By Nitesh R Pradhan
For 24 year old Suman Rai ( name changed) from Singtam, a gay dating site has become a life saver. Following years of singlehood since he came to term with his sexuality at 16.
“I downloaded this app just to get some company who could understand my sexuality,” he says.
However, after some initial chat with a stranger, he found Sangay Tshering (name changed) accidentally from the same town.
“There is now a flood of such dating applications online,” informs a closeted homosexual man, who serves in a high post in the government.
Being a closeted married bisexual person, he does not want to cheat his wife, however he is using such platforms to connect and strike conversations with like minded individuals to open a channel of communication that is much more meaningful that discusses future of the overall sexual minorities.
“I get online and engage myself with intellectual individuals from my community,” says the government officer.
Adding further he says that he has built a strong friendship with many from the LGBTQIA community in Sikkim and they meet whenever they can to explore ideas on furthering the cause of gender sensitisation.
Many have stated that in Sikkim the traditional concept of family and marriage is very rigid and strong inspite of all the modern ‘progressive’ values Sikkimese espouse for, which has made the community not come out of closet even after after Supreme Court of India’s historic verdict decriminalising homosexuality in 2018.
One of the recent examples to come out of closet openly is Edu Tshering Bhutia from Jorethang, whose candid interview has made Sikkim notice a paradigm shift in the narrative in which sexuality was deconstructed and discussed.
“This interview gave a new lease of life to many of us who want to breathe free,” says a third year college going girl living in Tadong.
Lack of awareness on gender sensitisation is one of the prime reason which has withheld many from coming out openly.
For someone like Wangyal Bhutia (name changed) hailing from a traditional cultural background, it is this very fear of his sexuality being labelled as “unnatural” by his own family that stops him from coming out.
He says, “my sexuality is gay but here the patriarchal muscular cultural overtone of how a real man should be is so blazingly ruthless and uninformed that i am afraid just to even speak the truth”.
He states that he feels much more free in neighbouring Darjeeling than in Gangtok.
In the West district headquarter of Gyalshing, Deepak Chettri (name changed) is a well respected businessman. His work takes him to different parts of the region. Identifying himself as bisexual, he has not married inspite of all the pressure from family.
“I get asked often; why I am not marrying? Who am I dating? The questions come with slight sarcasm. However, I am above it all. I enjoy my life, after ages I feel independent and nothing should come in between me and my happiness,” he says strongly.
He informs that he has stopped living with his parents and values his independence.
“Till my family does not understand me. I am okay not to be with them,” he held.
Economic growth and independence is one of the key elements in making others recognise one’s worth.
Many interactions was made during the course of writing this article and very few made it to the final cut, however, those willing to speak up were those who were independent.
The relatively younger generation of Sikkimese have an idea of alternative sexuality but the support so far been seen by the members of the community as lip service.
Citing an example of a heterosexual friend, who promised 28 year old Manav Raj (name changed) of support and someone “even pretended to be bisexual” backed off at the last minute stating family and societal pressure to discard the unnatural relationship.
Later, Manav found out that he was cheating on him after extracting a lot of material benefit from him.
“I don’t want to blame just him, but also the way society sees us,” he says.
There were some who complained of straight men and women who fake their sexual identity for personal benefit often victimising members of LGBTQIA communities.
While the overall narrative of sexual identity in Sikkim is going through a dynamic shift along with teething aberrations more awareness on sensitisation has been felt to dispel any wrong notion.