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29 Feb 2024, Edition - 3152, Thursday

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When a passionate night gave him HIV, his mother was the only one he could confide in

Indrani Thakurata


When we hear of atrocities against the LGBTQ community in urban areas,we wonder if it is just hatred, ignorance or unwillingness to accept the ‘other’. Even Though, their lives are under reported, they still find a mention in the mainstream news. But spare a thought of those who face rejection, humiliation and are outcasted in smaller towns, steeped in traditionalism–we rarely hear of them. We are attempting to chronicle such a life who, in all its ordinariness,living an extraordinary life. Peter Francis hails from Kollam, a town in Kerala. He confronted his sexuality when a senior from his school made him realise of his sexual orientation through love and tender touches. “I wasn’t in touch with my inner-self, I was a gawky little teenager.

But soon came to understand that I like spending time with this guy, his touches don’t make me uncomfortable–I feel loved and desired instead.” Like most mothers,his mother also was aware of this special friendship, that was a little more than what a teenager shares with other friends. “She was the first to confront me about my friendship. But, I was new to my own feeling and ofcourse didn’t have the courage and the clarity to open up. So, I just diverted the topic to something else. But I know now, that it was the first time my mother got a sense of my sexual orientation.”

As time passed by, Peter left his town for Bangalore. He pursued his dream to be a nurse. He enrolled himself for Nursing (Bsc). “I always had this fear of people making fun of me because of my seuality. I always behaved like the way (Hetero) people are expected to behave curbing my natural instincts. I was a closet gay trying desperately to fit in. During the course of my stay in Bangalore, I got to learn about some dating sites exclusively for gays. There I met a few like minded people. It was refreshing to chat up with men who were open about their sexuality, their feelings and the hardships of being different. And here I say different because, ‘normal is debatable’.” After his graduation, Peter started work in Sahyadri Hospital. He had casual flings and serious relationships. During his second job in Vydehi Hospital, Bangalore, he started living in.

“I wouldn’t generalise, but in our world, we meet with a sexual escapade. And that’s why, perhaps, we are unable to find depth in a relationship. It is an insecure world, especially because there is no social recognition in our country. We still see it as crime, we still loathe gay relationship in public. We cringe at two men or two women expressing love in open. But thanks to aware,educated and liberated, influential friends from our community that the subject is a part of our conversation. Their is acceptability and thoughts on the same. Thanks to many celebs who have come out in open to express solidarity and reveal their sexual truth in front of the world.” Peter is a sucker for love, who believes that a relationship is meant to stay. His personal and professional life was going great guns. He was finalising his papers for Singapore when he got the shocker of his life. His medical reports revealed that he was HIV positive. Crestfallen he didn’t know who to confide in but his mother. “ Children are undoubtedly more close their mothers than their fathers, and especially gays, because I think we are in tune with our feminine side much more than the others. I asked my mother to join me in Bangalore. After she came down, I told her that I have been diagnosed with HIV positive. She asked me how did i get it.

To which I told her about my sexual intimacy with a boy, who didn’t bother to tell me. Being a Lab Assistant, she knew all about it.She was devastated, about my orientation and the disease.But we didn’t have the strength to talk about it to our relatives back in Kollam. Because they wouldn’t understand and they will rebuke the family.” Then, mother and son fought the infection without telling anyone else. They braved resultant depression that the medicines cause too. “My father recently started to look for my bestest half. It was after much consultation that my mother opened up about my HIV phase. He was supportive because he knows that the danger of bottling up is to fight hardships alone, which he didn’t want me to do. Many parents don’t get and want to be blissfully ignorant about their gay children.

And that is more dangerous than anything else. We don’t get societal support, and if our loved ones also desert us, where would we go? How would we lead a happy, stable life?” Peter’s father is still unaware of his sexual orientation. His relatives are still pressing him for marriage. He fear ostracisation and becoming a butt of all jokes. “In urban India, people have the exposure, they have conversations around it. But in smaller towns, they want to hold on to the set ideas of beings, marriage etc. They don’t want their ideas to be challenged. So, it is hard to expect understanding from them. I am now doing my MSW, counselling. I want to counsel scores of people who feel lost and are scared to break the news at home fearing rejection.” Peter is an optimist and he hopes to settle down with a guy of his choice. “No one wants to live alone. We all want companion, so do I. I am waiting for my prince charming. To hell with what people think. We will make a beautiful home. We say Amen to that!(the name has been changed to protect the identity of the person)

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