Still raw from the experience of revealing his secret to his parents, for Kalpesh, who only recently“came out”, the shoot was emotionally expensive. Despite this his portrait, so full of expression and symbolism, is a tribute to his decision to live in the light. Cautious and guarded - his arm crossed over his torso is indicative of his need for self-protection. His hair with its gold overtones is his crowning glory and for him a statement about who he is. For this reason it was important to keep it uncovered. Raised as a Hindu, his culture has deep meaning in his life and he is proud of his heritage – despite the irreconcilable differences between this very culture and his life choices. His scarves represent the yin and yang of life and of this soft spoken man himself. The feminine open angle of his wrist, sprayedgold, is subtly significant. It’s a personal area on the body and confirms his vulnerability yet his willingness to share and stand up for his choices – no matter how ridiculed he may be.
“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” - Andre Gide
Kalpesh is an accomplished and creative hair stylist who lives in Johannesburg.
For a long time he lived with the secret of his homosexuality – terrified of the rejection he would face if
he were to be honest about himself. Raised as a Hindu in a conservative Indian community, Kalpesh knew deep within that his sexuality would be rejected and the pain of being shunned was too much to face.
Kalpesh says that his journey to accepting himself was long and harrowing and for years he abstained from exploring his sexuality for fear of being found out and judged. Living in a small town –he believed the repercussions would have been devastating and instead opted to withhold that part of himself from the world.
After 10 long years of hiding his sexuality – only confiding in his sister who fiercely guarded his secret and a few close friends – Kalpesh finally made a journey back home and broke his silence “coming out” to his parents at age 22.
Kalpesh suffered excruciating emotional agony during this time and in the build up to telling his parents he took schedule five tranquillisers to help him cope; so ashamed and fearful was he of his parent’s possible rejection. It got so bad that he developed a bad case of shingles from the stress and pressure he was under. This was a dark and lonely time for Kalpesh.
While his parent’s reaction was not what he was hoping for – they have not cut him out their life as he originally feared and their response was not as earth shattering as he imagined it might be. He says he has been unburdened by the process of sharing his secret and stepping into the light.
Though he has shared his truth with his immediate family and is no longer hiding away – he has not yet shown his true self to his wider family circle.
Today Kalpesh recognises that pain is just a feeling and that by acknowledging and sharing it you can let the pain pass through you rather than struggling against it. His greatest learning has been that the truth will set you free. The energy it takes to hide and run from who you are is not worth it and is a costly waste of precious time. More than this he has learnt when you are facing challenge and pain –you cannot face it alone and he adds that for him sharing authentically was ultimately what saved himfrom the isolation of living in the dark with his secret. He believes that there’s no shame in admitting
to pain and that this actually makes you stronger.
He also believes you are only given what you can handle.
Kalpesh is proud of his culture and one day hopes to celebrate a traditional Hindu wedding.