Bollywood Star: “I Thought ‘Gay’ Meant Happy”

"I thought... lesbian was the capital of Portugal."

Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan recently admitted that he had no idea what gay or lesbian meant when he was younger.

Khan, easily one of the most recognizable actors on the planet, shared his youthful misconceptions in a charming TED talk Thursday. In the conversation, he discussed his humble beginnings growing up in New Delhi and his eventual rise to stardom in Mumbai.

khan ted

Of his younger days, he said, “I thought Celiac was a vegetable and you married the first girl that you dated. I really thought that gay was a sophisticated English word for happy and that lesbian was the capital of Portugal, as you all know.”

“We relied on systems created by the toil of generations before, to protect us and we felt that governments worked for our betterments,” he continued. “Science was simple and logical and Apple was still just a fruit. You went wherever life took you for work and people were welcoming of you.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03:  Karan Johar, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol attend the 'My Name Is Khan' press conference at the Courthouse Hotel on February 3, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
Shah Rukh Khan, Karan Johar/Getty Images

This blissful ignorance dissipated once he made the move to Mumbai in his late 20s: “I met people who had descended from all over the world. All the systems seemed overwhelming to me.”

As he grew older and quickly became one of the world’s most famous movie actors, his views on homosexuality, equality and technology shifted even more. In the years since, he’s become an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community and has been a longtime friend of openly gay director Karan Johar.
 

Though homosexuality in India is still a crime and punishable by life imprisonment, positive representation of the LGBT community has been increasing little by little.

This year, Netflix debuted Loev, a gay love story shot entirely on location in India, and Vicks India released this moving ad of a daughter honoring her trans mother.

That being said, censorship of LGBT themes and issues continues in mainstream Bollywood films, with the Indian Central Board of Film Certification saying these themes would create a “law and order problem in society.”

Texas native with a penchant for strong margaritas, early Babs and tastefully executed side-eye.