just a little more courageous!

Ankit Rastogi

Bangalore

It was 2012 when I had my first brush with the reality that someone can be “Gay”.

It was an ordinary weekend and my dear friend Ram finally agreed to meet over lunch. He can be quite difficult to get hold off over phone or otherwise so this meeting was a rare gift. During the course of conversation Ram told me about his sexual orientation.

And here was my reaction, on the inside –
1) Seriously!!!
2) But I kind of knew
3) Is he going to be fine? I hope he doesn’t get a lot of shit from people for this
4) Heck…what does this mean?

On the outside –
1) That is so courageous of you!
2) Good for you!

When I came back home that day and thought over it more, I was really awed by the amount of courage he had really shown in accepting himself and in coming out. So I dedicated the following post to him – http://ankit-rastogi.blogspot.in/2011/10/charge-of-light-brigade.html

All awesome up to the point, right? Well now starts the real story.

A couple of weeks later, I met Ram again for coffee. I do not know what we talked about but I know what I kept thinking – “what will other people think of me when they see us?”

You see, I wasn’t all that courageous.

Now I had up to this point always considered myself a very open minded person. But this meeting and what went through my mind challenged me to the very core. It disturbed me to the point that I thought about not meeting someone I had called a very dear friend and avoid him. It really wouldn’t have been that difficult given that you really need to make an appointment to meet him. You see my shallow thinking was at the verge of costing me my dear friend.

So I did what anyone would normally do in this situation. I decided I needed to know more about this new thing I’ve been introduced to. I remembered Ram mentioning some dating site, so i went ahead and joined it. And for two days I was bombarded with messages from other gay men. So, I did the next best thing and quit. This experience had me realize two things –
1) It didn’t matter
2) Our friendship was more important to me than my shallow thoughts and insecurities and hence I needed to get over them

Its 2018 and man I am glad I have Ram at my side. He has stood by me in every up and down in my life and I sure hope we continue to do so.

It really doesn’t matter, does it? Who you decide to love? It’s really difficult to find someone who you love and who can love you back, should we really begrudge someone that basic human right?

And really what does change about someone when they come out? Really nothing. What really does change is your assumption about them. They really just remain the same person they were before – just a little more courageous!

I’ll end it again with this blogpost, this time dedicated to all the people out there who have shown the courage to accept

The original poem The Charge of the Light Brigade

 

Narnia

Let me tell you a story, A story about a person. Meghana was born on 7th of May 1999. Happy and healthy,they weren’t prepared for the world ahead. At the age of 15, Meghana felt a very different set of emotions for a senior, a beautiful girl this senior was. Meghana then realised that something is different. This was not in the biology books, this was not something their parents spoke about. Now you see there are two parts of this story. Let me tell you my story.

My definition of attraction changed when I met her, she was beautiful and fabulous and I was always found speechless in her presence. Now this feeling I had, I was never exposed to. I took about 6 months to accept myself and then I did. Now accepting is only the beginning. I started to learn, I had an intimate relationship with learning and exploring. I explored my sexuality, learnt and understood that I’m not alone and I have my lovely community. The first person I confided in was my friend and she seemed okay but months later my messages took rounds and I was devastated as from my small town, I could only think of the humiliation I would face. I went to length and bounds to talk to the people and I was outed to complete strangers. That’s when depression hit, I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore.

A few months later I got my acceptance letter and flew away to a university in another country and I felt freedom, I learnt more about myself and I dated the first girl, I dated her and loved her, well that was my perception of love at the time. Time passed by! I came down to visit my family, so I flew back but I was still in love with my girl. I felt lovely when she was around and one day I got a call at a very odd hour telling me that my girlfriend, took her own life. I wanted to know why. It was cuz her parents didn’t accept her sexuality. All the confidence I had to come out to my parents? Gone. Just like the wind. After a month of just silence and anxiety. I sat my dad down, we decided to watch all the Narnia movies. I then turned to him and said, you see all the adventure, happiness and love that they get in the closet, I only wish they could bring it outside the closet. That was the first step.

