23 year old Gajendra Singh is a proud and out young gay man from Jhansi India. He currently works for Oyo Rooms , a company in the travel industry and also models whenever he gets an opportunity. Growing up in a small city of India, his coming out to family has been smooth to the very surprise of him.
“I was scared because I did not know how my family would react and I was scared that they would disown me”
However, Gajendra thinks that his parents already knew about him and living in a very conservative Indian society, he is quite surprised that his parents were able to accept him for who he is.
Gajendra does not recall his high school life as one with pleasant memories. He has experienced teasing, bullying and physical harassment because of his sexual orientation which he was not aware of back then.
“They made fun out of me and called me names. They called me gay ,Fag , girly at school”
With no access to information from school about sexuality, gender and sexual and reproductive health, Gajendra recalls how confused he was growing up as a young gay boy. He also reflects that the school mates who bullied him were equally unaware about these issues and that must have prompted them to behave violently. His teachers, as in many parts of South Asia, have been avoiding sexual health lessons. As the subject was considered embarrassing no students asked any questions as well.
“When someone is confused about him or herself, the rest use that confusion for their advantage. The outcome could be bullying, physical harassment or sexual abuse”
One of the turning points in Gajendra’s life was his attempt to commit suicide when he was at high school. Resulting from a breakup he had as a young man, this attempted suicide led him to come out to his family. Gajendra reflects that with no information about relationships sexual or romantic or about interpersonal connections and power relations he was a confused young gay man trying to find a place for himself in the world.
Gajendra, fortunately had the privilege of accessing internet at home which encouraged him to seek information that he was not getting from any other sources, especially from school. However, he found it quite confusing when he was accessing dating sites for gay men and questions were thrown at him for which he didn’t know answers back then.
“people asked me questions about my sexual preferences and I didn’t know any of it”
Gajendra explains that not having information on sexuality, sex, sexual relations and safe sex behavior can easily lead young people to take risks in the guise of sexual adventure-taking and could contribute to sexual abuse, violence and in some cases rape. He also reflects that such information can empower young people to be more responsible and also responsibly engage in relationships that are sexual or otherwise. He also insists the importance of supportive characters, like one of his school teachers who supported him in facing the bullying at school and his parents. He mentions that these supportive characters can make young people especially from LGBTQ communities strong, enabling them to peruse their dreams.
Acknowledging the important role of comprehensive sexuality education in the lives of young people, Gajendra emphasizes that it should be made compulsory in all schools because the empowerment such information can bring to young people is unmeasurable. He, as a young man, rejects the traditional accusation against comprehensive sexuality education to encourage casual sex among young people but claims that such information will make young people more responsible. He insists that young people whether straight of LGBTQ should not be made to feel isolated or harassed because they are different and the responsible parties should take all necessary steps to avoid this kind of situations at school settings. He suggests establishing specialized committees at schools to protect LGBTQ students from harassments and violence as a first step to protecting the right of young people for an enabling childhood.