Love has no labels
When we say love has no labels, what do we really mean? What is love really? Is it about friendship or being together in the ups and downs of life or simply being accepted for who you are?
Love is love. It is all the things said above and it is the joy in togetherness for two people regardless of their age, race or sex.
Continuing our series on ‘Being Together in Love and Care’, HappyAging met Sameer Samudra (44) and Amit Gokhale (40), a proud same-sexed couple who are happily married and together for good 15 years. Sameer and Amit have stood strong against all odds and allowed their love to nurture into a special bond of care.
What is Love?
On being asked what love is for them, Sameer beautifully answers that it is the feeling that makes you young and happy. It makes you feel wanted and makes you a whole person.
While Amit chooses to answer it in one word that love is being non-judgmental.
Journey of Love and Care
Talking about their journey of love and care, they shared about the testing times they faced in the 15 years of togetherness. As gay relationships are still seen as taboo and a stigma in society, they felt there were no role models for them to look up to. The couple had to struggle on their own to explore their future together. Nonetheless, with ‘love’ and ‘care’ they sailed through the rocky patches and decided to hold each other’s hands forever. But it was not easy for them to get into the nuptial bond. Despite the change in attitude towards the LGBTQ community both in the US and in India, enjoying marital life for a gay couple was difficult.
After being together for six years, Amit and Sameer decided to not wait for laws or society to change. They got married in a traditional Marathi wedding in Columbus, Indiana amongst a gathering of 60-70 people, in 2010, and then in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when the gay ban was lifted in the state. Amit fondly recalls that the guests on their wedding, who unlike in other weddings come for food or socializing, came there to celebrate their love.
If given an opportunity and the right environment, we too could have long-term relationships. We want society to know that gay and lesbian couples, if allowed, can grow old together.
They say that it was one of the most joyous days of their lives and they have only evolved from there; from being madly in love, to slowly growing that love into friendship to being each other’s mentors and to slowly growing into a full blown family.
Together in Sickness and in Health
On asking about the importance of health when growing old together and how do they inspire each other, Sameer talks about how initially he took health for granted and then recently got diagnosed as a pre-diabetic. He says ever since, taking care of their health has become an important part of their lives. He adds that Amit has always been more conscious about health and has been pushing him to be more active, to walk, do yoga, meditation and eat on time. They go for walks in the morning as that helps them in bonding and planning their day.
Funnily, Amit’s consciousness about health comes from his desire to fulfill his love of eating, especially sweets. However, he feels that after one crosses 38 or 40, exercise and dietary restrictions are must to be included to stay healthy.
He very rightly points out that not just physical health but also mental health is important. While growing in life, it becomes important to surround yourself with the right set of people and spend time with them.
What keeps you going?
We asked them what keeps them going, to which they answered that being part of LGBTQ community, they have faced several lows in their lives, due to non-acceptance from society. After hitting rock bottom as they say, they have bounced back with an innate desire to live life to the fullest.
While Amit calls himself the worrier one between the two, he calls Sameer a friend and a mentor who makes him see the greater good in their lives and inspires him to life to the fullest.
Message for others
Their message to others is – ‘Love is love. There is a huge misconception that if there is a gay couple, it is just a short-term, sexual attraction, which is not true. Yes, there are sexual attractions, just like other relationships. But there are so many aspects to it like emotional bonding, caring and friendship. If given an opportunity and the right environment, we too could have long-term relationships. We want society to know that gay and lesbian couples, if allowed, can grow old together.’
The couple shares that unfortunately, the attitude of society towards the community creates a lot of mental pressure. Hence mental health is one of the biggest problems in LGBTQ community. Though section 377 has been lifted, it will still take some time for people to accept it and not just tolerate it. Society needs to understand that one’s orientation is not their choice, but this is who they are.
Amit adds that one’s mental health is completely dependent on the society and their acceptance. No matter how much we mask it, deep down we all thrive for acceptance, irrespective of gender, community and sexual orientation.
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