Crown The Brown: Damigio Esbach and his experience with his sexuality
At Crown The Brown we love sharing stories and experiences, we had the privilege of learning more about Damigio Esbach and his experience regarding his sexuality, coming out within a Desi community. Above all, Damigio is a dancer, model and digital marketer based in Johannesburg South Africa. He grew up in a South African Indian community.
Similarly, some Indian communities are known for inflicting religious views. Especially when it comes to sexual orientation but this did not stop Damigio. We certainly had the utmost privilege of being able to share his experience. Here is what he shared with us.
Damigio, dancer and model! How would you describe yourself and your craft?
I’ve recognized myself as someone who feels deeply and thinks wisely. Sometimes I’m able to put those feelings and thoughts into a new language I can convey through dance. Not just any dance, mainly hip hop contemporary dance. I do hip hop and Bollywood, however I do bring my popping and locking skills into my Desi culture.
I recently just signed with my new modeling agency and just shot my portfolio. Similarly, I had quite a lot of interest from a few brands already so I’m pretty excited for that! My sense of humor can be quite dark at times but I keep myself humbled and grounded, as I try my best to make sure everyone and everything I come into contact with is respected.
You are well-known for your passion for dancing and for being an advocate within the LGBTQ community. As a South Asian male in an Indian community, what was your experience when you first opened up about your sexuality?
Honestly it was kind of crazy, growing up I went through a lot. I was the center of attention wherever I went (because of how I looked and because of my passion for dance amongst other things). It came to a point where I got bullied, but not the normal type of bullying, it got really bad. The bullying wasn’t your standard verbal abuse or even slight push or shove here and there. I remember the worse instances such as the time I got ganged up on in Lenasia, there was a time where someone even brought a gun and threatened me at an event and all of this lead me in the worse depressive state. It got really bad to a point where I landed up in hospital.
Coming out to my parents, wow, I remember being so scared. I came out to my mom during the time I was in hospital because of being bullied. Similarly, I am so lucky and so grateful that the first thing she said was: “and so what? I don’t love you any less, also, you better bring home a nice man”. My heart felt elated, warm and so blessed. My mother is my world. I told my father and brother a short while later and they responded in a way that made me pretty comfortable to be myself, they were accepting.
I lost a lot of ‘friendships’ and respect from some of the older crowd who knew me and a lot of people who recently found out through social media, became really awkward and uncomfortable. But that was the universe cleansing my life and giving me the best that I thought I deserve.
Since coming out on social media I receive so many messages with regard to people my age and younger who are struggling to deal with their sexuality.
I’m so happy that I can help them as well as advise them wherever I can. I managed to help 14 people come out to their families to date. I’m proud at the fact I helped them be a better version of themselves. I have much more I could say but I don’t want to make this much more longer (you will probably end up with a novel haha!)
A few things people don’t realize are offensive or what we don’t mention enough is the following:
People stare at you at the mall, the school or wherever you are especially when you aren’t the typical Indian Man.
Now imagine how horrible it is when you walk pass people and your hear faintly how they say: “there’s that moffie”. But when you do something big then they ‘know you’ – setting double standards and 2 different faces.
Outdated insults that no longer work in today’s society.
People using “that’s gay” as a term to belittle someone, even if it’s in a joke it is an indirect insult.
Homophobia and people feeling the need to stare and make my boyfriend and I feel uncomfortable and under threat in public.
I’m not really able to hold my lovers hand, there’s times where we really want to and just show affection but for the sake of our sanity or to keep the peace we don’t really do that – we try not to get into altercations and understand that some dumb individuals in society are still homophobic and are not keen on seeing a man hold another man’s hand.
The assumption that all gay men want to be ladies.
Some of us are not sisters. Since coming out, some people have the misunderstanding that some of us, or myself (I’ll speak for myself here) want to be pretty or want to be ladies and that’s not the case. I love my ‘man parts’ and being a man. I’m just a man that likes men – and some ladies too. I would say I just identify as sapiosexual. People make the assumption that I should know how to and have an interest in makeup and hair and honestly,
I suck at that. This may seem contradictory but each gay guy is different and I may admit that I am obviously more feminine than the ‘standard’ heterosexual man but I am comfortable with it but that doesn’t mean I want to wear makeup and cross dress, not that it is an issue if someone prefers to. My preference is different as opposed to the next. Also, so what, if I wanted to then I would and if anyone would have anything to say then… clearly their upbringing and practices of accepting are not working.
The stereotype of a masculine role.
With the thought that Transvestites or even CIS Gendered Men ‘must just be society’s version of men’ can be incredibly belittling, limiting and emotionally tolling to the transgender community. I hate it when people say transvestites, or men must just be men. So this may sound contradictory but please just hold every other thought I’ve just mentioned for a while.
