Love knows no gender
There is never a single defining moment when you “Come out of the closet”. It’s a journey which starts with self-realization and self-exploration. So, my story goes something like this, I always knew I was different. I could never conform to the typical stereotype of masculinity, which society rubs on our face without any qualms. In my school days, I was always a quiet chap who preferred reading Enid Blyton than playing soccer. I was more interested in languages and poetry. Art and craft attracted me more than a cricket match. So, from what I can re-collect, it was always an enigma which later translated into self-doubt as to why I do not relate with most guys. What makes me different? As I grew, that feeling of disconnect simply kept growing. Childhood can be unforgiving as bullying is something which comes pretty easy, especially when you are different. I became more and more of a loner. I diverted all my attention to just studies as a defense mechanism. Even though I did fairly well in academics, I was not really happy in the true sense. There was this perpetually increasing feeling of being an outcast. And this dates to a decade where there were no apps or social media to connect with people who were like me. So, there was sheer loneliness.
And then came adolescence which is an inner emotional upheaval by default. I found it very strange and confusing to see other boys of my school go all gaga and starry-eyed over girls. However, I never felt any attraction for girls. That time I was not aware that terms such as “homosexuality” or “gay” exist. But a new thing started happening then, which was not a quantum less than a nightmare, and that was the fact that I had started noticing a cute guy in my class. I would blush (which was a shocker then) whenever I had a conversation with him for class assignments. And this marked the onset of my self-exploration. I started researching about this behavior pattern with the limited resources I had then. There used to be no smartphones at that time. I remember going to cyber cafe to browse content related to this behavior and that’s how I became familiar with the nomenclature. For obvious reasons, I could not find much positive content related to homosexuality in the Indian context. I got into self-denial mode and that initiated my dual life. So, I lived in two worlds. There was this heteronormative world where I had to act straight and then, there was the world I belonged to, but wanted to deny. It’s not easy to fake and it did take a toll on my mind and personality. The two worlds indeed intersected at times and that was nothing less than an “end-of-world” feeling.
Transition from school to college had its own blemishes to carve on my young mind. When you are at home, you are in a very protected sequestered environment. However, when you are in a hostel, things change. That’s the age of sexist jokes and jibes. Unfortunately, homosexuality is used the most for caricature. When you are in a setup which is completely homophobic and there are no similar voices around, it impacts your peace of mind. I was becoming vulnerable and insecure with each passing day. Though I was coming close to accepting my sexuality, the unbecoming need to always wear a facade was growing. Imagine the plight to fake smile at a joke which unintentionally demeans and derogates my identity. I was getting anxious and the angst was growing manyfold. The inability to relate to your peers and the colossal weight of the “straight” facade to carry, drove me to a dark tunnel where there was not a single ray of light. Though I was managing my studies well, I dripped into clinical depression and was into anti-depressants. Depression was a major blow to everything, but it did one positive thing. When you are at such a low point, you tend to loose all your inhibitions. I came to terms with my sexuality and made peace with it. That was my coming out to myself. At that time, there was this best friend of mine who was very supportive. He was the first person I came out to. He is my strongest straight ally. I really appreciate the fact that he never feared being tagged as gay because of his close friendship with me.
Time flew, and I completed my education and started my career with SAP. With passing time, I started exploring the community. I was pretty much satisfied with my career. On the personal front, I started meeting people from the community, with lots of reluctance and hesitation. With time, the topic of marriage started popping up at home. My parents wanted me to meet prospects, but I was very clear that I don’t want to live a fake dual life, nor I want to ruin a girl’s life just for the heck of society. When family pressure for marriage became too much, I came out to my parents. Obviously, it was a total shocker for them. My dad almost became insomniac and avoided any discussion initially. But my mom tried her best to understand me. During this tough time, there was this close friend of mine who acted like a shield. Even though we were in different cities, he ensured that he was with me at every moment. Without him, I would have never come out to my parents. He personifies friendship in the true sense. After initial struggles, my parents understood me and tried their best to make peace with it. It’s a new journey for them as well. I feel I am lucky to be blessed with such understanding parents. After parents, I started coming out to my close friends and colleagues. The leadership of my organization was very supportive and that was a big motivation. With acceptance coming my way, I felt better, and it boosted my confidence. As they say, it always takes some bad experiences to finally meet the love of your life. The same happened with me. I found my love in the most unexpected way. Since then, there was no looking back. With him, each moment is sheer celebration. He understands me the way no one ever can.
