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'My family's acceptance has liberated me'

Rohan Dhanasekar shares how having a loving family has made him a confident person, and not depend on external validation

Roshan Dhanasekar in Goa earlier this year. (Roshan Dhanasekar)

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In a way my ex boyfriend’s unannounced arrival at my doorstep pushed me to come out to my family, at least part of the family. It was early 2015 and I had just turned 19. The weather outside was warm and pleasant, but I felt tired and dead inside. The voice inside my head kept repeating, “what have you done? Get help, now!” I had just ended a toxic and abusive relationship with my then-boyfriend, who was over a decade older than me. I fell for his charismatic persona but what I failed to see was the demon he kept hidden. I didn’t know who to approach for help. I was afraid if I spoke to my family about this they would abandon me.

Also Read: 'I am proud as I am not as afraid anymore'

Then all hell broke loose, when my ex-boyfriend knocked on my front door while my folks were at home. Without a second thought, I called up my maternal uncle, someone who I look up to and feel very close to. He patiently heard me out and stepped in to tackle the situation. My uncle doesn’t let his emotions gets in the way when he makes decisions. He’s been a father figure to me, and the way he handled this situation further boosted my confidence and trust in him.

I always knew I was different from my counterparts at a very young age. I didn’t relate to the masculine traits and mannerisms that my peers portrayed. I knew my likes and dislikes were different. It was only when I was 12, did I come out to myself. It felt liberating to accept myself for who I was. Even when people around me passed snarky comments, called me names and bullied me, what kept me going was being able to acknowledge and stand true to who I was.

For the next couple of months, my uncle continuously reached out to me, and was genuinely concerned about how I was doing. He wanted to understand how to talk what being gay meant without being insensitive.

What further boosted my confidence and reinforced the fact that my family cared for me was when my grandmother acknowledged and accepted me. My uncle had told her about my sexuality, and made her understand what it meant to be homosexual. I still recall she taking my hand in hers and telling me that she felt letting me down by not checking on me and the turmoil I was going through. “We don’t care about who you end up with, whether it is a boy or a girl because that’s your choice. The only thing that I want is to see you happy,” she said.

I was speechless and had tears running down my cheeks. A dialogue from the movie English Vinglish popped into my head at the time - “family is the one who will never make you feel small, and family is the only one who will never laugh at your weaknesses”. I realised that I was alright if my parents didn’t accept me but my uncle and grandmother’s acceptance or denial mattered to me a lot.

My grandmother has practically raised me, so it meant a lot when she said this. It gave me courage to open up to my parents. It took me eight years to come out to myself and accept me for who I was, so it was only fair to give my parents time to process the fact that their son is gay.

Coming out to my family liberated me. It felt like I was free from a cage, and could fly high without being weighed down by my ‘secrets’. No matter much connection and community you build in LGBTQ community, you come home. And it makes a big difference if the people at home are supportive. It made me appreciate my family and realise that all this time, I have been coming back to a loving home. It changed me from being rebellious all the time to being understanding and more involved with my family.

I am a better person today and don’t seek external validation; even if I come out to someone and they don’t accept me, it doesn’t bother me. That gives a sense of grounding.

Roshan Dhanasekar is Bengaluru-based writer and a marketing professional.

This is part of the Coming Out series, where individuals from the LGBTQ+ community share their experiences of opening up about their identity, and how it's continuous journey.

Also Read: How to become an LGBTQ+ ally at work, home and life

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