Vibhor Sen tells Divya Nair/Rediff.com about the struggles he faced before he finally accepted his sexuality.
Photograph*: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters
LGBTQIA is an umbrella term that covers lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersexual and asexual individuals.
Vibhor Sen, 25, who lives in Bengaluru and works at an IT firm, identifies himself as asexual -- a person who has no sexual feelings or desires.
This, in his own words, is his story:
I was always effeminate as a child. I never realised it but it came naturally to me.
In school, I was often teased about my behaviour.
My mama (maternal uncle) would come home and joke, "You look like a girl... Why are you walking like a girl?'
My friends would say, 'You have such extravagant expressions... like a girl's.'
Whenever my mama made fun of me, I'd ignore him.
But there came a time when it went beyond that. I didn't realise what he was doing to me until I was 16.
When I realised I was being molested, I wanted to protest, to tell my parents.
I hated what he was doing to me, but I thought about his family, his kids, and I kept quiet.
Those days, I was always scared he'd do something to me.
Whenever he came home, I'd cocoon myself in a blanket and pretend I was asleep.
I wouldn't pop my head out of the blanket until I was sure he'd gone away.
It (the abuse) continued for years, but I could never bring myself to alert my mother.
Outside (my home), boys would abuse me.
It was a traumatic phase. I couldn't tell anyone.
I was a rebel, but I had no friends who could understand what I was going through.
I became shy, introverted. But I never felt I should change.
I was 16 when I heard Lady Gaga's song Born This Way.
The lyrics, -- 'There's nothing wrong with loving who you are....I'm beautiful in my way... Don't hide yourself in regret' -- were beautiful, reassuring.
I felt it was written for me, like a message. I started listening to more pop music.
Music became my refuge.
I also loved reading Ismat Chugtai's Lihaaf (a short story which suggests lesbianism); it was written in 1942 but is way ahead of its time.
Coming out to the family
At some point, my mother, who is a teacher, understood that I was different from others. But we never really spoke about it.
She'd let me apply kajal and even gave me a silver anklet to wear. But I knew she was afraid, worried.
Once she asked me if she should start looking for girls for me. I protested.
When I was in college, I called my parents and told them, "If you have to choose between society and my happiness, what would you do?"
I didn't exactly tell them about my sexuality but I gave them two days to think.
I told them I don;t want to get married. I wasn't interested in a relationship.
When my mother said, "Log kya kahenge? Tera beta hijda hai kya? (What will people say? Is your son a transgender?)" I replied, "Tumhe usse kya lena dena? (Why do you care?) Don't you care about my happiness?"
They are yet to accept the truth. They like to remain in denial. That's how most parents are.
After completing engineering, I moved out of Bhopal. I travelled to Bhubaneshwar and came to Bengaluru in search of a job.
In 2016, when the Orlando shooting happened, it triggered a movement. I was working for an IT company and I remember this incident clearly.
I opened Oracle's (an IT solutions company) page on Facebook. The company had used the rainbow profile settings in support of the LGBTQ community.
My boss, unaware of this, asked me if Oracle had changed their logo overnight.
When I started to explain, he gathered the rest of the team. They started asking questions and I answered them patiently.
I could see that most of them didn't agree with the campaign. My boss warned me never to bring up this topic for discussion.
Fighting social prejudice, abuse, threat
When it comes to relationships, I am asexual (a person who has no sexual feelings or desires).
It is hard to explain to everyone. They think I am a homo(sexual), but I am not. I am not heterosexual either.
I am homoromantic; I feel platonic love, but have no sexual attraction.
Our society is very judgemental. People have prejudices and try to force them on you.
We talk about economic issues, but men don't encourage discussion even about sanitary napkins, forget sex.
We talk about women's safety, rape, #MeToo... what about us?
There have been times when married men, waiters, employees at the mall, colleagues have hit on me just because I am effeminate and have expressive eyes. Is that a crime?
A waiter got my number from the feedback form I filled at a restaurant. He started calling me for sexual favours.
Once, a cab driver stopped the car at a secluded place and requested if I could join him at his home since his wife was away. I said I'd scream if he didn't start the car.
It is scary when people try to take advantage of you.
It is ironic also to note how seemingly content individuals who have a family are homosexuals. But they don't want to accept it because society disapproves of it.
When one of my friends who couldn't speak Kannada went on a date (in Bengaluru) through Grindr (an dating app for gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals), he was attacked by a group of men.
They robbed him, took him to an ATM and forced him to withdraw money. They beat him up, even called the police and complained that he was involved in illegal sex. The police weren't kind to him either.
Another friend was abused by cops at a park near Delhi's Palika Bazaar. The police threatened that they'd inform his parents and put him in jail because they found him effeminate.
He was forced to pay them so that they didn't register a non-bailable case.
Doctors are kind, but we are hesitant to approach them. In most cases, without the support of NGOs or LGBTQ activists, police refuse to entertain us. That's fundamentally so wrong.
The Supreme Court verdict
We've had our struggles mainly because the law didn't accept us.
Both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress governments have proved that they are conservative. They don't care about human rights.
I have been following this case since 2009.
I am happy the Supreme Court has decriminalised Section 377.
I am happy about the verdict and want to celebrate.
I wish the leaders of this movement use this opportunity to shape our future.
I'd like to thank the Naz Foundation, the students who supported this movement and also the activists who upheld the right to privacy.
Message to readers
Be proud of who you are. Never change just because society doesn't accept you.
Once you accept who you are, you can decide when you want to come out and who you want to come out to.
There is no obligation. You are free to live your life the way you want it as long as you don't harm anyone.
*Lead image used for representational purposes only.