Tell your gay friends that you love them, but don’t add ‘no mat­ter what’

Hindustan Times (Patna) - Live - - TIME OUT - SONAL KALRA sonal.kalra@hin­dus­tan­times.com, face­book.com/son­al­kalraof­fi­cial. Fol­low on Twit­ter @son­al­kalra.

Yes­ter­day, I saw a rather touch­ing video on YouTube. Some of you may have seen it, too. It was about this teenaged guy who, in front of a hid­den cam­era, tells his mom for the first time that he is gay. The mom turns out to be ex­tremely un­der­stand­ing, hugs him, stops him from cry­ing — does ev­ery­thing what a per­fect car­ing par­ent would. I was lov­ing it. Then, at some point she tells him, I love you, no mat­ter what. It’s the last three words, in the con­text of some­one re­veal­ing their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, that al­ways bother me. No mat­ter what. The mo­ment you say these words, you are kinda putting a stamp on some­thing not be­ing right with their sit­u­a­tion. I re­ally wished she would have stopped at sim­ply I love You, and not have to say that she does it ‘de­spite’ him be­ing gay. This in­ci­dent also re­minded me of how I had writ­ten about the stress of com­ing out of the closet in this col­umn some time ago. Well, the pride month just went by. What bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to re­call that piece. Here.

It’s most hum­bling to re­ceive hun­dreds of feed­back mails for this col­umn each week, and the nicest thing that’s com­mon to most of them is when you say you liked it be­cause you can ‘to­tally re­late to it’. Well, some of you may not re­late to what I’m go­ing to write this week. But, that’s not stop­ping me from still tak­ing up this topic be­cause, who knows, a lot of you may just.

Last week, I got two mails from two very dif­fer­ent in­di­vid­u­als, but with a thread of irony con­nect­ing them. One mail was from a young col­lege stu­dent, Kabir, from Delhi. ‘I’m gay. I’ve to­tally ac­cepted this re­al­ity of my life, though my fam­ily and friends don’t know yet, though I’m sure they sus­pect. Now, I want to tell my best friend. But, I don’t know how he’ll re­act. What if he starts avoid­ing me? I don’t want to lose his friend­ship.”

The other mail, in­ter­est­ingly in a gap of just two days, was from 18-year-old Ak­shit in Luc­know. “I have a se­ri­ous prob­lem. I’ve come to know that my best friend is gay. He hasn’t told me, but I feel he soon will. I’m ab­so­lutely cool with it, but I don’t know what’s the right way to re­act when he tells me. I don’t want to lose his friend­ship.”

Now look at this! The first thought that came to my mind af­ter read­ing these was how most of our life’s stresses are be­cause we are caught up in mind-webs of our own. We spend more time imag­in­ing and wor­ry­ing about others’ re­ac­tions than deal­ing with things when and if they ac­tu­ally hap­pen.

Any­way, com­ing back to the sub­ject. See, much to an acute em­bar­rass­ment of my in­tel­lect, this col­umn has not turned out to be a fo­rum for se­ri­ous, in­tel­li­gent talk. In my own way, I try and tell you how to deal with small prob­lems in life, with sim­ple so­lu­tions. In this case, how­ever, I don’t think there is a prob­lem to be­gin with.

With­out sound­ing as if I’m triv­i­al­is­ing the is­sue bog­ging Kabir, Ak­shit or sev­eral others, I just want to say that I’ve had enough of peo­ple cat­e­goris­ing some­thing as ba­sic and pri­vate as sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion — homo or het­ero — as a prob­lem. I’d say there’s a ‘prob­lem’ if you or your friend is a per­vert, dis­hon­est, cheat, thief, ill-man­nered (a crime in my dic­tio­nary. Yours?). Dif­fer­ent sex­ual pref­er­ence? I’m sorry, but no ‘prob­lem’ there, my friend. Still, if it is stress­ing you out, there have to be calm­ness tips. Here’s my ad­vice for Ak­shit and all those to whom a friend, or a fam­ily mem­ber has con­fessed to be ho­mo­sex­ual.

