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‘You’nique - An open letter By Mr. Gay India Sushant Divgikr

Mr. Gay India, actor and model, Sushant Divgikr pens an open letter to the teens and opens up about what it means to be a homosexual in the Indian context...

Dear Teentalkers,

I realised very early in life that I didn’t fit in to people’s idea of normal. I didn’t behave the way other boys my age were ‘expected’ to. I realised that boys were expected to like the colour blue, play with toys like cars and G.I joe’s, were supposed to play sports and were told not to cry! Boys were always told that showing their emotional vulnerability meant being ‘girly’. Whatever that even means!

But then I started seeing through these people. Who were these people anyway? Who were they to decide how one should talk, dress and what toys we should play with as children? Who decides what qualifies as ‘girlish’ and ‘boyish’! Who decides how men and women should feel and behave about different situations life throws at us?

Family is the foundation

I have had the privilege of being raised in a family that allowed me to be myself – choose a Barbie over HE-MAN and wear any colour I wanted to. What is interesting is that I have an older brother who was brought up in the same home, with the same parents that allowed him to choose what he wanted to wear, play with as a child etc just like me. My parents allowed both their sons to choose what they wanted to do and be. Yes! I am lucky as I am blessed to have a family that never thought it was abnormal for a male child to conform to gender stereotypes that people have set for us to follow!

A child never hates or discriminates unless taught to

When I was in school, I saw most of the boys in my class talking, behaving in a certain way that I didn’t particularly relate to. Hence, most people looked at me differently. Not that it mattered too much to me because I had some wonderful friends who were there for me and are going to be the flower boys at my wedding whenever I find a suitable groom. These friends were by my side from back then to this day and have always supported me in whatever I do.

Blame the patriarchy

There were a few who didn’t get me but, was it them? Or was it the way they had been primed socially? I think it is the constant reminder of gender stereotypes around them.

I am too fabulous for anyone’s opinion

There was name calling at times but not many physical fights considering it was an all-boys school and I was a sportsperson (surprise, because how can he be gay and play a sport?). A swimmer to be precise and the sports captain of my school. I also did relatively well in studies, I topped languages and history. So you see, being gay has nothing to do with your success and failures in life.

I had some really amazing peers and my family comprised of total bosses! They set the foundation and allowed me to step out with much confidence. I walked into college life so comfortable in my skin that even if there were kids who were nasty to me, none of that made me shudder and re-think my fabulousness.

Teentalk Counsellor, Kshitija Sawant addresses the matter – “A counsellor at the Humsafar center, carried out a study. Her research was aimed at studying the problems faced by Homosexuals in dealing with homosexuality in the Indian context. Her research revealed that the most important problem is the non-acceptance of their sexuality by their own family members. All 16 respondents reported that the very thought of disclosing their sexuality or orientation to their parents gave them severe trauma. While some parents accept homosexuality in others they could not accept it in their own family. Some parents don’t consider homosexuality a sexual orientation but a sexual experiment.”     

Karma is key

I eventually started helping people who were not as fortunate with supportive families and friends. I would volunteer with the psychology department of my college to talk other students who faced discrimination at the hands of their peers because of their gender and sexual orientation and more broadly just bullying as a whole. I kind of felt like the male version of Oprah, trying to help everyone I could.

People would write to me on social media with their problems (yes we had social media when I was in college just so you know I’m not fossil) I realised most gay people did not have as pleasant a journey growing up as I did. I realised that most times, they were hurt most by the actions and reactions of their loved ones. They were broken because they were abandoned by their ‘friends’ because they ‘came out’ as gay, lesbian, bisexual to them.

You are unique, don’t let them box you

When I saw people my age going through this turmoil I thanked my stars for the life I had. I was so hurt because these people were picked on by their close ones as a function of being UNIQUE! I don’t understand why people pick on others for their colour, race and sexual orientation. I didn’t CHOOSE to be gay, just like people don’t choose to be straight, they just are!

