Last August, Simon McNorton, a 28-year-old Indicorps fellow, came to India to work in a Rajasthan village. A vocal gay activist abroad, McNorton decided to try and blend in with Chachiyawas’ villagers by keeping his homosexual orientation private. He convinced himself it would be easy because he wouldn’t meet gays in a village, where most people would be married and not talk or think about homosexuality.
But after being groped by a labourer, whose wife and children were just a few metres away, ‘repressed sexuality’ took on a whole new meaning for McNorton. For someone whose vocabulary — and blog — is peppered with terms like ‘pushing your limits’, ‘discovering your life agenda’, and ‘being the change’ the incident remarkably changed his priorities.
The Indian connection
“I’ve worked for gay rights and against homophobia in the US and UK for the last five years, but I conveniently assumed I would not find those ‘issues’ here. I was naïve,” says McNorton. His work involves helping adults and children with developmental disabilities. He wanted this stint in India to be about discovering his Indian roots, his ‘Indian-ness’ and making a social impact.
“What happened on that roof forced me to think about how much work we need, in every corner of the world, to be comfortable with our identities. I now know I would like to use my experience in pushing for gay rights in India, too — something I had never considered all these months.”
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