Against all odds

Against all odds

5 February 2019 07:02 am

Anuhas is employed as a HIV field officer for a non-governmental organisation and while sharing his personal story with us, he revealed how he questioned who he really was from a young age.

“Growing up, I used to wonder who I was. I started questioning how I felt about society, what made me uncomfortable in my day-to-day activities as a child, and was quite confused about how differently I saw life though I was a boy.”

Even as a child, Anuhas would always prefer to play with the girls, and upon reaching his adolescence, he understood that he was more attracted to other boys. Having to grow up amidst a dysfunctional family, Anuhas faced tremendous mental pressure and was experiencing a sense of abandonment.

“My parents constantly argued, and I was not able to discuss any of the issues I was going through as a child. I was getting ready to sit for my O/Levels, and with the exam stress and personally being confused about my identity, there was immense pressure on me. My head was filled with uncertainties about my future and those thoughts themselves became unbearable at times.”

Despite all these issues, Anuhas managed to complete his studies and began working at a ticketing office in Colombo. He said that, even then, he was still confused about his sexual orientation. He went on to state that it was through one of the managers in the office that he would later understand that he was in fact gay.

“I didn’t have a broad understanding of the term gay, but my manager at the time was kind enough to assure that it was a natural thing. He even gave me links as references. After reading up, I realised that I had finally found out who I was.”

Drawing inspiration

Anuhas later on attended HIV awareness workshops that were conducted for the LGBT community. “During the five-day workshop, I learnt more about different gender identities and sexual orientations. I was not aware about transgender persons or that there was a community of people representing each gender identity. I must say that the workshop was an eye-opener and it also allowed me to fully understand who I really was.”

He went on to say that the speakers that he met during the workshop were prominent LGBT activists in the society, and that speaking to them inspired him to fully embrace his identity as a gay man.

“Growing up, I always followed my own style – be it the way I walked, talked, or what I chose to wear. I always made sure that I maintained my reputation in society. That has in a way helped me to be who I am without having to hide my identity,” Anuhas recalled.

With his new found inspiration, Anuhas would go on to actively promote the LGBT culture and discuss it online over social media platforms.

“Our neighbours started to notice these threads and would come up to the house and insult me. My mother was not aware of what they were accusing me of. They would call me a f****t and would say that I was forcing my lifestyle on others through social media. My mother was extremely hurt having to hear those insults directed at me.”

When asked about what the work environment was like for Anuhas and how accepting they were, he stated: “When we join a company, they are not aware about our gender identities. With time, they start to realise that we are different – be it in our behaviour or the way we talk. I was somewhat fortunate as I befriended a lesbian couple who worked in the same company and I had a manager who knew who I was. Comparatively today, society is becoming more aware about the LGBT community and is far more accepting.”

Misinterpreted by media

When asked about how mainstream media could assist in creating awareness on the LGBT community, Anuhas stated that there were times that the LGBT community was often misinterpreted by writers.

“There have been instances where some writers would draft inaccurate information which would demean the character of the LGBT person they are writing about. I believe even journalists who are writing about our community should first have a broad understanding about who we are.”

Further elaborating the misinterpretations by the media, Anuhas noted: “The media would interpret a person who grew his hair, coloured it, and decided to have his ears pierced and dressed in a fashionable way as a gay person. It is an incorrect representation of a gay person. What they need to understand is that there are gay people who cannot be differentiated from a heterosexual male as they would dress and style themselves in a conventionally ‘heterosexual’ manner. It is how a person feels within, and it is to do with their emotions and their attraction towards another person that would differentiate them from a heterosexual.”

Wrapping up our conversation, Anuhas reiterated that even though society accepted that you are a transgender, a gay, a lesbian, a bisexual, or any gender identification, no one should act as if they have all the freedom in the world to behave in an unacceptable manner.

“You have to behave in a respectable manner and carry yourself in society with dignity. Your identity and sexuality is a personal thing at the end of the day, and you should never leave room to be criticised or allow anyone to use it against you to destroy your character.”

Written by Sarah Hannan | Photo by Saman Abesiriwardana