You see I come from a very orthodox family who doesn’t really believe in love to begin with, but my parents were gems. I once wrote a mail down to my dad, “Good Evening Papa. I have to tell you something. I’ve been keeping it a secret for too long. I’m pansexual. I’m more attracted to girl and I’ve had a girlfriend in the past. Please don’t tell this to Amma, she’s not ready to hear this. Remember Narnia, I want to bring out the happiness and adventures outside the closet. I’m sorry, please accept me. I love you unconditionally.” My heart skipped a beat when I sent him this mail, I was scared. I sat on the floor crying, praying that he doesn’t ask me to pack my bags.

Now you see with my mom, she still doesn’t accept it but she doesn’t say anything against it. I sat her down and just said it, she walked away into the room. She cried and didn’t talk to me for days. She was disgusted when I smiled at her but now she has come to terms with it. She loves me unconditionally no matter what. Now let’s come to the part where I came out to everybody I knew, Instagram was the best way. I added the words pansexual to by bio and I put up a story, which was it. My direct messages were flooded and I got a lot of support initially but most of the other messages were just that the person was lost and he/she didn’t know what it means. Now in the meantime of all this I knew from the time I could understand the word he and she, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the facts that I had to be labelled. Now I was confused if I was genderfluid or didn’t like being specified into a gender. Then I realised that I got irritated the moment someone said she or he and then I realised, now this was hard explaining to my family but my cousins and everyone who loves me dearly respect my pronouns. Back to Instagram, I updated it as Agender pansexual, now I thought it would be support or just being lost but this was the first time I got a death threat in the mail, then multiple calls shaming me on the phone. I got followed, thrown stones at and I lost a lot of friends and family. I will in the future too. There will be people who don’t understand it but to every one of you I shall say only one thing. If you are opening up, do it with pride and confidence because believe me when I say everyone has their own tale of Narnia in that closet. Bring the adventure, emotions, love, hate, challenges, joy and happiness out into this world, we all need it.

Everyone deserves to be happy and comfortable with their own soul. Love yourself and let no one take it away from you. So pick up your crown, Be the mighty Aslan and take your life into your hands. Express the beauty inside you. In the end I can say only one thing, Love wins, whatever the factors may be one, love made us, love brings us together and can destroy the most evil forces. Love free, live free.

 

Coming Out- its just setting the right expectation!

What is Coming Out & why do people need to come out?

Coming out is a life long process where an individual or entity shares a certain aspect about them which was earlier assumed to be different. Okay that’s too technical 😛

Coming Out is mostly used in the context to sharing of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” by LGBT+ community members. A lot many times I am faced with the question “why do people need to come out?” 

Hmmm

So have you ever been in  a place where something was expected of you ?

  • something you didnt sign up for!
  • something the other person assumed without even consulting you.
  • something was “right/normal” from their perspective without know you.

Basically an expectation you cannot deliver to. What do you do?

You fix that problem of incorrect expectation so you avoid disappointments.

Coming out is just that, setting the expectation right!

Its no different when someone assumes you are non/vegetarian & then you go ahead & correct them that you are vegetarian/non-vegetarian.

Have you faced this question. “Oh, you are really from xdscfsvv, you don’t look/sound/act/dress like that?” Yeah it happens all the time, incorrect assumptions & how do we fix that, smile & provide correct information.

So if its such a commonplace thing, why is it such a big deal for LGBTs to come out?

Because aspects of sexuality/gender decides certain things in ones life, like-

  • Whom do you marry?
  • Which restroom you use?
  • How you dress?

All of the above in safe environments, in unfriendly places it also decides:

  • Will you be abandoned by your parents?
  • Bullied/harassed/beaten up at school/university/work?
  • Get shock therapy for cure? Corrective rape?
  • Get thrown from top of buildings/beheaded?

Now you see, it kinda big deal!

