When the man with a long white Dumbledorish beard, twinkling eyes and soothing voice, surrounded by books, speaks, one is drawn by the humour and the inherent life wisdom in his voice. One of the most important contemporary poets in India, Hoshang Merchant is the first poet to publicly acknowledge himself as a homosexual. Describing himself as a rebel and a gender Dalit, he is comfortable in his own skin both in his poems and in real life. Currently professor of Poetry and Gay Studies at the University of Hyderabad, Merchant has published various collections of poetry and also edited Yaraana: Gay Stories from India. His book Indian Homosexuality was published recently.
When did you start writing poetry?
I was 16 but I was always a literary creature. I was gay but of course I didn’t come out then. I started writing again at 23 because I was beaten up and left for dead on the streets at Purdue. When I was a student, I used to cruise the streets to pick up men. I think the person who beat me up could not have an orgasm. That was his way of having an orgasm. I had to go for therapy and I started writing poetry as a way of coping. I was not writing gay poetry then. My first poem was To Subbalakshmi. I used to write about things which were not really about my life.
Full interview here New Indian Express