Many LGBT Indians come to the United States to escape the pressures they have faced in India. Not all have legal residency like Vidur, who, with his background in economics, was able to get a job and a green card soon after he left school. Some have gotten asylum based on their sexual orientation, although for Indians, that may change.
“After the Delhi High Court’s decision to decriminalize consensual sex between same-sex partners, it’s probably more difficult to get asylum in the U.S., if you are from India,” said Priyanka Mitra, chair of operations at South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association (SALGA).
With the legalization of homosexuality in 2009, conservative attitudes in India seem to be changing. Vidur recently toured there and found audiences to be supportive and open-minded.
“Every city I went to, I was swamped by media, interviews and journalists really interested in talking about sexuality,” he said. “There is a lot of homophobia in India, but then on the other hand, there is a lot of progressiveness and openness as well, and they coexist together.”
Mitra agrees that homophobia is slowly lessening in India, as evidenced by recent well-attended gay pride parades in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. And she says that more people in New York, including kids, are coming out.
But it’s not always easy, even in New York City and for Vidur, who’s known internationally for speaking publicly about his sexuality. Barely three minutes on stage at a recent set at Gotham Comedy Club, he spoke about being gay, Indian and Hindu, and someone in the audience threw something at him. Two 300-pound bouncers quickly came over and dragged the drunken audience member out by his arms and ankles, he and his girlfriend screaming and fighting.
Vidur had the audience laughing uncontrollably for the rest of the set after the commotion ended, but he left quickly afterwards. He called me minutes later.
“Wasn’t that hysterical?” he said, laughing. “Now you see what it’s like.”