So the next time you wonder “why do people need to come out?”, maybe just look at your “expectations”. Don’t assume, ask!

 

PC: All images linked to their source.

Tanishq Tokas

Hi, this is Tanishq Tokas
I think my story is different because I never came out the right way in front of my family. My whole family was aware of me since my childhood that my actions are somewhat different, like wearing saris, makeup etc., etc. Even while ignorant, I did not knew about my sexuality in childhood I only knew that I like female characters but in the childhood I was never attracted to anyone for sex. The new lesson was added in my life when one of my cousins got physical with me and from then I know the meaning of it. As I grew up, I came to know that I was only attracted to boys in school and this continued in my college and I define myself and put me into gay category. There were so many fluctuations in my life since childhood from the age of 7, I struggled too much to face the audience whether my classmates or relatives because when I usually talked to others they make fun of my voice and expressions whether I was in college in graduation, post-graduation or in school. Even I also attempted suicide once but I managed to save myself as I want to complete my dream , I want to chase my dreams as a educationist and a successful filmmaker. So I went to a psychologist because of the behavior of my mates as well as family members as when I was suffering from the teasing in my education life, on the other hand in home too I suffered from the same from my siblings even today also. But again now too I am managing myself.
I came out in front of my siblings but all rejected me and dismissed me like I am not the part of this world. But I decided to come out in front of everyone in Delhi. I know it was too much difficult for me as at that time my family doesn’t know me except my siblings as I know if I out now i.e. in 2016 than they can boycott me easily while at that time I was pursuing my film production course as well as masters. But I couldn’t live with the dual faces. So I decided to come out through a documentary film made on me i.e. “Tanishq: The Untold Story”.

It was most appreciated movie in Delhi International Theatre and Film Festival 2016, was emotional and fully based on my reality. On that day I came out in front of more than 2000 audiences and got relief from the dual life concept of my life. From the movie “Tanishq” I realized that if I have so much of problems in life because of my sexuality then there are so many of my community people that are also suffering from the same problem or if not they should have some great motivational message to the LGBTQ Society. Then I decided with my close friend Raghuveer Sandhu to open a show name “Miss Woomaniya” LGBTQIA Interview Series which is totally based on the stories or the life of people and today also more than one lac people are appreciating this show from India and some from world.

Today this show covered 6 episodes including Homosexuality, Asexuality, The Exploration of Trans, Aspects of Gay marriage, Come out as Gay and Queer Charcha. In the next coming episode 7 we are focusing on the Effeminate and the Sissy one. Really it’s all possible because of the end of my dual life.
If I am talking about my today situations all are going well my life, my movie work and all Woomaniya work too. In fact in December Miss Woomaniya is the official partner of DIQTFF 2017 and I and my team are coming with a positive documentary movie name “Inaayat”. But on the other hand my sexuality is now a problem in my family today also because of their conservative thinking’s and all but today I am managing myself and continuing my work with and for my community because I and my god knows that I am not wrong just believe and move in your life.

Time for a transgender Prime Minister

Ram

I hope & dream India gets a transgender Prime Minister.

On this Transgender Day of Remembrance sharing my dream of an India where we can imagine to have a transperson as the head of the country.

My Radio interview with RJ Shilok at Radio Active 90.4 Mhz where I share my coming out story, the genesis of 101ComingOutStories.com, how organizations can be inclusive and how as a society we can do better.

