Survey Suggests Some Gay Men in Heterosexual Marriages Are Considering Coming Out, Post‑377
In India, many gay men and lesbian women get married under societal and family pressure, and the fact that most people still do not accept homosexuality, forces them to keep their sexual orientation a secret, even after marriage. Figures reveal that nearly 70% of gay men in Mumbai and 80% in smaller cities across Maharashtra are married according to a 2009 survey conducted by Mumbai-based Humsafar Trust, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization.
Across the country, says gay activist Ashok Row Kavi, 75% of the estimated population of 2.5 million gay men are married. So, what does the recent Supreme Court verdict on decriminalizing Section 377 — that is, effectively decriminalizing homosexuality — mean for these marriages? A recent survey by Planet Romeo, a gay dating app, offers some insight: 28% of gay respondents married to women report they are considering coming out to their wives.
“According to our calculations, around two million married man [sic] will become openly gay,” the site reports. “Considering that most of our members live in big cities, gays living in the smaller villages are under-represented. For example, the percentage of men coming out will be lower, but at the same time, the percentage of marriages must be much higher. 2.2 million men might come out as gay to their ‘unsuspecting’ wives, and, let’s not forget that around 100,000 gay husbands will be shocked by the reply ‘Oh, really? I’m a lesbian.'”
The figures may not really be representative — after all, its respondents are a self-selecting group of men who use the app and are therefore comfortable with a gay digital identity, or even a gay real-world identity: as one survey respondent reported, “My ex-wife had evidence of me being gay and I was being threatened of being a criminal. So I left the city where I was born and relocated with my kids. I feel free now, my kids know I’m gay and they love me for who I am.”
While that freedom is critical, as well as the ultimate aim of a post-377 world, the potential fallout on individual relationships is very real in a society that hasn’t quite caught up to the constitutional ruling: “…in India, a wife is held responsible for the failure of her marriage. So, when a marriage does not work, the blame falls on the wife. This has a crippling effect on her morale and self-worth,” Hemangi Mhaprolkar, a Mumbai-based clinical psychologist, pointed out to The Telegraph in 2015. All the more, perhaps, if her husband turns out to be gay.
Here’s hoping people have the strength to fully inhabit their identities, and others have the strength to support them.