I'm gay -- and that's OKAY: A coming out story
In a country that still fails to accept homosexuality, 20-year-old Gladwyn Jones speaks about love knowing no gender and his experience of coming out of the closet.
I have some really fond memories of my childhood days. They were certainly the best days of my life and sometimes, I wish I could relive them all over again.
I was good in studies and knew how to balance my studies with games. I also always managed to rank among the first ten in class.
As a kid, I was much into church work like choir singing, alter services and mission work. I loved to be the reason for someone's smile. Simple things used to make me happy. I didn't have money to buy myself games and my parents didn't indulge me too much. So I went to those second-hand sales that were held in one of the chapels for the orphanages and buy games for less than Rs 50! I still enjoy reading books and listening to music.
I'm an extrovert and find it quite easy to make friends.
Image: Gladwyn Jones (left) with his partner Peter
Photographs: Courtesy YouthIncMag
My school life was great. My best friend and I were responsible for many events in our school and our teacher called us the pillars of our school.
My best friend was gay and I didn't know that for a long time until he himself came out and told me that he happens to be attracted to men. I actually tried to tell him that being gay is wrong and he should come out of it. I said all of this well knowing that I was gay too. But I never liked myself, since it was propounded in church that homosexuality is a sin. I believed in the church since it has taught me to help others in need and to be humble.
Yet, I never told anyone about being gay. I hated myself and never wanted to get married since I didn't want to spoil another woman's life just to save my skin.
I knew I liked men from the time I entered adolescence. I just never knew that this attraction was termed 'gay' till my friend enlightened me about his sexual preferences. It was only when he was about to leave for the US that I told him that I was gay too. I must have been 18 years old at the time.
Soon, I joined gay social sites and made like-minded friends. I felt nice around them since I could just be myself. Gradually, I emerged from hating myself to loving myself. My turning point was when I was told, "God is perfect and what He creates is perfect. He has made you and hence you are perfect".
Image: A gay parade in Delhi
Photographs: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Reuters
On coming out of the closet
I fell in love with Peter on a trip to Goa. He told me never to say no when anyone asks you whether you are gay because if you do, you end up living in denial.
When I returned to Mumbai, my parents would often question me as to why I frequently met this guy. "Are you guys like husband and wife?" they would joke. And it was then that Peter's words came back to me. I responded to them saying that I was gay.
While my mum started crying, my dad was shocked. Of course, they didn't bring up the topic for a while since they thought it was just a phase and that I would soon come out of it.
On December 24, 2010, Peter put a ring on my finger. I have no words to express that beautiful moment in my life! I never thought I would get engaged, that too in a society that considered homosexuality a big sin (and crime). My ring gave me the strength to tell everyone about my sexuality.
For starters, I updated my status on Facebook saying that I was gay and uploaded pictures of Peter and myself. This was my 'social coming out'.
After taking such a brave step, I turned chicken when I was about to enter college. But Peter's courageous words once again rang through my head and I went ahead without being afraid. To my surprise, not a single person teased me but, to my surprise, congratulated me! In fact, my close friends were angry that I didn't tell them before. They, of course, were very understanding when I explained why I couldn't come out to them earlier.
Image: A woman holds a sign during a parade for gays and lesbian rights
Photographs: Arko Dutta/Reuters
An unforgettable incident
There was this particular boy in college who for some reason I thought would tease me and make fun of me in front of everyone. On the contrary, he came up to me and told me not to worry about a thing. He said that he was extremely proud of me for being so brave and open about my sexuality. He even went on to say that if anyone teased me, he would deal with them.
I was touched by his kind words and felt fortunate to have such gems around me. My circle of friends are quite excited and curious to know when Peter and I plan to get married. The future definitely looks bright.
Image: Men celebrate the court ruling over gay sex during a rally in Mumbai July 2, 2009
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters
Society in general is against homosexuality, right? But is there a concrete or valid reason for this? Is it that bad being different?
I haven't really faced any serious challenges, but many of my friends who are gay are going through a tough time. It's sad to see that their own parents, relatives and friends have shunned them and even hate them just for loving someone of the same sex.
Homosexual people have been present in the world since the beginning of time. I believe that awareness is a very important thing and that's the reason why I don't mind sharing my story. I do hope that everyone who reads this finds it to be of some help. One of my friends once said to me, "One may love lilies, one may love roses and one may love pansies. So, really, what is the problem?"
Photographs: Kurt Lowenstein Educational Center International Team, Germany/Wikimedia Commons