Jan 26 2016

Living in the Closet

Haven’t we all seen this? Men who seem to be in happily married or in committed relationships with other women are actually leading a double life?

In an earlier post, I had written on the evolving nature of marriage & relationships and also about how technology has been such a great enabler- making the process of hooking up so much easier. One of the first things I noticed when I signed up on Tinder was how many men looking for hookups with other men seemed to be either married or in committed relationships with women. Another surprise was the sheer number of familiar faces I saw out there – men who I personally knew! So it is more common than we are ready to admit! And just reaffirms my theory that sexual activity is not bound in binaries!

Alright people! You can stop with the eye rolls! They imply either judgment or denial or both, neither of which is a healthy response! Acknowledging a situation is the first step towards dealing with it! And this post is not about sex, because being Gay is more about identity than sex. This post is not about the men who identify as straight and choose to play the field. This is about those men who identify as Gay, but find it hard to face up to that reality. Its called living in the closet – identity is not acknowledged and any desires associated with it are pushed to the farthest recesses of the heart. Millions of closeted men (and women) are living in loveless marriages – all in a vain attempt to conform to social norms.

Some of us who identify as gay, have made the choice to not lead a double life and come out in the open. But for the vast majority, that remains an insurmountable obstacle, especially in a conservative society like ours. The deeply ingrained prejudice and phobia that exists does not make it any easier. Not everyone has the strength or even the desire to be a rebel. Most just want to lead normal lives.

Being “normal”! So many of us have wished we could have “normal” lives as well! But its society that defines “normal” and by extension our wishes as well. Society tells us we should have a wife and kids who will become “Budhaape ka sahara”. The momma’s boys among us are guided by the desire to see our mother’s happy at any cost. “See mom, I have bought a bahu for you!” is a line every man wants to say in his life! In the facebook era, photos with the wife from the annual holidays in Bali & Obersalzberg or in those new Diwali clothes make for the pretty pictures which fetch the 1000’s of likes and waah-waah’s from the social circle – important validation that many of us seek. Which is why “looking good together” is a major criteria for choosing a mate.

Being gay, he may be happier with another man, but the social price to pay for that is just too high! Because living life as a gay man eliminates almost all of the above possibilities! There are other factors to consider too! How many companies will hire an openly gay man or woman? How many friends will remain so after he has come out? It all just seems like too high a price to pay! Staying closeted and leading a “normal” life is just so much easier! But is it really easier? We seek acceptance from society and try to conform to norms in order to gain that. Even if it means hiding our true desires & identity! Even if it means lying everyday not just to the world but to ourselves! Does it make us happier?

I have counselled half a dozen friends in this situation who have had the same sob story! They haven’t married for love, but have made a compromise in order to be normal. There is little or no passion for their partner, and displays of passion are often forced and artificial. Needless to say, the charade usually fizzles out within 2 years. With women becoming more financially independent, it has become easier to opt out of such a loveless marriage and many do make that choice. Shockingly, many men do not acknowledge the real issue and choose to try again. And again!

I know someone who has just been divorced for the third time. Got married the first time to his college sweetheart. Had an affair, divorced got married for the second time which also ended in divorce after 13 months. The last wedding, which happened after a whirlwind 6 month romance, ended at Swargate Bus station while returning from their honeymoon in Goa. 2 kids from 3 failed marriages and a retirement fund lost in alimony payments sums up his life! Sadly but not surprisingly, he is now trying for the fourth time, egged on by parents who are not as clueless about the situation as they appear.

Thankfully many give up trying after the first time sparing themselves and the women a lot of needless grief. But there is no attempt to address the real issue, choosing instead to fill the void in their lives with expensive cars, bikes and vacations to Europe!

One thought on “Living in the Closet

  1. I think you have a rare empathy and sensibility. These stories have been recounted on blogs before, but without much balance in the perspective. A guy starts to write about his life, and then ends it with an undiscriminating anger and resentment that has no object except destiny. Not only do we need to know what could be done to make this easier, we also need to have some idea in which direction to go to come closer to achieving it. And reading up and thinking from the perspective of a person other than ourselves is what most of us fail to do.

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