What does it take to be openly homosexual and fight for your rights? In a country where a heterosexual couple expressing their love in public is frowned upon, being a member of the LGBTQ community is hard, especially when the Supreme Court has criminalised homosexuality and marginalised the members of the community. Even then, there are some people who have displayed immense courage and have come out to speak for their rights. They are amazing examples of human beings who are fighting against the system to normalize what is viewed as ‘different’. Here are 7 Indians who are gay and proud!
Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil is the first openly gay prince in the world. His life has been a constant struggle to come to terms with his sexuality; what with his family openly disowning him after the news of him being gay became public knowledge. Even though the Prince’s struggle has been long and hard, he’s been very open and supportive of causes close to his heart through his charity, The Lakshya Trust.
The trust works for HIV/AIDS prevention among men who have sex with men (MSM) and the transgender community. He also appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007; one out of three to be featured in the show ‘Gay Around The World’.
The director of My Brother… Nikhil, the first mainstream Bollywood movie to discuss AIDS and same-sex relationships, Onir is one of the few openly gay directors the Indian film industry has.
He’s been very vocal about his orientation from the start and has gone on record to say that he is often openly attacked for his sexual orientation.
He has also gone on to direct I AM, an anthology movie that dealt with themes like single motherhood, child abuse and same-sex relationships.
Suneet Verma, the renowned Indian Fashion designer, married his long time lover Rahul Arora in a ceremony in New York in 2013. They met when a friend set them up on a blind date and have been together ever since. He continues to remain a stalwart in the Indian fashion industry and a source of great inspiration for people who are yet to come to terms with coming out. Rahul and Suneet have always remained out and open about their love story.
Known for his novel ‘A Suitable Boy’, Vikram Seth is one of the most renowned writers of modern literature. He’s also the son of Leila Seth, the first woman Chief Justice Of a High Court India, who is openly supportive of her son’s orientation and is a strong supporter of the gay rights movement in India.
One of the few openly gay men of Indian origin, the Padma Shri recipient wrote a heartfelt poem ‘Through Love’s Great Power’ on criminalisation of same-sex relationships in a recent Supreme Court verdict in India.
One of the most outspoken activists for homosexuality and the LGBTQ community, Harish is a well known personality in the community.
He has been pretty open about his abuse as a child by the hands of a known person as well as his struggle with his sexuality, which he talked about in detail on Aamir Khan’s show Satyamev Jayate. He has also used his blogs and columns to extensively highlight the plight of the LGBTQ community in India.
His life is also the inspiration behind two movies - Onir’s I Am and Ranadeep Bhattacharyya and Judhajit Bagchi directed Amen (A Short Film).
In a quick chat with us, he reveals his message for the sexual minorities of India - “Each of us sexual minorities have challenged social norms and taboos to charter our own path to life and freedom. We need to acknowledge that our owning of our sexuality, sometimes privately, sometimes publicly, has come with a lot of effort. We have stretched our limits and emerged from the abyss. We should count us as our own inspiration. I am my own.”
We all remember the adorable Vicks ad of the mother who chose to break stereotypes and adopt a daughter whose mother passed away.
Gauri Sawant, born as Ganesh, is a transgender activist who successfully broke gender molds and proceeded to live her life and stand by her identity in a society that does not treat the members of the LGBTQ community kindly.
Parmesh Shahani, in his late 30s, is synonymous with Queer Sensitisation at the workplace. He Is the Vice President at Godrej Industries Limited and has created the India Culture Lab at Godrej One, the head office of Godrej Industries.
Shahani is known to be pushing the management at Godrej to change policies, simple (yet big) changes like changing “spouse” to “partner” to include LGBT couples has been initiated under his control. He has a very supportive senior management that agrees to understand his point of view and believes that diversity and ‘getting your whole selves to work’ is a good and productive strategy than working with the fear of getting busted.
Indian-origin Leo Varadkar became the first openly gay Irish government minister and is the first minister of Indian heritage during the 2015 same sex referendum. He also went on to become Ireland’s first gay prime minister.