What GayBombay Means to Me by Harpreet S

This was a time when the internet was not around – or maybe it was around but I had no hang of it. It was a time when we actually wrote letters and received them. It was way back when someone had broken my heart for the first time and I was trying to find some firm ground to stand on. I had my family’s support because I was out to them since the longest time – but being loved completely is not the same as being understood completely. The year was 1998.

I looked for solace in the only gay friend I knew, Dinesh, and he tried to be a comfort. But the best thing he did (which neither of us knew then) was tell me that he was having a friend come over to his home for some sort of group gathering.

This friend was called Umang. And he was involved in a group called GayBombay. A few of the group members were meeting up as a sort of commemoration for having had the first 100 members on the GB yahoogroup. Now I didn’t really understand what the internet group was all about but Dinesh assured me it wasn’t seedy. So I agreed to be there.

I met Umang first and I still remember him as this cute guy with shorts, a tee and a cap. After he introduced himself, he promptly asked us to go and get some refreshments with him for the people who would be coming. The group that came in a little later were guys – just like you or me, everyday folk with some concerns. But the driving force of this meet picked up as issues regarding the gay community were discussed. Slowly and yet very surely, a groove was formed and I found that I fit right in. I made friendships there that lasted through the years and it has been a decade and a half and I still know many of those who attended that fateful first meet of mine.

GayBombay became an extended family. I found myself feeling at home there. A true home away from home. We got to know each other. I got online in a big way. I overcame many of my apprehensions about my self-image, about my ideas – it was an inward revolution and GB was the initiator. It allowed me to grow and understand life in a more defined way. I learned through its friendships that life had so many greys and a million colours.

My own family welcomed its members and time grew more cohesive.

I fell in love again and was heart-broken again, but this time I was sustained by the mainstay that being a part of this group afforded.

I found love for the third time in one of the GB Bandra Meets. I wouldn’t call it providential. It was meant to happen, it was meant to last. Much like my association with GayBombay.

Friendships have come and gone. Some friends have remained through the years. But through these fourteen years of my journey with GB I have learnt a lot, I have become more confident, more in tune with my own sexuality and more mindful of the problems we, as a community, face. I have faced personal problems that seemed insurmountable and it is partly due to the support that GB has bestowed in the form of a firm social structure that they merely seem insurmountable and are not really so.

I owe this institution a lot. But mostly, I love knowing that I am a part of a larger picture: A forum where I can be of use to people who are now what I used to be and where we can provide a space that makes you feel comfortable and safe.