Give it a listen🙂

https://m.soundcloud.com/radioactivecr90-4mhz/colourful-kamanabillu-season-2-eps-37-mantras-of-community-inclusion-with-ramkrishna-sinha-rj-shilok 

(I)dentity – My Journey…

Anonymous

I am the second and youngest child to my loving parents, raised in a Malayali Catholic family in Northern India. I was a shy kid and my memories go back to my childhood days when I was 7 perhaps. My parents found their joy in me and they didn’t leave any stones unturned to bring me up soothingly. My sister was always protective of me and we grew playing our own invented games. Christmases and Easters were largely celebrated, and we shared other festivals as our own. We truly lived and cherished unity in a diverse lifestyle and culture. The biggest predictors of my family’s happiness wasn’t linked to money or luxury, instead it was our faith in each other, lessons on compassion and selfless commitment to human kind. To the outside observer, I was living the most contented life. I grew up with a sense of belonging and a feeling of something larger, yet there was something missing within me. This missing portion was nothing materialistic, rather it was an intimidating and scary feeling of being different from other boys. I was emotionally inclined towards boys and the feeling was not subtle. Yes, that’s right- I was “different” and I sensed it at a very tiny age.

I am guessing that my differences were evident. Thereby started series of bullying, discrimination and rejections. I was differentiated not just by my friends but sometimes their parents and mostly by adults. I was too little to term these feelings, but it made me unhappy. I remember, the small prayers that my mother taught me. I added mine into it and asked God a lot of innocent but tough questions. I prayed to help me become like other boys. There were many nights spent with bad dreams and dry tears when I wake up. Since I didn’t have a friend to share my feelings with, I bottled my thoughts and abhorred myself.

It is said that a child’s good or bad fortune starts from home. For me, it was a bad fortune. It was just after my 8th birthday and end of wintertime. My father was deputed for 15 days to another town by Indian Army, my mom was working her night shifts at the hospital and my sister was away on an outing. We called my cousin and his friend to come over for my well-being. They were 2nd year science students and respectable members in the family. My cousin was our role model and we adored him a lot. This dark night, during their stay at my home I was sexually molested by them. I didn’t know what they were exactly doing or why they were doing so, but I knew it was all wrong. I was shattered, my body was in pain that I had never known and my soul was filled with fear. I didn’t even know that I was raped, I was just eight years old to even articulate the incident. The breach of trust was awful. I couldn’t bear the experience beyond a point and ran to my sister’s room. I sat under her study table, still thinking, scared and shivering. I cried like a small baby, unknown of my next step. I locked the room and sat under the table that whole night. I was awake till the dawn next day. This incident shuddered my life-force, it further swelled my low esteem and it was hard to communicate with people. For days, I didn’t attend school and my sister was a close watcher. She saw me scared out of my wit. Her multiple attempts to get me talking about the incident made her realise that I didn’t know how to explain it. Finally she convinced me to write down my feelings on a piece of sheet and I found that was an easy way. It took me a while to write down my feelings, it was hard to explain in words. I wrote a long letter and gave it to my sister. I remember running out to our garden after handing the letter and waited for her. In about ten minutes she reached out to me in total shock. She didn’t know what to ask me, neither did I know what more to speak. She ran her fingers through my hair and pressed me closer to her. We both wept. My sister was even more hurt because our cousin was involved in the crime. In no time, she decided to confront my cousin. That evening, we both went to his home and she bravely probed him. He reluctantly agreed to the incident and my sister warned him. On our way back home, we didn’t speak a word but our thoughts were deep. My sister was still restless, and she decided to narrate the incident to our parents. We all went to the police station. Upon narrating the whole incident, the police officer said, “How can a male get raped? There is no such law and this is not a strong case- you will all run in circles and waste your money and energy”. They refused to even file a complaint. I believe this incident didn’t allow me to live my childhood, instead I emotionally and spiritually grew beyond my actual age. The questions pertaining to this incident still remains unanswered- “Why was I sexually abused and molested by my own relative at a tender age? “. Like any other vulnerable case, this one went under cover and we all chose not to speak about it. It was easy for us not to speak though, but has never been easy for me to forget that night till date. It is terrible that people don’t believe that even boys and men can get raped. I was and I am not alone in this world.

Moving on from my past and growing up, my sexual orientation became clearer to me.

On one side I was immensely getting attracted to other boys, other side I had conflicts between my Christian values and teachings that prohibits alternate sexuality. The mission to be more closer to God, led me to hate myself for being attracted to other boys.

