Samarpan Maiti: Owns his identity, wins

Indian fixation with marriage and children a hurdle to LGBTQ acceptance: Mr Gay World runner-up

Samarpan Maiti

A cancer research scientist, a model, an LGBTQ activist and a writer, Kolkata boy Samarpan Maiti added another feather in his cap by finishing as second runner-up in Mr Gay World 2018 in South Africa. Here are the edited excerpts from the interview...

Congratulations on winning the title! From being a bullied kid in rural West Bengal to walking the ramp at Mr Gay World 2018. How has the journey been?

It may look like a fairy tale, but the journey was not easy. There were times when I contemplated quitting everything, but I never gave up. My father said, ‘Life is a lot like travelling, so, don’t take the shortcut, or you will miss many beautiful things’. I have nothing to prove to anyone, I follow my heart. The pageant experience was a dream come true, as I always wanted to represent my country and win. (Jordan Bruno, a reality TV chef from Australia, was crowned Mr Gay World 2018, while Ricky Devine-White from New Zealand
was the first runner-up).

When did you decide to come out? How hard was it to accept yourself and to make your parents understand?

In 2016, my family was planning for my marriage, and I was planning to participate in Mr Gay World, so I thought it was the time I should tell them about myself.

I accepted myself easily. The challenging part was to come out publicly. I was more worried about my family, as I never wanted them to face any trouble because of me.

I have been attracted to men since my adolescence. But, I had neither heard about the term ‘gay’ nor did I have any idea about ‘sexual orientation’. Part of it was due to the fact that in India, our academic course lacks sex education.

As a child, I was also a victim of sexual abuse. My neighbour, the perpetrator, had warned me not to tell anyone, and I kept mum. I learned about the the internet after I moved to a city to pursue higher studies. It was then I heard the term LGBTQ, and I could finally relate to it.

It was depressing to live with this hidden identity. I used to pretend that I was straight, had ‘girlfriends’ like others. Still, I was driven out of my hostel because a few people suspected and termed the bond between me and my friend as a ‘gay relationship’. We were subjected to abuse even at a time when he supported me emotionally, following the death of my father. 

Were your parents supportive of your sexuality? If not, have they changed their minds now?

My family consists of me, my sister and my mother. Mom was either indifferent or pretended to show indifference towards my sexuality.

But, she believes in me and understands me. She is supportive of whatever I do now.

You are a model and a scientist. Do these identities get shadowed? Does your sexuality take centrestage?

I don’t think so. I think it’s the other way around. Being a scientist, I still work as a model and take part in Gay beauty pageants, and even win competitions. I have broken the stereotype. My message is clear: the LGBTQ community can excel in every possible field. I want the society to give me equal respect for both my research work and sexual orientation.

What do you make of the Indian society’s outlook towards the LGBTQ community?

The Indian population is driven by the question — what will the society say — without realising that it’s us who form the very society that we talk about. So, if we change with acceptance, it will influence others to do the same. Here’s an example: in my village, after marriage you have to wear saree and use ghomta (using one end of the garment to cover the head as a sign of respect towards elders). But, a few women started to change the trend. They ditched the saree for salwar kameez. Initially, people talked a lot, but now everyone is accustomed to that. A major hindrance towards the acceptance of the LGBTQ people in India lies in the fact that our society is preoccupied with marriage, children and future generations. We need to set more examples so that they can see it on a regular basis and can overcome inhibitions.

What’s next in store for Samarpan Maiti?

I find myself unpredictable, but again, I am very much focused once I decide to do something. Someone offered me a role in a biopic. Though not sure yet, you may find me acting in it.

 

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Samarpan Maiti: Owns his identity, wins

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