Just as sexuality is fluid, layered and complex, so are people's perceptions of it. The organized LGBT rights movement it is still a relatively new concept, and attitudes towards the community, as we have seen in the past few years, have gone through many changes — none more evident than in the United States, where it led to the legalization of gay marriage last year.
But not all countries have reached the same level of acceptance. In India, although gay people do not experience outright violence and discrimination, homosexuality is criminalized and same-sex love is largely unacknowledged by society. Recently, one Quora post posed the question, "What is it like to be a lesbian in India?" and one woman's heartfelt, personal response is resonating with thousands of people.
Under the name Anamika Pareek, the woman wrote:
Our life would have been much easier had people accepted us. Since they don't, so our life revolves around pretending and hiding. Life gets complicated somehow. Especially if we go away from our home for further studies and share room with just another girl. It's easy to hide for some time but can't hide it all the time. If not everyone then room mate surely will get some hint. Though we don't fall for every other girl but there are things which make us uncomfortable, and that's the grey area where we find it difficult to hide. But then the problem is we can't control it plus if we confess it then it will leave others uncomfortable around us.
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Pareek, who is listed as "Most Viewed Writer in Homosexuality" on the website, added that lesbians in India have to hide because "society will hate us. The only reason we live in depression most of the times and have suicidal thoughts are that we can't tell anyone and not everyone is courageous to come out and face the trouble."
She recounted her own experience once when her girlfriend wanted to kiss her. "I told her to wait for like years till we start living together because if anyone see us, we will be in jail. Though I consoled her, but here 'living together' looks like a distant dream when my parents are worried about getting me married (obviously with a boy). They have no clue about anything," she wrote. "Accepting the fact that there exists people of different genre can make our lives much more easy. Till then we are hiding and pretending to be straight. The problem is this mask can't be affixed permanently."
Since Pareek posted her response on Quora, it has been viewed more than 168,000 times and upvoted more than 2,000 times.
Although stubborn attitudes persist, there is indication that the tide is turning in India. Families that open up their ideas about sexuality have been made examples of by organizations fighting for LGBT visibility and rights. And earlier this year, the Supreme Court announced that it would revisit a draconian ban on gay sex from 2013 after intense pressure from LGBT activists.
Cover image via Saikat Paul / Shutterstock.com