Being LGBT in an anti-LGBT country

Before I started writing this post, and I have considered doing it for the past 3 weeks or so, and before I had even made my first post I searched ‘gay’ in all of the blog posts just to see if there was something that would help me understand what it was going to be like being gay in a country where it is illegal. I read one where the boy talked about how his queerness would just be correlated with being foreign, so he didn’t have to worry about hiding it so much, but that was pretty much the only post that gave any insight into this topic.

When you’re growing up and you start to realize you’re feeling different than most people around you, some people share that with their parents or close friends, but often times people try to keep it to themselves at least for a little while so everything remains the same. Being not-straight in a country where that is illegal leaves you feeling pretty much like that; you know you’re different, but this time you can’t really tell anyone because a lot of people feel so strongly against it that you could be left feeling even more isolated than you probably initially do when you’re alone in a new country. When I asked a local about people being gay here she said, “it’s not a common thing and people do not accept it very easily in India.” When I googled LGBT rights in India before I came here I found out the penalty was 14 years to life in jail. Obviously it is very unlikely that on a college campus being gay would lead to arrest, but it still puts this fear in your mind that you could actually be arrested for something like that in today’s world. Even without being arrested, outing yourself to local people can be terrifying because you don’t really know how well even young people will take it. For example, one of the girls in my lab was talking to me about TV shows and jail shows in particular; she mentioned Orange is the New Black and I explained that I wouldn’t correlate that with the rest of the shows she was mentioning and gave her a general overview of the show and she looked pretty grossed out and said, “I definitely won’t be watching that then.” Another time I was talking to one of the guys I am with often and he was describing the beggars on the street as “the LGBT people” and openly stated that gay people are gross. Both of those people are in their early 20’s so that gives you an indication about how even people our age take it. I read an article where it said only 35% of people in India believe gay marriage should be legal and 57% of younger people believe that so as you can see this country is progressing, but still has a long way to go.

Overall, it is just really weird to leave such a liberal place like Ann Arbor where it is completely okay to be out and accepted by a large majority of people to come to a place where people are still very against any type of same-sex relations and you are closeted again. I mean, you don’t particularly have to be closeted, but for me it just feels safer to do so. You can still be true to yourself and dress, talk, and act however you do and like the guy from the post I read said, they pretty much correlate any mannerism that we might consider to be a sign of queerness to just being a foreigner, but I wouldn’t particularly shout from Panchvati hill that I’m gay. You just have to get settled, figure out the situation, and then decide how you personally want to express or not express your queerness. Personally, I chose to keep it to myself and just answer the “do you have a boyfriend” questions with a quick and easy no, but if you find yourself in a more accepting group who you feel safe and supported disclosing that information to then go for it and live your best life.

One thought on “Being LGBT in an anti-LGBT country

  • July 9, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    Wow Emily, thank you for the openness and courage it took to write this post. This will really help future interns, or even current interns who are not sure on how to articulate their thoughts on this topic. It was really interesting for me to hear about people in their 20s and general cultural norms there. :/

    The University did a panel winter semester on LGTBQ experiences abroad that you might like to read about, including someone who stayed closeted throughout their Peace Corps experience:

    It sounds tiring to have to deal with those microaggressions, and to be a bit disconnected with that part of your identity. Staying connected with people back home and talking with those that you feel like you can fully be yourself with may help.


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