that you are responsible for my death.’
On another call, his father threatened to kill him if he did not return to the village.
Ankur burst into tears and spoke to his grandfather, who asked him not to come to the village under any condition. ‘We are all with you. We won’t let him kill you. You need not come to Shamli. Now, you stop crying. Be bold,’ his grandfather advised.
Ankur had always been close to his grandparents, but his grandfather’s consoling words fell on deaf ears. He was scared, frightened and depressed.
Marriage or treatment
Meanwhile, Ankur’s mother called us and asked about some Instagram photos that one of the cousins had shown her. Ankur’s mother was by his side until now because she believed that we were just friends. We assured her that we were not a couple, but now, it seemed, even his mother began doubting us.
‘Even if you are gay, let us get you married to a woman, and get you treated. You being gay doesn’t mean you won’t marry a woman, right?’ she told him. Ankur had no idea how to make his mother understand. She then informed Ankur that his father was going to visit him in Delhi and had asked for our address. We did not share the details for obvious reasons.
On the day Ankur's father was planning to visit, his mother called again. We thought she would pester us for our address. But, to our astonishment, she cautioned us and told us not to pick up any phone calls.
‘Satish and your father have come to Delhi and I suspect that it is to harm you and Rohit. They are staying in Mayur Vihar. Be careful’, she said.
Ankur blocked his father’s number but his father continued to call from different numbers throughout the day.
The lockdown challenge
Both of us were extremely scared and were constantly receiving threats from villagers and members of Ankur’s family. I then contacted one of my friends at the Humsafar Trust for help. He put me in touch with a lawyer, who we could not meet in person because of the Coronavirus pandemic. We explained the entire situation to him over the phone but the solutions he suggested were not feasible.
This entire situation has caused us a lot of distress and the only way that we can escape it is to leave the country. We know it is not easy but we are ready to do anything to escape this toxic mess. We reached out to a few organisations that help people LGBTQ+ asylum in other countries that are comparatively safer. However, they have not been able to help us because of the pandemic and have asked us to wait until the Covid crisis gets over.
We have left Delhi and are living discreetly until the pandemic gets over. We will then do everything possible to leave this country. The law may have made our relationship legal but the fight to live as a gay couple is far from over. Until then we have no option but to escape.
To protect the identity, the person in the picture is a model and names have been changed.
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 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
About the author: Mohit is a researcher who writes about gender, sexuality, education and love. You can find him on Instagram.