Through school and college, I craved physical, emotional and intellectual intimacy with another man. Yet if that desire was to be known, I feared I would be mocked, rejected, even beaten up.
It was not clear that I could count on support from my friends or family. They would face rejection and mockery too if their son or friend was gay. Well, sometimes, they were even the source of it. I wouldn’t risk it.
As a result, I put on a mask, and hid what I wanted. Then at some stage, I made a decision to come out – face fear and the risk of rejection, in the pursuit of love. It was a long time ago, but the memories remain.
All openly gay people share that experience. We once said, I would rather face mockery, rejection, even violence, than continue to conform, and give up on my desire.
No wonder some would see this as a threat.
When I ran the LGBTIQ group at Ecole Normale Superieure, I had a sign on the wall that showed a quote from the Symposium ‘In Ionia and other places, and generally in countries which are subject to the barbarians, the custom [of love between men] is held to be dishonorable; loves of youths share the evil repute in which philosophy and gymnastics are held because they are inimical to tyranny; for the interests of rulers require that their subjects should be poor in spirit and that there should be no strong bond of friendship or society among them, which love, above all other motives, is likely to inspire.’
Maybe, the fear of gay people – and other members of the LGBTIQ+ family – is nothing but the fear of freedom, desire, and creativity.
I remember homophobic discourse from my early years. It was how the world was, had been, and would always be. Then over the course of my life, I have seen changes I never believed would be possible – from persecution to gay marriage.
Hundreds of millions of gay people in the world share a similar experience. And this gives me hope. If we were able to achieve that level of change, maybe we can also find a way to shift our societies on other fronts as well – towards ecological consciousness, and geopolitical justice.
At least, I’ve learned never to believe anyone who tells me ‘this is how it is, has been, and will always be.’