Therefore I started behaving like other boys. In my early teens, I mixed up with other classmates and participated in all conversations that a regular teenager would do. I laughed and giggled on their jokes, spoke their language and adapted their lifestyle. But the harsh reality was that I was not happy pretending to be someone else. I knew in my bones that I am fitting into something that I am not made for. How much would I act, after all my classmates knew I wasn’t like them. They called me names, bullied, hit me on my head or back and even hid my school bag many times. I was never allowed to play games as none of them wanted me on their team. Mutely I used to sit near the music hall and watch them all playing football and cricket, while my legs swung. I don’t think there was a single grade that I didn’t face mistreatment. Each passing year I met a bunch of new boys who laughed at me and passed comments that I didn’t deserve. I gulped everything and paid less attention and it taught me to become more resilient and patient in life.

It was during recess one day- I saw a guy similar to my age and grade from another division, smiled at me from a distance. I smiled back. We crossed roads during later part of the day. He walked up to me and we spoke a bit. His name is Sanjay*. I realised in no time that Sanjay* is a person with mental disability. We became friends and for the first time in so many years, I found a friend. He had a huge smile on his face every time and held my hand when we ran through the corridor. But Sanjay’s* story was not different from mine. He hates school because of constant bullying faced due to his disability. A few stories that he narrated made me feel that I am listening to my own life episodes. We both were victims of different circumstances, yet so connected. It was our daily routine to share and quickly finish lunch and then play games for some time. One day as usual we both sat down at our regular spot to have lunch. It was different that day and both of us didn’t see it coming. A group of guys from our respective classes walk up to Sanjay* and ploughed their hands into his lunch box. Topping that, they laughed at him and ate his entire food. Sanjay* was ashamed and equally angry. With full strength he kicked one of the boys. Perhaps, this was the first time I saw another side of Sanjay*. This infuriated the gang and they started hitting on his head from all direction. Sanjay* couldn’t balance them all and ran in circles. The sight shook my soul and I ran into the mob to push them away from him. The boys in turn started hitting me and for the first time I got into a fist fight with them. I saw Sanjay* crying and this incident aggravated his ailment. He shouted and threw stones at the boys. I was still hitting a guy rolling on the ground while another guy from behind pulled my hair and swayed my head in the air. The scene turned out violent and the school admins were alerted. None of us were allowed to step back to our classrooms and Sanjay* was taken to the hospital. For the first time in my life, I was loud against mistreatment and injustice. I heard Sanjay’s* situation got worse because of the tremor and since then I never saw my friend. His parents enrolled him into another school. Today, I still wonder from where did I mustered the strength to fight the boys, why was I so furious towards discrimination? Had Sanjay not taken the first step to confront his tormenters, perhaps I wouldn’t have had recognized my inner strength that was hidden all these years. I am not trying to say that a physical fight displays the right manners of strength but it was definitely the first time in my life that I stood up against a wrong practise. I miss Sanjay but he taught me a grave lesson. There is no space for discrimination and no one should to be bullied. Everybody deserves respect and love- irrespective of built, disability, sexual choices, gender, background, caste, colour, ethnicity and creed.

During my college days I was still dealing with my inner conflicts around sexuality. While everybody were living their youth, I was busy learning more about sexualities and different forms of orientation in a human being. Between 19 and 23 years I read a lot of books- both mythology and science, met people from the various spaces of education dealing with sexuality, spoke to counsellors, parents and teachers. It was during this phase that I became knowledgeable about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transwoman, Transman, Intersex, Pansexual, Asexual and other dimensions of sexual identities. On my way I met many survivors who faced immense torture from society because of their sexual identities. I met folks who were disowned by their own families because they belonged to minority group of sexual identity or expression. Each story was unique.

