Being Gay in Indian Military

Saradha Natarajan

This is the story of an ex-army officer who openly came out as Gay through his blog. It was originally published in NDTV.
Retd. Major J Suresh who recently came out as Gay through a post, stated that his article on coming out would bring him so much hate. In his essay, he said that he initiated the discussion to let the gay men know how the top military officers are homophobic.
“I was a loyal, disciplined and upright army officer and I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve in the military. So, I am also doing this as a duty to better inform the top military leadership about this rather complex and sensitive subject on which they certainly have a clear stand, but have very poor scientific or human understanding.”
The Major wrote that he had come out when he was young because he was feared of the incident that occurred when he was a teen. He said that he had his eye on a cute boy from his class and that when his friends found out about him, they ridiculed him.
Here is his essay:
“It most likely drove home a message – a wrong message – but one that gay kids the world over learn from such incidents of bullying – that what I was feeling was ‘wrong’, ‘bad’ or ‘sick’, and if I continued to heed those feelings it could provoke much worse violence that would only hurt me physically and mentally – and so it was best to ‘conform’. And just like that those feelings got deeply repressed and probably resurfaced not suddenly but slowly through my mid-twenties. Later I joined the NDA and then graduated from the Indian Military Academy as a young officer.  I felt no romantic attraction towards or love for anyone. But by my mid-twenties, when those feelings started slowly resurfacing, I started understanding that I was gay.
If I had told anyone ‘officially’ in the army, I could very well have been discharged dishonourably, kicked out. And I was still relatively young – struggling to decide what to do about my situation – I loved the army but I was just beginning to feel that I will not be accepted for who I was. But with no idea on what to do, I had no option but to keep my secret to myself.
 My mother initially didn’t understand – so my father explained – and her first reaction after that was – ‘so what you’re still my son and I love you no matter what’. My father said that I needn’t worry and that I will always be part of the family. That was obviously a big relief for me. For so many years, I have struggled with reconciling the ex-military part and the gay part of my identity – as if the two can’t/don’t fit together. But I have slowly realized that this was an absolutely unwarranted struggle that I had subjected myself to… I probably didn’t even think of coming out earlier only because I was ex-military – as if my coming out would somehow be detrimental to the image of the army. I realize now I was so wrong to think that way. I would like to remind the sexagenarian general (obviously expected to be regressive in his thinking), that the army is not his royal inheritance that he can choose to run the way he pleases – it is an organization which owes its existence to the highest law of this land, the Indian Constitution and those serving in it, including serving gay personnel, are citizens of this country who have rights – and while some of the rights of those serving in the military may be rightly curtailed (like rights relating to freedom of speech and expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom to form associations and unions) – but he can NOT take away the fundamental right of serving gay men to a life of dignity, honour and self-respect and he also can NOT deny the right of LBBT military aspirants to serve openly in the future.”
He also in his essay urged the General to reconsider his position.
 “Sir, please don’t forget that all those concerns you have about gay men – effect on cohesion, morale etc, – all these arguments were been put forward against inclusion of women in the Indian military and so many other militaries throughout the world and against inclusion of blacks in the US armed forces and so many other militaries. Time has proved that all those concerns regarding inclusion of women, blacks and other excluded groups in various militaries were baseless and ridiculous to say the least. The only thing that matters is – Is the individual a team player, is he capable, professional, fit & disciplined?”


Related Article: Moffie, a movie about gay men in military


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