Editor’s note: Straight to Normal: My Life as a Gay Man by Sharif D Rangnekar is one the first autobiography to be written from a LGBTQ perspective. The book depicts the struggles that homosexuals face in urban India. It is a story of self-discovery and courage in face of societal stigma, and even unimaginable violence, as the excerpt below reveals.
An excerpt from Straight to Normal: My Life as a Gay Man
As I freed myself a bit, I started hosting parties too. I would cook, arrange inexpensive alcohol and soft drinks. I would put together dance music and allow my friends to bring others too not knowing then that the ‘others’ could be a man someone just picked up from Nehru Park or a hulk connected with for the first time on a gay chat site. The open home and conversations gave me some kind of recognition amongst the small group I had gotten to know. A few such new acquaintances even started following my work as a researcher-cum-reporter working under Venu at the dot-com.
It was around that time that I broke a report related to a large Indian corporation and its funding structure. While the report appeared on our website, I think it was also used or referred to by other media. The story created an unexpected furor in the political circles.
What happened a few days later was as unexpected as the controversy the story generated. One night as I was heading back home, around 8 p.m., I was assaulted by a group of three men, who knocked me around for 30 or 40 minutes. Not that I recall every detail but I can recount some parts of this event that shook me out of my sense of security.
When I regained consciousness, my files of papers including those related to the report I had written were strewn all over. Many of the confidential documents were missing. I tried to reach out to my phone and spotted it near the front right tyre of my car on the inner side, below the engine. My body was aching and at that moment I had no idea where the pain was coming from, as it seemed to be all over.
I suddenly felt something wet, it was my blood. My pants were partly down, my underwear too, not from the front though. I turned to the right to find a wooden stick which had traces of blood on one end and a cloth wrapped on the other. It was only then that I realized that the stick had entered me during the course of the attack.
The first hit was directed at my diaphragm, the second at my right knee. I remembered one of the men saying, ‘Humko patta hain aap kya passand karte ho, to maza aayega apko.’ Evidently, the idea of maza or fun was to have that stick pushed up, inside me. They knew about my sexuality, I deduced.
I finally managed to get myself up, I had tears but could not cry. I guess it was shock. I pulled out tissues from the car, wet them with drinking water that I had in my car and wiped my arms and then my rear. Barring some bruises and a slight tear on my pants, I didn’t look like a person who had gone through a sexual assault of the nature that I just had. This was the only saving grace as I did not have to tell Adi what had happened when I headed to his home that night, last minute, for a late dinner. I told him that the scratches and the dirt marks on my clothes were resultant of a fall.
As the night progressed, my body ached and I seemed to see visuals—mostly shadows of the three men. I even imagined the wielding of the stick. That image comes back to haunt me till today as I make attempts to be a bottom or experiment with my sexual role as a ‘versatile’. Any entry into that area always leads to me tightening my muscles, expecting pain.
It took me years to talk about this event, forgetting it for a while. I did not file a complaint as I thought the best way to deal with it was silence. If I told ma, she would have been paranoid, probably assuming that I was always at risk. I doubted the police could have done much and the case would have kept the incident alive, making a closure of any kind, impossible. And if the media got hold of it, it would have been front-page news, exposing my family and the gay community too!
Till now, I am not sure if it was a hate crime in the truer sense or a retaliation by a corporate that had a strong intelligence system, aiming to hit me where it hurt most. What I know though is that it denied me years of mental and emotional peace and fuller sexual intimacy with partners who could well have been my lovers, had I been able to allow consummation with me as the ‘bottom’, exploring my sexual versatility.
(The following excerpt has been published with permission from Rupa Publications India Pvt Ltd. Written by Sharif D Rangnekar, the paperback of the book Straight to Normal: My Life as a Gay Man costs Rs 295.00)