“I hail from a small district in Rajasthan,” an unnamed 37-year-old Indian man writes in a new essay titled “My Wife Is Friends With My Boyfriend: A Gay Man on His ‘Situation'” published by the Hindustan Times. “I am not sure when I realized I was gay, but I was only four or five when I fell in love with a boy from my area. We would play a game, in which I would be the husband, and he would be my wife. … This went on till I was 10. That’s when he got married.”
Child marriage, the man explains, was common in India when he was growing up. At just 11 years old, his family arranged for him to marry to a girl, though he and his wife did not live together for many years.
“We used to talk over the phone,” he says, “but I didn’t feel the need to tell her about my sexual orientation.”
When the two finally reached adulthood, a formal wedding was held.
“I had a boyfriend at that time,” he writes, “but we were not in a physical relationship. I even invited him to my wedding, and he didn’t mind attending it, since he knew my marriage was a social obligation.”
Up until six years ago, gay sex was considered a crime in India, punishable with life imprisonment. In July 2009, the law criminalizing homosexuality was declared unconstitutional by the Delhi high court. The law was reinstated, however, in December 2013, sparking international outcry.
It didn’t take long for the man’s “social obligation” to become a burden. Shortly after their wedding, he decided to tell his wife the truth. But when he did, she didn’t believe him.
“She was in denial,” he writes, “and thought I was talking nonsense. She suggested I get help. … I tried to explain to her that no one had forced me to be gay, but she couldn’t understand. She believed that two men can only be friends.”
Years passed and people started pressuring the couple to have children. So they produced two kids together, but, the man says, being intimate with his wife was incredibly difficult. “Whenever she would lie next to me, I’d feel anxious about the prospect of having sex with her,” he says. “Now, we have sex whenever she feels the need to, but not frequently. It pains me to make her go through this.”
“I have considered getting a divorce,” he continues, “but my wife and in-laws feel it would shame the family. My wife tells me that I am her first love, and that she won’t stop loving me till she dies, even if I am with another man.”
After 15 years of marriage, his wife has come to terms with her husband’s sexuality and even maintains a friendship with his boyfriend. Everyone in his family, including his children, now ages 11 and 13 years, also know he’s gay, “but they still don’t understand what that means.”
As a result, he says his children have been made to suffer. “I have fought with people in my society for troubling my kids,” he says. “I tell them not to treat them the way they treat me. I don’t talk to people in my area. I also don’t attend any festivals, family gatherings or marriages, for my family’s sake.”
“They don’t understand what it means to be gay,” he continues, “I don’t see things changing for me or for other gay men in the near future–not at least in my lifetime.”
“I’ll continue living the way I have lived my life so far. There is no other option for me.”