Growing up, almost all of us are exposed to one type of sexual orientation – heterosexuality. We grow up assuming that a relationship between a male and a female is what constitutes the normal. This hetero-normative script stays with us, until we begin to question it. In India, as in many parts of the world, members of the LGBTQ+ community have to navigate ostracisation, taboos, stigma, misunderstandings, sexual assaults, and more.
Which is what makes Swaroop’s story of discovery, struggle, and triumph so inspirational.
Swaroop Kanparthi is a 24-year-old HR professional from Bangalore. As the eldest son, he was used to being pampered by everyone in his family. But Swaroop had always harboured a lingering doubt when it came to his sexuality – he never felt any attraction towards girls or women. Since he did not know what to think of it, he never talked about it too much.
Soon he made friends with his neighbour, Akhil. Akhil used to be mocked in school for acting different but he never let it bother him. Swaroop, on the other hand, was wary of becoming a victim of mocking. He and his family moved to Hyderabad after he finished his 10th grade and it was here that he opened up to Akhil about his homosexuality. In Hyderabad, he was exposed to the LGBTQ community and became aware of powerful movements like the gay pride, a concept that was hitherto unknown to him.
It was in Hyderabad that Swaroop met a boy who promised him eternity. Swaroop fell in love but was deeply hurt when the relationship didn’t work out. He came out to his mother when she found him heartbroken and weeping in his bedroom. His mother then informed his father and they took him to a psychiatrist with the intention of ‘curing’ him of the ‘condition’. Swaroop was forced to meet 10 doctors within the span of one month and he grew tired of the ignorance on display. He became rebellious and shut his parents out, but his extended family aggravated the situation by turning his friends against him.
What followed was a period of depression. Swaroop fought suicidal thoughts and confessed to them to a friend who, thankfully, talked him out of it and together, they ran away from home. Swaroop’s family is well-connected, so they were able to track him down but with the happy consequence that his mother became more open about her son’s sexuality. The family members, having moved past the difficulties of accepting their son as he is, share a very close relationship today.
During this family upheaval, Swaroop was working part-time in Tata Services and also finished college with flying colours. He then signed a 6-month work contract with Amazon, after which he pursued his dream job of learning and development with Google. He moved to Bangalore after another devastating break-up. He wanted to grow as a person and here he made many friends who were open and accepting of his sexuality. He had found his place.
Swaroop clarifies that being gay is only one dimension of a person’s personality. A person who is gay should still be looked at as a unique individual, a human being like everyone else. “Be who you are. Love yourself and everyone will love you.”
Written by Catherine Shadap and Shruti Sharada