Before coming to the YMCA, Prashanta, aged 24, lived at home with his parents and sister. He had known since childhood that he was gay but feared that his family and community would not be able to come to terms with his sexuality.
Prashanta’s family are from South Asia, where same-sex relationships are still widely considered as deeply taboo, irreligious and a betrayal of the family.
So going against cultural and social morals wasn’t going to be easy, but Prashanta decided it was time to come out, and told his sister in confidence. Any hopes that his sister would keep this to herself were dashed when she immediately shared this news with their parents.
His parents were, as feared, unable to accept their son as gay and for the next seven months, Prashanta was subjected to a torrent of abuse and honour-based violence. In an attempt to control him, his parents even tried to force an arranged marriage on him.
Realising that he couldn’t handle the situation any longer, Prashanta got in touch with the anti-violence LGBTQ+ charity, GALOP for support. The charity signposted him to the YMCA and a fortnight later, in the midst of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, things finally started to look up for Prashanta, who was offered a safe place to stay at the YMCA in Romford.
This was a real weight off of Prashanta’s shoulders, who, with the help of support workers, quickly adapted to his new surroundings and finally felt able to be himself and explore his identity.
Prashanta has come a long way since, and is now determined to help others in similar situations. Speaking about his experience, Prashanta said “Coming to the YMCA has been transformative in the sense that I am able to be seen and heard by a support network without fear of reprisal or judgment. Not that long ago, I was in a dark place during a darker time. The YMCA has changed that and made me feel welcome and valued; it has also made me realise that my thoughts, feelings, and crucially dreams matter, and they have been instrumental in facilitating those aspirations.”Prashanta has worked on a number of projects since his arrival back in May, kicking off with Pride. He participated in the Pride virtual event for Romford back in June, and has led a range of LGBT awareness activities for residents. He is a regular in YMCA’s gym and likes to take part in resident trips and programmes.
He is currently involved in the Social Switch Project: a project that engages disadvantaged young people and provides them with a platform to bring about social change. With the help of some of the top social media influencers in the country, Prashanta will present an LGBT themed project which hopes to address some of the inappropriate content and misrepresentation on social media.
Prashanta is now looking forward and excited about the future. He is in a much better place and in his own words feels as though he is the most authentic version of himself. Next month he is off to university to study Law with American Studies. He is also dating for the first time and finally feels comfortable in his own skin.
Prashanta is a true advocate for change and is determined to keep LGBT rights on the political agenda. As someone who knows what it’s like to feel isolated and overwhelmed, he wants to support anyone else suffering from discrimination because of their sexuality or gender identity.
When he finishes his degree, Prashanta hopes to work with charities and clinics to provide voluntary legal support and advocate for socially progressive laws. Prashanta hopes that the positive visibility of gay South Asian role models will create a much-needed dialogue, and perhaps even help his family come to terms with and accept his sexuality.