Sunday, June 29, 2008

Delhi Pride

Yesterday I missed a huge event here in Delhi. It was the first gay pride ever in the city (at least what I am seeing from some news reports). Normally I am not a fan of pride, probably due to the fact that I have lived most of my adult life in very accepting places like Laguna Beach, Denver, New York and the Netherlands. Gay pride was just another reason for people to pour onto the streets, get overly drunk and make passes at people they wouldn’t talk to any other day of the year. I also have always felt that gay pride tends to work against the community. For years, at least in the US, there were always the arguments from gay people saying how they/we were “just like everybody else” and then when they have the television cameras pointed at them, and the uneducated public watching, so many people go out of their way to show that they are not at all like everyone else. Then they spent the rest of the year whining and complaining about how they are treated different. Shows like “Ellen”, “Will and Grace”, and “Sex and the City” started showing gay people being just like everybody else.

There is a very long way for India to go. I was talking to a gay Indian friend of mine the other day, asking him if his family knew. He told me his family doesn’t even know what it means. I think that is true for a lot of people in India. It’s here, but people don’t know about it. They don’t know what it means. As far as I have seen, and I am happy to be wrong, is that it is somewhat “accepted” if a young guy fools around with his guy friends, as long as he gets married and has children. I have met a lot of these men here. It makes me sad. They spend their lives hiding a secret and I can’t even begin to imagine how terrified they must be that someone may find out. And I am not talking about poor uneducated people living in isolation someplace. I am talking about people running their own businesses, heading up companies, people that are respected in the community. I know that happens everywhere. It almost happened to me.

Between the ages of thirteen and twenty one, I didn’t know what gay was. I didn’t know I was gay. The only gay people I saw were the really flamboyant ones like Liberace, guys like Freddie Mercury, cross dressers that would appear on talk shows or the really girly types shown in movies. I didn’t relate to them. I didn’t see myself in them and so came to the conclusion I was not gay. I didn’t know any gay people and I knew that I could never, ever tell anyone. I was very confused and frustrated and I felt so isolated and alone. I had absolutely nowhere to turn. I turned to religion and spent hours each day praying that it would go away. I spent hours each day reading the bible trying to figure out what was wrong with me and how to fix it. And each time I would have a thought, I would hate myself more for it. I didn’t know what was going on, but I hated it, whatever it was and I was determined it would not happen to me. I forced myself to date girls and when I got older, started talks of marriage and children. How it all worked out is for other blog entries. But the reason I mention it here is that I know how significant of a step this is for people in Delhi, in India and in other countries where gay people are treated as non people. I wish I had been a part of it. I wish I had been there to cheer people on.

The turnout yesterday was only a few hundred or so, but from what I have heard, there were no protests and there was no violence. I heard that masks were provided for people that weren’t out yet and that a lot of people chose not to wear them. I also read that the musicians had basically no idea in what they were participating, they were just there to make music. India has a long way to go, and while my friends that are married and my friends with children may not ever know what it is like to live in a place where they don’t have to lie, pretend or live in fear of someone discovering their secret, perhaps their children or grandchildren will. Perhaps this will help one confused person know they are not alone, know they are not a freak, know that they are normal.

If I am in India next year, I will be there. I will stand with my friends who have never experienced the freedoms I have had. Gay pride in India is not about the party it has become in other places, it is not even about gay rights or gay equality, it is about human rights. Human equality. I have had a few issues with being in India and being back in the closet to a point. It is hard, but nowhere near as hard as what so many other people go through. I have a choice. I can stay here, I can move away. I can be out without any family drama and I have great friends who are always cheering me on.

This is definately one huge step in a very important direction.

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