Simon McNorton, 30, is a member of ‘Indicorps’ – an NGO for people of Indian origin. Simon worked for gay rights and against homophobia around the world for last seven years.
His work also involves helping adults and children with developmental disabilities. Simon’s Indian connection comes from his mother, who is South Indian and married to a british. Simon came out at 18 and had a difficult time.
He came to India to work in a Rajasthan village. He wanted this stint in India to be about discovering his Indian roots, his ‘Indian-ness’ and making a social impact.
A vocal gay activist abroad, he thought he wouldn’t meet gays in a village, most people would be married and not talk or think about homosexuality. But after being sexually assaulted by a labourer, whose wife and children were just a few metres away, ‘repressed sexuality’ took on a whole new meaning for McNorton. I conveniently assumed I would not find those ‘issues’ here. But I was naive,” says McNorton.
“What happened on that day 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.”
Simon says, “Ten years ago, being half-Indian and gay was a confusing identity to grow up with. The Indian community was severely homophobic. The gay community in the UK, on the other hand, was predominantly white and not inclusive when it came to Indians.”
On his blog, he speaks about how his friend in the UK warned him that he wouldn’t be able to kiss men in India and he replied he wasn’t coming to India to kiss men in the first place.
A few months ago, McNorton’s boyfriend, Justin, came to visit him in Rajasthan. “He knew how it worked here, but it did get to him that we couldn’t even hold hands. We were not even given a double bed at a hotel in Jaipur despite our requests. Fortunately, our hotels in Delhi andAgra did.”
“I need to come back someday, somehow. India needs a lot of help to work towards making homosexuality acceptable and ‘normal’. I want to put my experience to some good use,” he says.