Colors of Courage: For Pride Month 2022, we celebrate Lakshay and Abhinav’s intercontinental lockdown romance
Meet Lakshay and Abhinav, a couple whose love during the lockdown inspired hope for everyone.
Relationships are fragile, and it sometimes takes a major tragedy, such as a pandemic, to either break them or make them. In this strange new atmosphere, a new sort of relationship emerged when Lakshay visited his parents in Delhi, India and got caught up in a COVID romance with Abhinav.
But it all began 4 years ago before Lakshay relocated to Australia. He reveals how he came out to himself. He discloses, “I wanted to confirm my sexuality and for that I had gone out on a date with a girl because I believed that even if there was a 1% possibility of me making it work out with a girl, I would take it. But that didn't work out, and that's when I realised what had happened. Then I started talking to another guy, and that’s where I felt the connection.”
“I wanted to be certain of both genders, and this is what led me to be certain of my sexuality. It wasn't great since I expected it to be difficult for me to face society, but that's when I realised this is who I am. I was living in self-denial at the time, thinking it was just a phase that I'd grow out of, but then I realised it was something I was born with.” It wasn't until he came to Australia that he really accepted his sexuality and accepted himself.
Coming out to friends, family, or on public platforms in a queerphobic or queer-ignorant culture can elicit a wide range of reactions, from outright hostility to conditional or unaware acceptance to a loving and accepting embrace. Lakshay, on the other hand, was lucky enough to have found his most ardent supporter in his sister. He recalls, “In April 2020, I told my sister over the phone that I was gay before telling my parents. Because I was in Australia when I told her, she said that when I return to India, she will go one week ahead of me and then start talking to my family about me. And when I return to India to see my family, they will address everything so that my family is prepared and has time to absorb it. If they have any questions, I will be there to answer them.”
When he visited India last year his parents began pressuring him to marry after he travelled abroad for work, and Lakshay had been putting off the prospect of marriage because he had never been interested in girls and had never come out to his family. Coming out to them was difficult for Lakshay, but once he did, he was ecstatic.
“My mother stated, that ‘I've seen that movie Ek ladki ko dekha to aisa laga.’ I had no idea that a movie could have such an impact on our parents' attitudes. I was very pleased with myself. But it took my father a long time to accept and absorb it because it was too much for him to handle because he had never thought about me before being gay, and in India, we have this tradition of a son marrying a girl and having children, so it was too much for him to fully understand.” Lakshay reveals that his parents were concerned since they assumed he was holding all of this within himself.
On Lakshay’s last visit home from Australia, he met Abhinav. “Luckily, I met him on a dating platform and then got stuck in India for nine months, so we had plenty of time to get to know one other. We started running into each other very frequently, and eventually we recognised that this is something I want in my life. He was really adding a lot of value in my life and that’s when I told my family about him,” illuminates Lakshay.
It's been 9 months since Abhinav and Lakshay started dating, and their relationship is still going strong, with Lakshay's family being very encouraging and supportive. “Although they were fine with my being gay, imagining your son with another man is a completely different story. But, over time, they grew to be very respectful of my decision. Then my father once decided to invite Abhinav over to my house for dinner in India. They said he's a really nice guy and that they like him. They continue to invite him around to their house even now that I am in Australia. He's also met my friends, so they all come over to my house and hang out with my parents.”
What really makes Lakshay and Abhinav's love story unique and special is that they both want to make a difference in the society. He signifies, “When we first started talking, we shared some mutual interests, but it wasn't until we talked our ambitions and life goals that I learned that he, too, wants to do something for the community, to help LGBTQ individuals, and to change people's attitudes.”
It was on social media that the couple decided to liberate themselves through their positive content and strive to provide an example of possibilities in a world where glimmers of hope still exist. “We've been fortunate in that our families have been supportive, and our relationship has been very strong, so we want other people to think that coming out and living a life of pride, just like other straight people, is achievable,” he smiles.
But there are other challenges that LGBT individuals face in their daily lives. Speaking of the same, Lakshay adds, “Abhinav and I went to a restaurant in Gurgaon last year where we were denied entry on the account of not being a couple. We told them that we were indeed a couple, the guard was homophobic and so he refused.” It is clear that our society has a long way to go in terms of understanding and embracing gender identities.
Speaking of the time his co-workers realized his sexual orientation, he says, “When a few of my Indian co-workers found out about my sexual orientation, they were taken aback because they had no idea what it was like to be homosexual and were unfamiliar with the vocabulary. So, I had to explain it to them since they were from a different background and hadn't been exposed to it sufficiently. So, I was fine with that because I am always happy to educate individuals who are interested in learning, if they want to understand,” says Lakshay who takes pride in supporting LGBTQ activism.
Sharing how important it is for teens to build trust in themselves who are struggling with coming out, Lakshay emphasises, “Believe in yourself and understand that nothing is wrong with you. It's completely natural, and your identities can’t pull you back. However, when you come out to your family, you must remember that they are of a different generation and age, and they have not been exposed to this before, so we must think from their perspective as well. You must practice patience with them,” he signs off.