What is sad is that some men who are transgender feel that they are happier as ladies or that they’re a lady in a man’s body and I think that is the saddest situation because society belittles these individuals because they’re just trying to be themselves and be happy. My aching heart prays for their strength. As much as our people seem strong and happy and put up this front that says ‘screw society’ , it really does affect some emotionally behind closed doors and people shouldn’t have to feel unhappy, unwanted, unlucky and undeserved because they were born a certain way.
Another thing, IGNORANT SUPPORT. People tell me: “OMG I’m happy for you, it’s your choice and your life”.
NO. That is rude. I did not have a choice in the matter, If it was a choice wouldn’t we all have made or taken the “better” decision to be “normal” and follow the standard path where we won’t be put down and judged and made fun off? – But having said that, I LOVE and Appreciate who I am. It took me a long time but I’m here.
The LGBTQ community are some of the strongest people I could ever come across.
Apart from going through all the struggles that each and every person goes through mentally and emotionally we have to undergo a phase of self-acceptance in a society that is against who we are. But the world is changing and becoming so accepting. I AM SO HAPPY!
I hate it when people say ‘I’m so disappointed that he is this way” and I think that’s really ridiculous.
Not to put anyone down intentionally but my sexuality does not contribute to my character, good or bad. (I think?) I could be relatively speaking, a much worse person. My sexuality would have nothing to do with my affinity for crime. I could be worse off but instead I’m a man who likes men and I talk to god every day to make life easier and be a better person. I mean how bad can that be?!
Believing homosexuality is some sort of contagious disease.
Don’t blame someone else for some else’s sexuality. I was harassed by a family, for ‘making’ their son gay. Because he and I had a thing going. That is unfair. Your ignorance of the world around you is your responsibility. Don’t make someone else take the responsibility for something that’s just part of life.
Self-acceptance is the hardest part.
We are first at war with ourselves. What we know vs what we feel vs what our family/society says. Once we accept who we are and love every piece of that, WE ARE READY TO BE HAPPY!
The above may seem like I am so angry towards the world but in actual fact I’m not. I’m literally the happiest I could ever be. However these are small notes that we don’t talk of much and I felt the need to say it. Everyone deserves to be at peace.
Being part of the LGBTQ community, what were some of the challenges and stereotypes you faced?
People disregarding me as a man or inferior because I like men, or because I’m Gay/sapiosexual. Telling me it’s a phase or I’m confused. Others thinking I want to be a girl. But even if I wanted to, I don’t see what the issue is. Straight men thinking I want to sleep with them. Ladies thinking I’m after their men.
People assuming that all gay people are lustful and going to get aids. I’ve constantly had to work harder and prove myself just to maintain some sort of respect. Luckily this generation is so much more open and accepting that it’s easier. Ladies hit on me and when I tell them I am gay, a lot of their responses are “Ag, you’re such a waste of a good looking man”.
People tend to not show you as much respect as the others. Masculine superiority . So many ‘straight’ men feel the need to overly compensate their masculinity when I’m around. Not too sure if they’re trying to convince me or themselves that they’re a man and ‘not gay’. You’d be surprised that these are guys that are unattractive and UGLY, not because of their looks but because of how they carry themselves.
I really hate using public toilets where there are a lot of straight men around, especially when their families are there too because some of them feel the need to prove a point to themselves and family that they’re uncomfortable with a gay man around. People asking me if I’m the boy or the girl in a relationship.
People thinking I wear female clothes or underwear. I do martial arts and kick boxing and a lot of people become so awkward and assume that this isn’t what gay men do.
There is always a continuous amount of pressure that we receive from our parents to conform to the standards of society, especially desi standards, how did you handle the opinions of others concerning your lifestyle and their views on it?
I had to keep reminding myself that they are unaware of what happens in my life, my head and my body and that they don’t understand. Honestly, if it wasn’t for my mom, my circle of support and God, them being there to ground me and help me be at peace I would not have managed.
Prayer! Every morning waking up and being thankful and focusing on myself to be better gets me through anything.
It does get to me at some point. I came to a point where I realized that no one is going to live my life for me. No one is going to appreciate my life for me. Of course, they’re going to say what they will and be opinionated but my ultimate creator is watching what I do and how I treat people. To me, that’s the only view and person that I want to keep happy. (Apart from wanting to make my parents proud in other aspects of my life).
I listened to what people have to say and I let it flow straight me after it was said.
I think some parents are really selfish and their pride and ego hurts them more than the actual reality. Some parents say, “don’t be gay, don’t be so open about it, don’t tell anyone, get over it, you need to be straight, don’t go out in public like this. This is wrong, men and men are not meant to be together, this is a sin, you are going to hell, I am so embarrassed”. One of the worse is: “What horrible things did I do that made you turn out to be gay” and then they disregard their kid.
