Part of my frustration, then, stems from I can’t change where I’m from — a part of the world that has now disowned me.the fact that I can’t change where I’m from — a part of the world that has now disowned me. It is a frustration that you cannot expect humans — journalists or otherwise — to understand unless they themselves experience that kind of blatant abandoning.
My family didn’t abandon me when I came out to them over a decade ago. I remember handing my parents a letter as they were dropping me back off at my college dorm after dinner one Sunday night. The letter contained a short paragraph about my sudden epiphany. Ten, fifteen minutes later, they phoned me. My mom, to let me know that I was oversocialized and should probably be studying more and my dad, to let me know that while they didn’t fully understand what it all meant, they would continue to love and support me.
In the years since that letter — that love has flowed copiously and not a day has gone by where I haven’t been grateful that when faced with a hard truth, my family was able to reconcile it with grace.
It was a moment of incredible reassurance.
Another such moment would come years later. It’s the day after the day that Governor Cuomo signed marriage equality into law for the state of New York. I am walking down Lorimer Street in Brooklyn and about to duck into a subway station, when I get a call from my father.
“So, it’s a big day there, isn’t it?”
“Haha, I guess. People are really excited everywhere.”
“Well, if you and your friends choose to party, do so responsibly.”
That was it. Then last year, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA, he asked me, “So what do you think about it?” I responded, “It’s a good start, but there is still way too much work to be done yet.”
He understood what I meant.
These are all small, imperfect, incredible acts of love. They’re reassuring. They exemplify how anyone born in a culture of older values can adapt and learn new values if they are acting from a place of love.
Which is what is at stake with India’s enforcement of Section 377: It is fostering a culture of hate — instead of bringing people together, it threatens to tear them asunder.
Kolkata — or Calcutta as the British colonialists imagined it and as I knew it in my childhood — is a city without equal.
It is the antithesis of my hometown. It is all entropy; it is sloppy. It is sensory overload; it could very well be the future of New York City — a town where the rift between the haves and have-nots is irreversibly Dickensian. Every day is a contest for survival. The moneyed, the loudest, the most persuasive win.
All of my memories of visiting this part of the world exist as abstractions. I remember entering Kolkata with a sense of dread as a kid. When I entered this city, I was subject to its terms. I would inevitably come down with stomach Kolkata is all entropy; it is sloppy. It is sensory overload; it could very well be the future of New York City.flu; I would miss all of my television shows; I would be unable to talk to friends back home for weeks; I would miss the easy American food I had become accustomed to; I would miss taking showers — instead having to fill up a bucket with hot water and use a mug to scoop up water to bathe myself. I would have to swat away mosquitoes. I would have to avoid any and all eye contact with poor mothers or their kids on the street — and even then they would come up to me, trying to sell me something or else begging, for food, for any money.
Whenever I left Kolkata, I did so with a sense of relief. The chaos of the the city throws into stark relief the seeming fixability of problems we might, in the West, feel unfixable.