1 No drama, please: I don’t know why we think it’s im­per­a­tive to re­act to ev­ery bit of news. I’m not say­ing you act in­dif­fer­ent to what some­one tells you, but there’s no need for a dra­matic re­ac­tion to ev­ery­thing in life. If a friend tells you he or she is gay, do NOT say some­thing like ‘Haww. How come?’ or ‘Are you sure?’ or the worst of the lot — ‘It’s okay. I still love you.’ If you use the word ‘still’ as if they’ve told you about some crime they’ve com­mit­ted, I will beat you up. I mean it. C’mon, man. Some­body is shar­ing a very pri­vate part of their life with you. Don’t let the stu­pid­ity of your own be­liefs come in the way of re­act­ing sen­si­bly. Just tell them you love them, and leave it at that. I still vividly re­mem­ber an evening 12 years back when one of my close friends told me she’s ho­mo­sex­ual. All I felt at that time was, ‘My god, she must trust me a lot to share this with me.’ And my only re­sponse to her was, ‘Thanks for telling me.’ It’s one of the few things I’m still proud of. Be sin­cere. Be hon­est. Be sim­ple. No ta­masha.

2 Don’t let it bother you:

Frankly, I don’t be­lieve in beat­ing the chest and say­ing, ‘I sup­port the rights of gays and les­bians,’ be­cause that just seg­re­gates them from other peo­ple, when they are no dif­fer­ent. I don’t care if you at­tend marches or pa­rades hold­ing plac­ards. If you re­ally want to make a dif­fer­ence, do one thing. Don’t treat them dif­fer­ently. That’s it. Hate a gay friend if he or she is a bad friend. Just like you would have hated a straight friend for the same rea­son. Love them as much, not more, as you would have loved any other good friend. I hon­estly don’t think what any­one does be­hind closed bed­room doors should make a dif­fer­ence to your friend­ship with them, un­less they are do­ing some­thing to harm you. The thought of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity creeps you out? Fair enough. Who’s ask­ing you to like it? But how does that give you the right to be un­rea­son­able or mock­ing to­wards some­one who does? Don’t judge peo­ple for feel­ings they can’t con­trol.

I fail to un­der­stand why our so­ci­ety, in­clud­ing our cinema, be­lieves in mostly por­tray­ing gays as comic char­ac­ters. At the same time, I fail to un­der­stand why a lot of ho­mo­sex­u­als are sen­si­tive about that, be­cause that would only mean tak­ing a joke se­ri­ously, when it’s not sup­posed to be. I have a lot of gay friends, just as I have plenty of straight friends. Some are funny, some are a real pain. It’s got ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with their ori­en­ta­tion. Base your friend­ship on what sort of a per­son they are… trust­wor­thy, truth­ful, sin­cere. Not what gen­der turns them on, be­cause that’s none of your busi­ness. The day you get that fact firmly in your head, you would be sorted in life. And it’s a good feel­ing.

3 This one is for any­one who’s hav­ing a hard time com­ing out of the closet. Dekho yaar… you do know, more than any­one else that your sex­u­al­ity is not an ac­quired fad. It’s the re­al­ity of how you feel. And there’s never a point try­ing to shun re­al­ity.

I once read a graf­fiti on a church wall in Europe. It was not in the con­text of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, but it said, “If it is not a choice, it’s not a sin.” You get the point, don’t you? If your par­ents, friends or fam­ily see a flicker of shame in your eyes, they would go on a wrong re­ac­tion-path. When you’ve not done any­thing wrong, why tor­ture your­self with thoughts that some­one will leave you. If they in­deed do, it’s their loss. But, that said, don’t for­get that while you may have spent sleep­less nights think­ing and com­ing to terms with your al­ter­na­tive sex­u­al­ity, it is un­fair to ex­pect an im­me­di­ate pos­i­tive re­ac­tion from those who you break the news to, as a sur­prise.

Your friends may have grown in house­holds where the thought of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is taboo. We all have. But then, there used to be a time when things like con­tra­cep­tion or abor­tion etc also used to be taboos. Times change. Mind­sets change. But not overnight. Give them time, an­swer their queries, have pa­tience. If they love you, they will come around. Sex­u­al­ity is just a triv­ial part of life… don’t make it the cause of all your hap­pi­ness or sad­ness in life. And puh­leez, don’t get into an over­drive of try­ing to un­der­stand the psy­che of those who just can’t get their heads around ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. The more you try to con­vince some­one, the more it would seem as if your self-re­spect is de­pen­dant on that some­one get­ting con­vinced. I’m sorry, but it.is.not. It’s OKAY if they don’t un­der­stand how you feel. Some things peo­ple are just not meant to get. Big deal.

Sonal Kalra thinks that gay pa­rades only re­in­force the no­tion

that ho­mo­sex­u­als are any dif­fer­ent from the others. But, she to­tally loves the rain­bow masks. What to do? Mail your calm­ness

tricks to

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