“Law makers should make provisions to protect our community.”
When someone told Suraj it was OK for him to be gay, it changed his life.
Suraj is happiest when he is with his family and friends, they accept him for who he is. The fact that Suraj is gay is not an issue for his family, he only feels that life is miserable when he is around people who are not willing to accept his sexuality. In an interview with The Catamaran, Suraj talks about how the LGBTI community in Sri Lanka is looked down upon by others in society and how colonial era laws banning homosexuality need to be scrapped.
When did you feel that you were “different” and how?
In school I was called various names. Only at a later stage did I realize what those names meant. Since my childhood I was attracted to boys. I always had a preference for whom I had feelings for. It was a different kind of a feeling but I wasn’t brave enough to discuss it openly.
After I completed my Ordinary Level examinations I started to realize that I was different. I questioned how I could be different from others. My moment of truth came when I read a lesson in one of my grade eight text books entitled “Who am I?” The problem within the LGBTI community is that they don’t accept themselves.
It is true that that the LGBTI community is facing criticism and legal barriers. I am glad I can live the way I live amidst all of this. Even if I die tomorrow I have lived my life. I don’t feel more extraordinary than others, as I am being myself. But I don’t introduce myself as a “gay”. I am Suraj, that’s it. I do not question others’ sexuality. Neither my mother nor my sisters have ever questioned my sexuality. Sometimes my mother complains that other people of my age are married. But in those instances it is my aunt who shouts at her to leave me alone.
What do your parents say?
I used to maintain a diary. When I was with my first boyfriend my mother found my diary and read it. She asked about my boyfriend later. I knew she would exaggerate and tell it to my father in the evening. Therefore before she approached him I told my father that “I think I am gay.” I was tense that night and I had suicidal thoughts for the first time. I even hid a knife under my pillow.
This was in 1997 when I was 18 years old. I cannot express the fear and the feeling I had at that time. My father told me to get married and if didn’t he would kick me out of the house.
I had a friend whom I got to know through church and her father politically left. So the next day I visited him. I cried and he said: “Do not think that you are committing an offence, if you think so, then we all are sinners”. I am glad he said the right words at that time.
Do you want to get married?
Marriage is just a legal bond. We are looking at a physical and a spiritual connection. I haven’t really thought about marriage as I don’t have the need for it right now. I don’t know whether I will have a need for it in the future. For now my partners come and stay at my place and there is no objection from anyone at home.
What do you expect from society?
We want Penal Code Sections 365, 365 A, 399 to be removed. These are outdated provisions brought during the colonial period, which were based on The Bible. These provisions are always interpreted homosexuality as an act of “gross indecency”. The original idea behind this provision was about people who commit crimes disguised as another. It would be great if the law makers could make provisions to protect our community.