From the workplace perspective, SAP Diversity & Inclusion team is working actively to create awareness and sensitization around this topic. A lot of work is happening to ensure that SAP workplace is unbiased and does not discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. SAP is offering medical benefit for samesex partners. There is an Ally@SAP group which not only drives initiatives for the community but also acts like a support system wherever needed. The Ally Group provides a private space where people from the community can freely express themselves without their identity being revealed. SAP also has gender neutral restrooms to cater to the diverse gender identity. I am proud to be part of an organization like SAP whose core sentiment lies in the celebration of diversity. I am trying to do my bit for the community together with SAP Diversity & Inclusion team and I am sure that we will accomplish our vision of diversity and inclusion.
With the scrapping of Section 377, a new era has begun for my community. I am glad that India has finally embraced the rainbow with all its colors. I am optimistic about future that gay marriage would be legalized, and I would walk down the aisle with my partner in my own country. We wish that there would be adoption rights soon for gay couples. We both love kids and they would make our family complete. Let’s strive towards creating a better world where people like me would not have to go through tough times because of their sexual orientation.
Thank you for sharing your story, Sameer! I'm glad you're here. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story Sameer! So glad to have you as a part of D&I team helping drive efforts towards a building a culture of inclusion.
It requires a lot of courage and appreciate it!!!
Keep going!!!! WIsh you all luck!!!
Thank you for sharing article and information.
Thanks for being a leader here and showing path for many more!
Together, lets create a very inclusive environment.
Thank you for sharing your story and your vision towards a more inclusive workplace and society.
Looking forward to some great partnership and close collaboration in our inclusion journey. Best of luck!
An enchanting read...
It indeed takes a gall to stand out, shred a comforting closet, express yourself and make a pertinent point that you're as equal as anybody else in this world & that the world can thrive without titles.
I hope this tones down some cynicism & homophobia around, as its high time!
Glad you did this. I understand this not an easy task in India today, leave alone 30+ years ago when I left. I knew friends back then in a similar situation as you went through recently and as you can well imagine that was a different time and a place. It's great that you can remain true to yourself and not give into societal pressures, and least of all we're lucky to work in company that celebrates diversity. Kudos!
What a wonderful story. I can't remember the last time I was as engaged in reading something as I was reading your experience.
It is delightful to know that you were successfully able to navigate through the sensitive phases in your life, and now lead a happy life. I hope that your desires to marry and adopt a child come true as soon as possible.
Thank you so much for sharing your journey.
More power to you!
So proud of you! Strong characters like you make our workplace truly delightful!
Quite an emotional read for me personally and kudos to you on how you waded through the difficult times and stayed true to yourself rather than succumbing to the skewed view of our society on what is natural.
Hey Sameer !!
I remember when you had told me first about yourself , later I was wondering how this whole journey would have been for you.
Now I know it and trust me, I am so proud of you.
Lots of love and regards,
I am so proud of you reading your lines. What a tough endeavor you went through .. we can just imagine, how many other endeavors are out there in the community for people that just want to live their lives and be their authentic selves, like you and me.
For me you are a great role model and I am very happy to know you. Looking forward to meet again at Labs India and hope our paths at SAP will cross again often.
So proud of you, Sameer! Your story for real brought tears to my eyes. What a journey! I hope you and your partner will have joy of raising your children. Stay strong!
What a journey! and thank you for sharing. That one line which stuck to me was "mom tried her best to understand me". from the recent sessions & stories I have heard during the pride month celebrations, it always been the mother who has stood up as a support.
Together, lets create a very inclusive environment.