Crossing the World to Come Out
Growing up in India, my parents saw me as the perfect child. My mom loved me and my dad adored me. I was the number one student in my school, always did what my parents asked me, and I had a great relationship with my dad.
My dad was so proud of me and so was everyone in my family for being that perfect child that they could brag about. That all changed when l moved to Canada in 2014 to pursue higher education. I had nobody here and I was really lonely. I cried almost every day.
While I was still in school back in India, I had some sexual experiences with boys my age. Nobody found out about that. I made sure that it was super private and nobody even got a hint of what was going on.
So when I got to Canada, I searched for gay dating apps, downloaded Grindr and met somebody. New city–new me! What could go wrong? In my case, everything! When I started exploring my new sexuality, I also got into drugs. But after 2 months I quit everything and I finally met my first boyfriend.
My coming out story was something that happened over the span of a few months. My friends and family began to suspect I was gay because they followed me on social media. On the phone, my parents would always ask me who the guy was in my photos and I would always lie and change the topic. I started deleting people off my Facebook or any other social media account. I started distancing myself from all the people I knew back home. And then came some of the worst of my mental health struggles–I broke up with my boyfriend and started self-harming.
Eventually, I stopped talking to my parents. I ignored their calls. I harmed myself more. But after I stopped talking to my parents I had plenty of time to work on myself. I learned so many things about myself that I didn’t know. Imagine not knowing anything about yourself!
Finally, my situation was improving, but only here in Canada. Back home, people were making fun of my family for having a gay son even though I still hadn’t come out. I ignored everything. My cousins that were so close to me, the ones that I spent every summer with, asked me to take them off social media. But I stayed strong. What I always told myself was “I am not going back. No matter what, I am staying here in Canada.”
One day, my mom showed up at my place in Saskatoon, all the way from India. I was seeing her for the first time after 3 years. I didn’t know what to do. All those emotions that I had been ignoring and keeping inside, I knew I had to face them. But this time I was ready. We spent some time talking. I showed her my arm that had cuts from every time I tried to escape the idea that I was gay. She said to me,”Pavan, I am your mom. What is happening?”
After that she told me she would be staying with me for a few of months. My heart just stopped. I closed my eyes, thought about all of the people that I love and thought about all the struggles I have been through. I gathered up the courage and told her with a mumbling voice and tears flowing down my cheeks, “MOM I AM GAY!” The weight on my body just lifted off immediately. I lifted my face just slightly with the relief of telling her, but also looked at her afraid of how she was going to respond. She stood up and just said, “I choose to not believe anything you said. You are my son. I raised you. You can’t be gay. That’s it. That’s not right.”
She took her phone out and left the room and I began to cry, not knowing what to do anymore. She came back and she facetimed my dad. My head was down in shame. He asked my mom to turn the screen towards me. He asked me to look at him but I didn’t. He yelled and I raised my eyes. He said, “You were my son, but now I wish you would get hit by a bus. I hope blood comes out of your mouth and you die slowly. I hope every breath you take kills you. I don’t want anything to do with you. Nobody will be there to pick you up or shed tears because you will die alone.” From that day onwards, he has sent me at least 5-minute long voice messages on WhatsApp every other day about how much he hates me and how I should get killed.
I was heartbroken but I spent those 3 months with my mom. Every day my mom would give me holy water to drink so that the gay demon that she believed was inside me would go away. Unfortunately for her (but fortunately for me!), the gay demon decided to stay. She finally left.
I started working on myself again to heal my broken heart. I started hanging out with people that accepted me for who I was and who loved me, no matter what. I put myself out there in society and man, I surprised myself! Today, I am so proud of myself. I finally got my permanent residency this July. Yes, my family situation is still bad. But I have faith in myself and I have made my own family here.
My hope for my family is that one day they could accept me for who I am instead of forcing their opinion on me. I wish they could finally let go of the silhouette of the “perfect child” that they constructed for me. I wish they could see all the evidence supporting that my identity is not just a phase or a mental health issue.
As for the friends that are back home, I can finally go meet them and not worry about being arrested. I am so glad they decriminalized homosexuality in India because one of my dreams has been to take my boyfriend back to India and show him where I grew up. It feels like now I can make that dream come true.
My hope for India is that we will find a way to stop all the hatred towards everyone who is different—not just LGBTQ people, but people who are different castes or religions as well. While I don’t think society will change overnight because of one law, the decriminalization of homosexuality in India will definitely make people think and acknowledge that LGBTQ people do exist.
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