Simply mentioning the LGBTQ+ community, let alone celebrating the community, is unfortunately still relatively taboo in many South Asian households. While first-generation immigrant parents never once mentioned the word “gay” or “lesbian” to their kids during their childhood, growing up as part of the South Asian diaspora has allowed our generation to educate ourselves as well as older generations on LGBTQ+ issues and acceptance. While we continue to be allies to the community via education, support, and resources, it’s also important that we break this taboo by normalizing, celebrating, and championing queer desi love! In honor of Pride, we’re celebrating an adorable couple this month who have given us the honor of sharing their success story with you. While they didn’t meet on Dil Mil, we hope their story will help inspire and offer hope to those of you looking for that true partner-in-crime.
Meet Deepa and Gauri, a recently engaged couple from the Bay Area who met online and have been together for five years! Deepa (she/her), 27, is from Cupertino, CA, the wonderful home of Apple and a big desi community, and just finished law school at UC Berkeley. She is going to be a corporate attorney after *hopefully* passing the bar this fall, and loves photography and video games. Gauri (she/her), 30, originally from New Jersey, got her masters in public health at USC and moved up to the Bay Area to work on health research for the federal government. Gauri enjoys very productive hobbies like going to the gym (and making Deepa go with her), reading, fostering kittens, and playing guitar. They both also love bonding over reality tv and politics. Now that we’ve introduced them to you all, we figure there’s no better way to share their love story than to let them tell it in their own words!
How long have you known each other and how did you meet?
Deepa: We officially celebrated 5 years together last week, time flies! And we met online on an app after chatting (basically sending essays) for several weeks and becoming best friends practically even before the first time we got coffee! We are incredibly grateful for online dating. I have terrible so-called “gay-dar”, and approaching strangers is twice as terrifying when you have no idea if they even like your gender, forget if they think you’re cute! Online dating was a safe space for queer people, kind of what I imagine gay bars must have been like decades ago.
If you’re comfortable with it, could you tell us about how you came out to your family and friends? How did the conversation go?
Deepa: My mom kind of figured it out on her own since I never talked about boys, and straight up asked me if I was a “lesbian.” My mom was not excited about it and even asked me if I was “afraid” of men that day *rolls eyes*. But within a week, she decided she had to accept me for who I was because she loved me more than what Indian society had to say. My dad was overall chill and supportive, but he was always more focused on my education and career than my social or dating life anyways – so he never talked about it much. He always welcomes Gauri into his home with open arms and asks how she is doing. My mom has now truly embraced Gauri and calls her a family member, and always feeds her an excessive amount of idlis like every South Indian mom. My mom is still nervous about telling family friends or extended family in India, but I think this is more of her mama-bear instinct to protect me from mean aunties in India.
Gauri: After Deepa’s mom figured out Deepa was gay, I decided there was no “perfect” time to come out to my own family. I was planning on visiting them in Seattle for my parents’ birthday weekend. I sat my mom and dad down and told them how much it bothered me every time my relatives in India would ask when I was getting married. I clarified that it bothered me because “if i get married it won’t be to a guy.” My dad asked if I was “LGBT” and I said yes. I didn’t delve further than that in terms of my identity (I think LGBT was more than enough for them to process without explaining to them the differences of being queer/bisexual vs. lesbian, etc.), and they respected how much I shared without pushing for more details. My dad told me he loves me and all he wants is for me to be happy. My mom was a little shell-shocked at first, but broke her silence pretty early on in the conversation, telling me “that’s totally normal and okay.” They then asked if there was anyone special in my life, and I told them I was seeing Deepa. They had known and met Deepa, but only knew her as my friend. When I told them we were together, they asked me vaguely “what our future plan is”, essentially asking if she was going to be my life partner. I told them that we do plan on getting married one day down the line. My mom brought up how she had a feeling and it made sense to her because I never brought a boy home, and because I was very vocal about my support of LGBT issues on Facebook. She said she had always wondered in the back of her mind. My dad expressed fear that my and Deepa’s life may be hard…that we could be harassed by people who don’t understand, and even traveling together could be a higher risk for us depending on where we went. It was all out of love and concern. They told me they were happy for us, and we all hugged and cried. It was honestly the best case scenario I could have ever imagined.
Were you actively looking to date someone South Asian?
Deepa: I’ve dated people of all different backgrounds, but I never intentionally went out looking for someone South Asian. And honestly at the time, I felt that wasn’t even an option because the gay dating pool is statistically small to begin with so I assumed the gay desi dating pool was non-existent. I didn’t expect to end up with someone desi, but I’m incredibly happy I did. I love the fact we have the same cultural references from watching Bollywood movies to drooling over Sabyasachi lehengas for our upcoming wedding. I also felt us being Desi made it easier for our parents to connect with our partners and each other’s families. For example, we & our parents got dosa the first time our parents met each other which was a wonderful moment.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Gauri: Her ambition! She truly moves mountains to make her goals a reality, whether that’s work, law school, or just being a better person. I have never met someone with more drive and perseverance, and I absolutely love it.
Deepa: Her sarcasm. She’s the only person I actually am laughing out loud with when I text her “lol.”
What’s something that you love doing together, or the ideal date night?
Gauri: We love having our own little picnics! We’ll usually share some wine, talk, and just take in the scenic views or star gaze. I think we both enjoy it so much because on our second date we did this, and saw a shooting star! What are the chances?! 😀
Tell us about the proposal!
Gauri: Turns out I was literally the last person to know! Deepa had been planning this for months, all the while working with her closest friends to pull it off, and she even got blessings from my family before proposing. She had planned what I thought was a 30th Birthday trip to Hawaii for the two of us. Neither of us had ever been and she always goes big for planning my birthdays, so I had no idea what was really going to happen. She told me she arranged a fancy lunch in the hotel courtyard for us and that we were going to do a cute photoshoot right after. Deepa loves photoshoots, so I didn’t think anything of it! When we got down to the courtyard I saw a beautiful arch setting, with my favorite bottle of wine from Napa (Gamay Rouge from V. Sattui), and place settings that looked way too gorgeous for just a birthday lunch. Something felt different! She gave me a scrapbook to read through some of the best memories we’ve shared over our time together. The last page ended with, “Will you marry me?” as she got down on one knee and proposed! I was so overwhelmed (in a good way) and started crying as I said yes. 🙂 Our friend Janine, who lives in Hawaii and helped orchestrate this whole thing, came out around the corner along with a photographer who had captured the moment. It felt surreal and was one of the best days of my life.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Deepa: To be honest, I always felt being gay meant I wasn’t “Indian” enough or no longer part of the desi community I grew up with in California. I remember some brown guys in high school would throw around the word “fag” to sound cool. But thankfully, over the years in college and grad school, I started meeting more and more desi queer friends or even just my desi straight-identifying friends coming to me with questions about if they could maybe like girls too. I also recently got TikTok to stay hip with the youths (haha) and there are SO many Gen Z queer desis, I was astounded to see how much things have changed since the first time I realized I might be gay in 11th grade. And in the last few years we went from homosexuality being a crime in India to having TWO mainstream Bollywood gay movies with A-list stars (Sonam Kapoor & Ayushman Khurrana). It’s been so amazing to see how much the desi community has grown to accept LGBT people. There’s still a lot of work to be done but I have hope for a future where we’ll have aunties setting up their gay sons with other boys!