To me, these are parents who should not have children.
Parents should love their kids unconditionally and unfortunately these parents are were brought up in a strict environment where that some of them don’t know how to handle it and how to actually love unconditionally.
We can’t blame them or hate them, but we can focus on trying to reach each other and establish an understanding. Love is all we need to hold on to. Your kid that came out today is still the same lovable kid that you gave birth to and loved then.
If you’re a parent reading this and don’t know how deal with your kid coming out, just think of the following. God gave you a blessing, an innocent life and a bundle of joy to love you. No one said it would be perfect. You’re not a bad parent if your child is gay, you’re a bad parent if you disregard your child because their sexual orientation or identity isn’t straight or normal.
You know what’s funny and shows the double standards that people hold is that, Girls can wear hoodies, dress like a boy and act like a tom boy and its cute and girls can kiss girls too. But if a man dresses like a girl then he is teased and put down. ‘You’re so girly’, ‘you’re such a girl’ ‘don’t fight like a girl’ is societies way of indirectly saying that it’s not okay to be a girl?
I don’t know man, maybe it’s just me. So what if I’m girly, or feminine.
Women are powerful. Women are strong, I mean they’re part of our creation. I mean, our mothers went into labour and had to push a baby out of their tiny opening. They should be respected for the strength and pain they endure.
You are in such a loving relationship and we love sharing your love story! Tell us about your beautiful relationship. How did you guys meet and how long have you been together?
Thank you. I love my boyfriend. He is not perfect, neither am I but he’s more myself then I am. Whatever our souls are made out of, his and mine are the same. Thiveshan and I are together for 2 years now.
Thiveshan used to like me when I was much younger and not comfortable with my sexuality. He kept hitting on me and I enjoyed his attention and then one day he decided to officially openly flirt with me and I told him I will punch him.
In that moment, I really thought that he was teasing me or someone had put him up to it.
A few years later he moved to JHB, and then he and his person didn’t work out and somehow a while after that he thought about me, found me on Facebook. Little did I know the universe was aligning our stars and about to give me one of the greatest experiences so far.
It was a random day and I had a really bad week and Thiveshan just decided that he was going to drive 67km just to take me out for supper on my side of the world. I lived in Lenasia and he lived in Midrand. Really far from each other!
But he still drove to me. He insisted on picking me up and refused to let me meet him at the place.
After that, he would come home almost every night for the next 3 months just to see me for an hour. He would wait outside my house while I finished up at my Kick boxing and marital arts class. He would see me from 8 to 9 and then leave.
After 2 months, my mom realized something was going on because there’s a random unknown vehicle at a certain time always coming to park in the yard and so on but she never met ‘this friend’ of mine. So my mother decided to go and introduce herself and kept inviting him in (This aunty was so sneaky cause she knew her son is busy falling in love).
From there it just happened and we fell hard for each other. Our families and friends know that we are in love and we adore each other’s families.
A year later and Thiveshan asked me if I would like to move in with him. So we went apartment hunting and we have now been staying with each other for exactly a year.
I pray every day that god helps me better myself and be a better partner so that I can make him happy. He literally is such a light in my life. I enjoy fighting with here and there cause I have to be dramatic sometimes you know.
Were there any challenges you faced as a couple, especially online and with family and community members?
There have been instances, online, where people try getting his attention or mine. We both just sit and show each other and then make fun of it.
For some reason some gay guys can never be happy for each other and you know the usual ‘oh I heard this about him and that’. People trying to create issues and again, communication and trust is key.
There’s obviously still some family members and people who aren’t exactly ‘comfortable with the situation’. But also don’t have an issue with it but will call him ‘your friend’.
For some odd reason, a lot of people think we look like brothers. But once our eyes meet in their presence, it’s pretty clear that we are definitely not siblings.
We still aren’t exactly completely accepted in some aspects but that’s okay. We love each other, we respect each other and we are in love with one another. I think that at the end of the day, when I lay my head next to his as I get ready to sleepy. The only thing I feel is that THIS IS HOME.
What do you love the most about your relationship? What would you say your secret is regarding a happy and loving relationship?
I love the fact that when we’re together, it feels like we’re best friends just hanging out. We talk about anything and everything. We have these moments when we talk without saying anything, we just look at each other and I know what is on his mind, whether it’s something funny or something serious.
Race and religion don’t really matter to me, I don’t really bother with what or who you are. I am a pretty spiritual person and he found interest in the fact that I enjoyed Raam Bhajan Time, Aadhimasam prayers, Hanuman and I got to introduce him to my love, Prathyangira Devi whom he knew nothing about. We try to pray together as much as we can.