I did a project on Transgender during my third year in graduation. I took up this project because of my growing inquisitiveness about the Trans world. I have only known them as a bunch of tough people who roam around public spaces asking money, sing songs during Indian weddings and pick fights. But I was curious to learn their history, lifestyle and the whole community in itself. The project duration was for three months. I visited them every week at different corners of the city where they lived. I must say this, by the end of three months I just had respect for them. They are ostracized by the main stream society and treated as untouchables. Then, they didn’t have rights to cast vote or have government identity cards. They couldn’t apply for any jobs and lived on mercy of others, begged on streets and earned perks via prostitution. They welcomed me to their small knitted community. I observed that’s a space where nobody would like to go and explore. There was something very startling that I noticed during my research. There were a few children in their homes, ageing 7 months to 13 years. I enquired about the children and they said,

“They are our children and we are parenting them”.

They explained further that these kids were abandoned by the biological parents for various reasons- some were born with visible/invisible disability, mixed gender, out of illegal relationships, while others were abandoned just because they were female babies while the biological parents desired sons. With the help of their network, the Trans gender persons adopted these kids and are bringing them up as their own. The sight moved me within. Two Sundays later, in the church, it was my turn to give the youth message. I couldn’t hold up my emotions and started my speech saying, “I have always been on lookout of Jesus in the churches. I never found him here. For the first time in 23 years of my church life, I found Jesus in the corners of the Trans community. I found peace, true love and service amongst this abandoned section of the society”. By end of my speech, I felt the heat in the church. It was a daring act to pick a subject that main line traditional Christians do not like to touch upon. Many didn’t like the fact that I researched on Trans lives. I got a call from the parish’s office and I knew what was coming my way. In my meeting with the priest, a kind person, I was asked a lot of tough questions around the youth speech I gave. I was able to answer all of that, and none of these answers were fabricated. In our conversation, I came out to the priest about my own sexuality and he seemed to be upset about it. Even before I reached home after the meeting, I got an e-mail from the church requesting to step down from the youth council as I could be a potential bad influence to others and that I need counselling for some time. I was very upset reading that e-mail. I thought church is a place where all are accepted, just like Jesus accepted all. In my reply e-mail to the church, I thanked them for the decision they made and mentioned,

 

“By removing me from this church, you have done a huge favour. You have distanced me from this church, but pushed me closer to humanity and God”.

The quench for acceptance from others became less relevant, it was rather more significant for me to accept myself at the first place. I agreed that there is nothing greater in life than to be honest to oneself and I will be leading a life full of fabrications, unless I accept myself. It was not the society that hated me, rather it was I who didn’t love myself. I remember sitting down one day, and took a sheet to write down my blessings. I wrote down everything- my talents, achievements, good occasions, happy moments, good decisions, people who mattered to me and luxuries. To my amazement, my list of blessings went from one sheet to another. This activity had a deep impression on my mind and I said to myself, “What am I unhappy for? What am I crying about? Why didn’t I count my blessings? Why did I focus so much over grief?”  I accepted myself inside out, including my sexuality. I realised that nobody can understand my body other than me. This led me to come out proudly to my sister and slowly to my friends. Further I grasped that I don’t have to wear my sexuality on my sleeves. I don’t have to explain it to people anymore. How many heterosexuals walk and talk about their sexuality? No sane successful society is made up of only one kind of people. Societies are always open to diversities in religion, language, work, sexualities and ethnicity.

I realised in all its capacity that everybody is as normal as you and me.

I can’t accept others until I forgive all those people who harmed me in my growing years.

After 18 years, I wrote an e-mail to my cousin and his friend who raped me, forgiving them for what they did. I wrote another e-mail to a group of friends who bullied me in college. Life is a circle of deeds and which is why my old church called me early this year to do a talk on Transgenders and alternate sexualities. I accepted the offer and along with another group, panelled an awareness session. Additionally, I got a chance to volunteer for certain LGBT, gender, persons with disabilities and child abuse organizations in India.

