“Ever since I was young I have done life the hard way. I knew that I am different from others and as I went through high school, I started feeling attracted to the boys in my class. It wasn’t until I turned 17 that I started to notice being gay myself but that just blew over and I thought it was just a phase of puberty.
Soon after, I moved to Chennai to pursue my higher education and I didn’t have anyone there to share my inner feelings. In my first year, of course, I remained silent about my identity. However, I came across a few LGBTQIA+ community groups through Internet while I was pursuing my course and that’s when I started to explore more about my identity. After my graduation, I pursued a PG Diploma course in Photography at Udaan School of Photography in Mumbai. For my final project, I did an extensive photo essay on Trans Community members and their problems and through them, I got introduced to LGBTQIA+ support groups. My professors as well as the support group members appreciated my work and I got a sense of confidence in myself. I even took counselling with the Hamsafar trust in Mumbai.
After my course study, I got an opportunity to work with The New Indian Express as a Photojournalist in Hyderabad and that certainly gave me the confidence to lead life independently. It gave me the exposure to face any situation in life.
During my tenure there, I have covered a wide range of issues in the LGBTQIA+ community including other areas. While doing so, I started to think long and hard about who I was and what I wanted to be. As I moved in, a couple of years later, I was talking with a good friend and I opened up to him, ‘I’m Gay.’ That gave me a sense of confidence to move forward in life and I continued my career in Photojournalism.
However, during 2020, my mother insisted I get married for which I haven’t responded. I constantly said no to all the marriage proposal requests that she brought and that was when I decided to take a sabbatical from work. I left my job as a Photojournalist in June last year and moved back to my hometown, Nellore, to finish a few pending works. After a month, I decided to open up to my mother that I’m gay. When I told her about it one morning, she didn’t understand what I meant. However, when I showed her a Telugu YouTube video that was about the LGBTQIA+ community, she slowly came to terms with it. Things were not that bad because she wasn’t the first person I came out to, in my family. I had told my brother and his wife first, and they were convinced.
From then on, I have been actively campaigning for the LGBTQIA+ community rights and awareness initiatives through social media platforms. I have also been actively involved in community activities and events across Vizag, Chennai and Hyderabad, doing my bit to spread awareness to everyone.
Because of social stigma and fear of coming out, I have even suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder earlier and I have recovered from it, now. Today, there’s much more awareness than there was a few years ago. However, there’s also a lot of pressure within the family setting when it comes to the process of coming out.
Understanding and getting accepted in society about one’s sexuality, emotions and identity are definitely not easy – however, there’s hope. In order to gain more awareness, there are a lot of LGBTQIA+ support groups available across the country and through LGBTQIA+ affirmative psychologists, one could avail the family counselling services. I was able to come out to the world at the age of 32 that I am gay so I believe age isn’t a problem to live who you are for the rest of your life. It’s high time that we as responsible citizens take collective responsibility of letting people live the lives they wish to!”