This article originally appeared on VICE India.
No one can quite prepare you for the experience of dating within the queer community. It’s something you need to navigate on your own. As you spend time online and out in the real world, you learn how to sift through guys who end up meeting your specific requirements. It has become rhythmic almost for a lot of us gay men to act like sorting hats and put men in categories we’d love to exploit accordingly.
There’s The Fuckbuddy, who is waiting for you to call or text and has a turn-around time of one hour or less. Then there’s The Traveller, who is into you but never in town when you are free. There’s also The Stringer, who you have nicely wrapped around your finger and you keep stringing along, with no intention of taking it anywhere. And then there’s The One You Really Want, a man who is perfectly in sync with you, is handsome and financially sorted. Ah wait, he’s also married.
Many gay men I know, including myself, have gotten their hearts broken at the hands of men married to women, with many swearing off this category altogether after having their hopes dashed over and over. The first time I met a married dude, I didn’t even know he was married. In all honesty though, I wished he’d shown me the ring on his finger instead of the one on his cock. I was rather bewildered when I found out, but also intrigued. This man has a wife, and together, they have a kid. Why dip your beak outside then? Well, as he tried to rationalise it, “Men across the spectrum cheat. So does it matter if it’s a man or a woman you’re sleeping with?” I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt but he continued, “See, buddy, after childbirth, a woman’s vagina isn’t firm enough for a lot of guys. That is why men like me go for other men.” At that moment, I remember thinking that this was bullshit considering the last time I'd checked, both men and women had buttholes. At 19, this isn’t the kind of shit a burgeoning queer kid should have been subjected to.
When I look back now though, I have to give that guy props for at least being real about how he thought about the whole situation, including the fact that he didn’t need to hide his marriage from me. There are several who don’t tell you about it till you’re done orgasming all over them. “I have a son your age. You should meet him some time,” one has said, taking my calling him ‘Daddy’ to a meta level. One other dude didn’t even tell me he has a wife. But thanks to the wonders of Truecaller and Facebook, I could track him down and see his wife plastered in all the display pictures. My heart sank because he texted me the next day, “I want us to be more.” Well, three is “more” than two if you think about it.
You gotta wonder though: How does he plan to hold on to a full-grown woman who is fully married to him, while also hoping to have a full-blown boyfriend by the side? How does it make sense? Well, it doesn’t. I have always felt bad for the wives. They usually have no idea that their partner is on dating apps, looking to have sex with other men, while sex between them might be almost non-existent. And who is really to blame here? The men for succumbing to societal pressures and not daring to come out, irrespective of whether they happen to be gay or bi? Or is the LGBTQ+ community at fault for not being more accepting of other narratives and shaming married men? We do have brave voices like Professor Pratulananda Das from Kolkata, who is opening up about his side of the story and how he came out to his sons.
I have spoken to a lot of married queer men over the last few years and over the last few weeks. Many of them thought of marriage as an easy way out to make sure their old orthodox parents didn’t die of a stroke at the news of their coming out. “It was different during our time. We had no options but to settle down with the girl they chose for us,” one of them said. Another friend said, “Honestly, I myself wanted to get married. I have always thought of myself as being bi, but I feel my attraction towards men is 70 percent, while towards women it’s 30 percent. In the first year of marriage, my wife and I used to enjoy sex, but then we grew apart. Now I have a boyfriend who’s in college, while I am 44.”
My friend also agrees that given the rate at which queer rights are progressing in India, they’d rather stick to a partner who would see them through old age. Since marriage laws and spousal benefits for queer people don’t exist, they end up resorting to the best-case scenario someone in the closet could deal with: marrying a woman. But at the same time, I also know men who just couldn’t make it work and ended up separating nonetheless. So much for happily ever after.
Over time, several married men on dating apps have developed a thick shell. They’ll tell you right at the start of the chat that they are married and if that’s an issue, to kindly block their profile and move on. But the more I talk to them, the more I’ve come to realise that my initial disgust towards them has turned into empathy. I lived in the closet from the age of 14 to 22 and that itself felt like so many deaths. I have no idea how they live their entire lifetimes in duality. If nothing else, they have superb self-control.
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