Since then, my journey didn’t stop. My inspiration comes from lives of many people who were torn apart by the prejudiced main stream societies, yet they stood up and fought their own battle. Each of us have our own battles to fight. In this judgemental world, we can’t keep all happy. But what we can do is perhaps be true to ourselves and be tolerant to others. It’s always kind to appreciate others and accept them irrespective of their background. We need to be cognizant about the truth that there are people with alternate sexualities all around us- workplace and homes. Some are visible and many are invisible living discreet lives due to fear of discrimination. Do not think it’s a mental disorder or deliberate choices. Homosexuality or any other alternate sexuality is just another form of sexual orientation as Heterosexuality. Medical Science, ancient religion and new age studies have all approved of it. Your children, siblings, friends and neighbours need you to accept them, do not abandon anyone. There is no joy in unscrambling and being judgemental about someone’s body that you don’t own.

The three simple messages that I have for anyone would be:-

  • Be true to yourself and others. Honesty is a priceless treasure. Do not be afraid to speak the truth
  • Don’t give space for fear in your life. Be humble when you are wrong and voice out when you are right- both are acts of a fearless person
  • Love and kindness is more powerful than judgements. You may not know the other side of the story always, so stop discrimination

 

My all-time favourite is a gospel song that defines “love” so apt. It goes like this…

“Love is patient, caring. Love is kind. Love is felt most when it’s genuine

But I’ve had my share of love abuse, manipulated and its strength misused

And I can’t help but give you glory, when I think about my story

And I know you favoured me, because the world tried but couldn’t triumph over me. Yes they did try but couldn’t triumph over me…”

 

**All images are representative, original source linked to the images.

The Butterfly Effect

Anonymous

Bangalore

During my childhood, I used to wonder why I was attracted to a few boys in my school but no girls at all. I wouldn’t say that I discovered my sexual orientation at a very young age, but there was something that always bothered me.

As I was growing up I began to realize that I was not alone but it wasn’t considered normal. I too had no desire to explore why I was attracted to boys the way boys were attracted to girls or girls to boys.

Internet had not arrived yet, the only source of information one had were the newspapers and the national TV channel. I guess if I had access to the internet then maybe I had done some search or reading?

Anyways, time passed and I was in college. Till school, either mom or dad was always with me wherever I went. Now I was traveling home-college-home all by myself. Dad didn’t buy me a two-wheeler so it was all public transport. Soon I realized that everything I had heard about women being harassed or molested even in public places wasn’t something limited to the female gender only. Whether it was transport or college, they were everywhere waiting to prey on you. I quickly learned that my safety was in my own hands, from confused to scared to stand up for myself against these predators was my journey till college came to an end. Access to internet played a big role in my life as it was the only source of information that helped me learn about myself. Now I knew that I was gay and I wasn’t ashamed of it.

You must be wondering why I am talking about my college life?

What I saw and learned during those days further pushed me to keep my orientation a secret. I knew better and knew that I had to pretend to be straight. I knew that it would have made me vulnerable and a soft target had anyone figured out that I was gay.

After college, I moved to Bangalore and thus began the Corporate life. Continued to pretend and slowly figured that Bangalore had its very own gay life. I never tried to find more about it but was always curious. I was aging into the life’s phase where my colleagues and friends were getting hitched and the obvious question came to me too.

Dad passed away due to a terminal illness, it was difficult times with my siblings in College. I felt that I had greater responsibilities on my shoulder than worrying about myself. Few more years passed, my siblings had started working and were no longer dependent on me.

Again, I had my life in front of me. I couldn’t take it anymore, I had started to feel guilty that I was lying to my family and friends. I decided that I should tell everyone. I posted it on my Facebook wall and didn’t check my account for the next 24 hours. What I had not realized is that the majority of folks on my friends’ list were from my work. I was nervous and even wanted to delete the post but the cat was out of the bag already! The next day I logged into my Facebook account and witnessed what I could have never imaged in my wildest of dreams. My wall was flooded with appreciation & encouragement. Some even wrote to me privately that they now respected me more for coming out to them. I even got messages from my colleagues in international locations stating how happy they were to learn about me.