I think our ‘secret’ is understanding each other and making sure that we communicate.
Thiveshan has a bad habit of not really being able to talk about what’s going on in his mind and I’m the type of person who knows how to approach that. I speak to him, we both listen and interpret before we speak back and then we find a way to move forward. In all and every issue we have faced so far we take a step back. Realize that if “I lost this person, my heart would be shattered, I’d be okay but I’d still be shattered, I really want him in my life.”.. and it’s that. That’s what motivates are to try and fix it.
We always try our best to be there for each other and when things don’t go accordingly we always think from each other’s perspective first. When he’s wrong, I will tell him, when I’m wrong, he tells me and then we find a way to move forward. Life is too short to have too much anger. We just have to move forward.
What I always tell my friends:
“IF HE CAN SIT ON THE STOEP, OR IN A STREET WITH YOU AS YOU LOOK LIKE A HOBO. HELP YOU MAKE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL GARLAND TO PUT AROUND YOUR MURTHI, OR IF HE CAN SIT WITH YOU AT A RANDOM PLACE IN THE STREET. WHILE YOU TRY TO GIVE A RANDOM ANIMAL SOME LOVE – THEN HE IS THE ONE.”
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My boyfriend is genuinely my best friend. And not like the "oh we dating so we're forced to be best friends type of friendship" but like the "I wouldn't wanna joke around and do other dumb stuff with anyone else" type of friendship. He's genuinely my person. I enjoy doing things with my amazing friends but it's different with him, I get to be completely retarded. Ya feel me?!. ____________ BTW, these beautiful outfits are from the new @sabyasachiofficial Inspired Line by @sk.boutique.sa ❤
What would you wish to change about our communities pertaining to expectations and LGBTQ awareness?
The mind-set that people have about our community, their belief that we only have orgies, are lustful creatures and the fact that it’s a choice. I really wish everyone would just learn basic respect and be open to people’s individuality regardless of sexuality and who they are.
I want to make a difference in young individuals and help them with self-acceptance. It took me so long to learn to love myself and I just feel that if I’d known this earlier, I could have prevented so much of my stress and depression.
To stop making assumptions that your child is going to be a boy or a girl during the pregnancy stages. Let the child choose its own identity when they’re older and their sexuality for that matter. Because you say ‘I’m having a son, he will get married and have a family with a lady and be this strong masculine person”, and he can still be that, but with a guy or he could be the complete opposite and that’s what drives parents insane.
We grow up all our life, watching straight people kiss and fall in love on TV. In reality and in books and unfortunately that doesn’t influence or make us ‘prefer’ to be straight. Same as seeing a gay couple hold hands or kiss in public will not make your child, brother, sister or kid gay. We all deserve to be full of colour like our gay flag at least in once of our lifetimes. (just my opinion)
Don’t do unto others what you would not like to be done unto you.
The universe, or god, or karma, works in mysterious ways. What goes around always comes back. I’ve had adults mock me and belittle me as I grew because they obviously thought I may be gay and well, let’s just say their life as a parent is humbling them. (not that I am gloating for what is going wrong but maybe if they had been softer and kinder, life may have been rewarding but I always wish them the best and peace ultimately).
What advice would you give other young individuals who might be struggling with their identity or sexuality?
Take some time to yourself and learn to trust who you are. You need to understand that life is always going to be really tough, not only because of your sexual preference, so you need to know when to be strong for yourself and not fill your life up with too much self-pity. It sounds harsh but I do believe self-pity is one of our biggest obstacles in life which holds a lot of people back.
Don’t blame god, don’t blame your parents, and don’t blame yourself for your identity or sexual preference. If you hold that against yourself you are not going to manage to explore and experience the beauty of being you and your uniqueness. Try to be as kind to yourself as possible. Struggles are part of life. But breathe, you got this. You are going to be okay.
Furthermore, If you’re reading this and your upbringing was completely different please don’t take any offense. I want you to take a step back, everyone is brought up differently and whether you think it’s right or wrong, ultimately you can only be a better person and learn to love, by loving, that’s who we are. Loving beings.
Everyone has their own life and has to experience it differently
But react out of thought and out of love, not out of emotion. If you’re a parent, we are taught that god and our parents love us unconditionally. Let us be the better people, and love, no matter how hard and no matter how different your mind-set is. Everyone is different. We’re never better than the next person, you can only be better than the person you were yesterday.
My heart is filled with gratitude, to my family, my friends and my boyfriend. Thank you for loving me as I am. I am that I am, and that I am I will always be.
A big thank you to my boyfriend’s family as well, for allowing us to be together. You are amazing.
Do good, be good and love.
Be sure to follow Damigio Esbach and learn more about his experience!