In the aftermath of divorce, this man found the courage to admit he was gay
“I took three decades to be comfortable with my sexuality, to be able to tell myself that I am attracted to men”
When Ravi Purohit shared with his prospective wife that he may be bicurious, she was convinced “it was just a phase”. That was the most he’d had ever attempted to come out of the closet and accept his authentic self, but he “pushed those feelings back inside”. A year into the marriage, when his wife started mistrusting him and accusing him of extramarital affairs, the couple realised their marriage was doomed. Divorce can be devastating, but in the ashes of his relationship, Purohit found himself reborn with the courage to embrace his truth. This is his incredibly powerful story.
“Growing up in Indore, the boys in my school would tease me for not being “man enough”. I would pretend to enjoy sports, but I was really interested in cooking and painting. There was also an incident with a distant relative where a man touched me in a way I wasn’t comfortable with. In my teenage years, when I became attracted to beefy, muscular men, I told myself that incident had changed me, and shoved these thoughts to the back of my mind.
When I turned 27, my family wanted me to settle down. I met a girl through the arranged marriage set-up and we enjoyed talking to each other. When things took a step towards the big wedding, I wanted to open up to her about my attraction to other men. After hearing me out, she took it rather lightly.
She was convinced that it was just a phase, and that everybody is on a spectrum. Both of us thought we were overthinking it. She said that we could deal with it later if it grew more serious. That was the closest I had come to opening up about those feelings, and again pushed them back.
A year later, we got married, but our relationship was rife with compatibility issues. Funnily enough, she thought I was having affairs with other women. Suspicion led to a lot of mistrust and discord. When things kept getting bitter and seemed beyond repair, we filed for divorce.
After the dissolution of my marriage, I lived alone in Mumbai. I had a high-stress job, and was rebuilding my life. I felt extremely lonely, and began to own up to the idea of being bicurious. One night, I joined Grindr. It was my personal act of coming out of the closet. After I spoke to a few men, I felt comfortable. Even the physical intimacy was better with men as compared to all my previous relationships.
When my mom started nudging me to remarry (I lost my father early), I decided to come out of the closet to her. Surprisingly, she was calm, and gave me the best piece of advice that eventually changed my life for good.
Now that I didn’t have society’s pressure to do ordinary things like getting married or having kids, she said, I have the opportunity to do extraordinary things. She asked me to reassess everything, and feel free to make big changes. It was the gentle push I needed to quit my stressful job and pursue painting as a profession, something I’ve always wanted to do. I left Mumbai and moved to Manali for a slower, more laidback life.
Deciding to come out of the closet liberated and completed me as an individual. Navigating this new change has been overwhelming, partly because I am new to the game, and also because straight men find it offensive if someone compliments them. If I tell someone that I like them, straight men react aggressively. They will say, “Why, do you think I am gay? I am not”. Liking someone as an individual doesn’t mean I want to sleep with them.
If I get a chance some day, I’d like to come out to my ex-wife as well. As a child, I was afraid of the backlash, and avoided the idea of being gay. Homosexuality or even being a bisexual is still considered taboo in most parts of the country — it isn’t easy, especially in smaller cities, to stand up at a young age. But I’m not ashamed of my identity at all.
It’s difficult to live with the constant weight of such a lie. It takes a toll on our self-worth and self-esteem. I was fortunate enough to have supportive colleagues and friends when I decided to come out of the closet, and didn’t undergo any severe cases of bullying like many others do. I only wish that everybody finds the strength to be themselves sooner in life, to live the best version of their lives.”
(Ravi Purohit is a 32-year-old Manali-based painter)
– As told to Arundhati Chatterjee