I just want to tell each and every person reading this that YOU are going to be unique even if you try and ape someone else. You are still going to be that person that you might want to push back to please the world so that people don’t question you. You should never try and fit into these boxes people try to force you into, if you were especially made to stand out and shine bright. You should not let anybody break your self-esteem and morale, in fact you should do all that makes you happy and just be the best version of yourself.

This is to all the people that have a hard time trusting themselves to be the best they can be. Here’s a big virtual hug and if you ever want to feel special, a mirror is all you need! Tell yourself you are worth it, motivate yourself, find time to understand yourself. You are the best company you keep. 

Big love,

Sushant.

 

If you have a story to share, Email it to us HERE.

If you have a query, Email it to us HERE.

You can also chat with the counsellor by clicking on Teentalk Expert Chat.

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Tips to deal with anxiety

Jehanzeb Baldiwala who looks after the mental health services at Ummeed Child Development Centre shares valuable tips on coping with anxiety

Is there a particular case you would like to share with us?

Jehanzeb: Young person, 8 year old when he came to see me. He is a big boy now. He had a fear of performance. Performance on anything, not just exams. He was a karate champ, and also played chess. He used to black out, either start puking and black out and not go through the exam. His parents were supportive. He was an only child and was loved.

How did you help him overcome his fear of performance?

Jehanzeb: Our conversation was focused on understanding what the anxiety was doing in his life. We use a technique called externalisation where we focus on the idea that the person is not an anxious person or the person is not the problem. Problems come from a particular context. And we use language in our questions to help people personify the problem and separate it from themselves.

We tried to understand what was getting in the way of what he was hoping to achieve. He wanted to achieve and succeed. Then we worked on techniques to help him get to what he was hoping for. That involved using a lot of his own skills and imagination.

People have skills and knowledge. People are always responding to their problems in some way or the other. The problem takes so much space that other things become invisible. They are trying their best to do something to help them. People can change if they start to see their own skills.

Could you give some tips for someone who is facing anxiety? How to tackle it?

Jehanzeb: Here are some tips that I use while dealing with a case like that:

  1. Meditation and mindfulness: Being aware of where the sensation is in your body. That helps you to predict it before it gets out of control. Catch and intervene at that point. You are able to make it less discomfort/uncomfortable for yourself
     
  2. Self-hypnosis: Visualise a safe space. Take or talk yourself there and feel safe. A safe space is where you feel emotionally secure. It can be a happy memory or a meeting with a friend or even a show on TV.
     
  3. Humour: Think of something funny or something you are looking forward to.
     
  4. Encouraging physical activity: It shifts your focus and releases endorphins.
     
  5. Find somebody who understands: If you experience anxiety in the middle of the night, talk to an older cousin, a parent. Find someone who understands and can reassure you before it reaches its peak.
     
  6. Use an app: HealthSpace is an app that I find helpful for teenagers.

What are the symptoms to understand that something is wrong with yourself and reaching out is crucial?

Jehanzeb: It’s when you feel its interfering with what you what want to do. Getting to school becomes a chore, getting out of bed, affecting your family, peer, job or school and stopping you from getting into those situations. If it’s making you miserable all the time then it’s a cause of concern.        

How do you think Teentalk India can help teenagers become empowered?

Jehanzeb: What is exciting about Teentalk is that it is opening spaces for people. What I have come to understand from my experience is  that identity is socially constructed. I am what I am because of my relationships with other people. I am teacher because I have students. I am a mother because I have a kid. Having links with people really helps. Teentalk India focuses on strengthening people connections that are supportive. So an immediate connection with another teenager who is experiencing the same thing will help.

Hope this helped, if you have a query, email at expert@teentalkindia.com. You can also watch expert videos under the Expert Speak tab in Videos.

If you have a story to share, Email it to us HERE.

If you have a query, Email it to us HERE.

You can also chat with the counsellor by clicking on Teentalk Expert Chat.

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Disclaimer: TeentalkIndia does not offer emergency services and is not a crisis intervention centre, if you or someone you know is experiencing acute distress or is suicidal/self harming, please contact the nearest hospital or emergency/crisis management services or helplines.