It’s not often one gets to read the autobiography of a gay man. Yet, Straight to Normal, authored by Sharif D. Rangnekar, offers a deep understanding of the world of a gay man who is trying to figure out what it means to identify as a gay man in India. Sharif spends about thirty years of his life thinking, yet truly not believing, that his attraction to other men is a period that will pass after he gets married and starts living with a woman.
From the time he spent with his father before he passed on, to his struggle with weight, and realizing that he and his brothers were different, Sharif D. Rangnekar narrates his childhood experiences throughout the years. Rangnekar describes an experience where a boy rubbed his groin and then proceeded to run away, and how good the experience felt rather than violating. He also explains that he later waxes himself during the same trip and feels good about the experience.
The first half of Straight to Normal paints the picture of l a lost child who is very close to his mother and has a streak of being a little misfit. He shares stories about his childhood and is very open about some of his most defining moments. Halfway through the book, we learn that he is engaged to a woman, but the engagement breaks. In passing, he hears the name Ashok Row Kavi and summons the strength to call him after much contemplation. Ashok understands where Rangnekar comes from and takes him through the Humrahi programme meetings at the Naz Foundation.
The phone call between these two gentlemen highlights two essential aspects. The first is the importance of the LGBTQ+ community being openly out so that those who are struggling have people to look up to or at least talk to. The second aspect is that after the call, Rangnekar is blown away by how Kavi speaks to him and remembers that for Kavi, speaking about such things is entirely normal.
This realization highlights the state of mind of someone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community and doesn’t know any better. Many people in the LGBTQ+ community believe that it’s ok to be mistreated due to their sexuality, and many also believe that being disrespected is normal. Some believe their sexuality is the reason for being mistreated.
After the call with Ashok, Rangnekar’s life changes. He is aware of homosexuality and has fully accepted and gets ready to attend his first Humrahi meeting. The author highlights his anxiety and struggles to attend the meeting, although it’s something he wants to do. He imagines everything that could go wrong. After weeks of a back and forth with himself, he heads into the meeting.
The book is simple to read and flows well. While the story is about a complex life, it is laid out beautifully. Sharif D. Rangnekar is portrayed as a courageous person who is bent on living st and full life while sharing his story honestly. His story is about growing into his sexuality, understanding it, and educating others about how normal it is.