2 min

Why I went back in the closet while travelling to India (Part 2)

Cruising in India was too dangerous. I would have to wait until I got back to Canada

Homosexuality was briefly decriminalized in India in 2009, but the Supreme Court overruled the judgement. Pictured is Bengaluru Pride in 2009 (now called Namma Pride). Credit: Vinayak Das/Flickr/Creative Commons

I was in India for a few weeks and although I was visiting the country for its culture, I had still hoped to hook up since I’d had such a dry spell in Bangkok. The problem was, gay sex is a crime in India and while trying to look for guys on Scruff, I got the most disconcerting warning on the app. It became very real to me how careful I needed to be.

I slowed down on Scruff after that, but there wasn’t the same warning on Grindr. The absence of a disclaimer obviously doesn’t change the law, but I felt more relaxed nonetheless, and Grindr became my primary cruising tool in India.

Using Grindr in India is a different experience than in Toronto. There’s a serious lack of face pics in profiles, even more than usual. Some don’t use photos at all, while others just show different body parts. Then there the guys who opt for stock photos of things like CG flowers with inspirational words or salutations written across them.

I debated whether I should replace my face pic with a torso shot instead, still spooked by my earlier Scruff warning. In the end, I decided against it.

I got some interesting messages on Grindr. People said things to me online that nobody has ever said. One guy wrote, “I love you friend,” as an introduction. Though kind of heartwarming, I found such messages off-putting.

Sure, even if I met someone, I could’ve invited them to my room, but there was a limit on the time visitors were allowed. Such a rule worries me since I read that hotel workers in India can call the police if suspicious of homosexual activity.

During the trip, I’d been reading The Lost Language of Cranes by David Levitt, when in cafés or in transit. I became nervous though, since the synopsis on the back of the book references homosexual themes and uses the word “gay” twice. I found myself covering it up with my hands, or folding the book backwards just so that nobody could see the blurb, especially around conservative-looking people.

I did feel some sense of security, since I’m Canadian, and I figured as long as I didn’t actually get caught screwing in public, I wouldn’t be arrested just for reading Levitt’s novel.

There’s a privilege in being able to put my sexuality away for a few weeks, until I return home. I was horny as hell, but there was always masturbation.

Instead of trying to cruise, I threw myself into the local culture, going for long walks and sitting in cafés people-watching (as well as watching cows, goats, stray dogs and buffaloes) for hours at a time. I enjoyed the chaos and beauty of India’s city streets.

The difficulty of being openly gay in India makes me appreciate Canada’s codified protections for queer people, though it hasn’t always been that way. In Canada, homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 (which caused more restrictions on gay men), and same sex marriage was legalized in 2003 — but gay men are still banned from donating blood, and Canada is still a world leader in prosecuting people living with HIV/AIDS .

I can’t be open about my sexuality when I’m traveling through India, but those who really struggle are the queer folks who must hide who they are everyday. I can go back home to Canada and have all the sex I want; for them, it’s not an option.