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I arrived in America on Christmas Eve, 1995. The immigration officer, in a hurry to finish work, tore my visa in half. My twin brother and I spent the entire night staring out a dingy apartment window, praying the rest of America didn't resemble the scene outside our bedroom window. America was a cold, mean, and depressing place.
In America, I came across the term gay. In India intimacy between men is quite common, but I realized then it was much different for me. The whole realization felt so natural that I decided to come out.
Contrary to what I imagined, what followed were some of the most painful moments of my life. At school, I was picked on. My family couldn't comprehend the concept of living an openly gay life, and I drifted away from them and my culture. I survived high school by devoting all my energy toward the GSA that I had started.
I moved to San Francisco and met some wonderful people who taught me about filmmaking. Once I picked up a camera, everything bottled inside me came pouring out. I found a way of expressing emotions I couldn't explain with words. My first film, Everything, tells of a young Sikh boy struggling to find acceptance and belonging. It screened at film festivals including Frameline, Outfest, and India's Larzish. I've since made other award-winning films. My documentary, Milind Soman Made Me Gay, about gay South Asian men, will be out soon.
I now live in Washington, D.C., where I am pursuing a doctorate in anthropology at American University. This year I received a Point Foundation scholarship, without which I couldn't have continued my studies.
Almost 10 years have passed since I left India. I am returning in August and can't begin to fathom what this trip holds in store for me. My greatest anxiety is being asked, "Where are you from?" Before, I used to say "India." Now I don't know how to respond. More important, I know the India I'm visiting is no longer the same place I left behind in childhood. I am sure the experience will make me stronger, but I'm also afraid of finding that the place I've called home for so long is not a place where I belong.