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#InTheirWords: My School Told Me to Pray the Gay Away

I only told four of my closest friends that I’m gay, but there are no secrets in school. When mine came out (pun intended), I saw people’s worst sides. Kids who didn’t know me stared and whispered as I walk down the corridor or sat in class. Boys called me hijra and behaved like I’d grab their genitals. Through this time, my school’s staff did nothing to help — they made life worse for me.

When gossip about my sexuality first spread, my English teacher came to me to confirm it. I was sitting on the stair adjacent to her class. She must’ve seen me and came to sit next to me. Her white running shoes, her brown floral-curtain print salwar-kameez, and frizzy hair were familiar, but we hadn’t interacted much even when I was her student several years ago.

Unsmiling, eyebrows raised, she asked, “son, I just heard that you declared yourself as gay, is that true?”

“Ma’am, firstly I did not declare it, “I answered.

She hugged me. I expected support. I expected too much.

“God will soon heal you, son. You can’t commit such sins. We’ll pray the gay away,” she said.

She handed me a paper with her husband’s contact details on it. If God couldn’t rescue me, her husband could give me counseling sessions.

A few weeks after this, I performed in our school assembly with the girl’s dance group. No boy had done this before because it was unmanly. My inclusion made our Vice Principal angry. I could see her frustration from the stage. During the performance,

I had to stand and wave my hands. I glanced at her face. Her lips were pursed as she’d just eaten a lemon. Her eyes were slits. After the dance, I read out a poem on gender equality. She stormed out of the auditorium before I finished it.

After the assembly, she called me to her office.

“I do not approve your deviant lifestyle, and you still have time to correct your sins. I don’t want any student of this school to be broken, but this behavior is not only broken but illegal too,” she said. The poem had included a line about equal rights for transgender people, but she thought trans meant gay.

“I give you the time of 3 months to change your satanic habits otherwise I’ll suspend you, and you’ll be completely devastated,” she added.

She’s right. I would have been devastated. My school is part of a large conglomerate and finding another institute to take me on that late in the year would have been impossible, especially if my record showed I’d been suspended.

After this, our relationship was icy. We used to talk about my studies, and I’d often touch her feet to show respect. After the assembly incident, we barely exchanged greetings. I was relieved when she didn’t act on her threat. I didn’t — still don’t — know how to change my sexuality.

Coming out in high school might never be easy. It certainly wasn’t for me. Everybody is discovering himself or herself and eager to find a label that fits. But, I often take heart in the words of Sri Sri that he said to me in response to my inquiry about his opinion on same sex relationships.

“Who am I to judge? I think that we should all accept it because such feelings are natural. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or to be discriminated upon. Just don’t label yourself because labels are for clothes.”

*TLC has withheld the author’s name as he is a juvenile and still goes to the same school.

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