But it wasn’t over, I was yet to come out to my family. I wrote an email to my siblings and was surprised that they supported me. It was my mother who took time to come to terms with it. She didn’t speak to anyone for over a week after I had told her that I was gay. She had a lot of questions and didn’t know who to ask. She was confused same as I was once. It took a couple of years but she came along.

And then the ultimate happened, I met the love of my life! I had never thought that I would pursue someone but here I was expressing my love and care for the one and only. He said yes and since then life is beautiful and progressive. It all happened fast, we met with each other’s family soon after we got into the relationship. Yes, our families know about us and our relationship and everyone is happy.

You must be thinking that everything I wrote above is positive so where is the struggle, where is that part that everyone looks for when a gay man tells his story. I want everyone to know ‘what’ creates that positive experience, ‘what’ allows you to be yourself without the fear of being judged and alienated. It’s the ACCEPTANCE of your family, friends, and colleagues.

You can fight the World if you have your close and loved ones who love you back and support you for who you are.

Acceptance from family and friends and acceptance at the workplace have played a crucial role in shaping my life, the life that I live today. I didn’t know anything about the outcome when I made the decision to tell them about my sexual orientation. It’s their love and support that has inspired me to drive inclusion, to provide that positive and encouraging platform for our LGBT friends.

Your acceptance, be it a family member or a friend or someone at your workplace or your neighbor, will go a long way in helping us live a better and happier life!

PC: All images have their source linked.

Bi & Proud

Sandy, Bangalore

Coming out as ‘bi’ is way different to coming out ‘gay’.

Think about it. One: there is a general opinion that bi people are confused and untrustworthy or that our sexuality is “just a phase”. Two: There’s added pressure to come out to everyone we are romantically involved with. We don’t have to – but then we carry the burden of not being authentic to ourselves or the relationship. Also, biphobic reactions are far too common and almost every bisexual person has horror stories to share about courting a straight or gay person for whom bisexuality was a deal-breaker.

Of course, this entire process can be simplified by coming out before the first date. Still, that is a level of disclosure that is not expected of straight or gay people, whose orientation is assumed by virtue of the gender of their mate. The risk of romantic rejection because of one’s sexual orientation is not a hurdle faced by straight or gay people.

When I came out to Jo, my girlfriend in uni, she dumped me. She said that she couldn’t live in the constant fear that one day I would realize that I was “actually gay”. She said that although she loved me, she’d always doubt my love for her. Years later, my relationship with Andrew didn’t go anywhere either. Worse, he wanted an ‘open relationship’. He said that he could never be serious with me since I was bi. He was scared that I’d leave him the moment my parents asked me to “settle down with a nice girl”.

A harsh truth that I learned when I came out was that for some people, my identity was always going to be defined by my orientation. As “the bi one” in most social circles, people find it easy to attribute whatever characteristics they associated with being bi, no matter how stereotypical, inaccurate, or offensive they are. I have been asked if I was sure I was bi and if I wasn’t “just gay.” I have also been asked if I’ve had trouble being monogamous in my relationships; if I have been sexually satisfied or craved intimacy with someone of a different gender than my current partner. Sometimes, people have the audacity to ask my partner of eight years too, right in front of my face, if me being bi doesn’t bother him.

It would most certainly be a bother to date someone who is bi, if one believed in these stereotypes. However, here’s something we know to be true about stereotypes – that they’re bullshit. They are nothing more than ideas based on stigma and ignorance, and often an inaccurate depiction of the community they claim to represent.

When I first decided to come out, I promised myself to be as authentic as possible. I wasn’t going to let one fear replace another. I am who I am – I am bisexual. My sexuality is not a character defect.

It is not something those who love us get to be bothered by. It is not something they should have to deal with because they’re with us. They should not love us despite our bisexuality, but rather love us, and the identities that come with us, wholly.

My sexuality is just a small part of my identity. But it is valid, it is real, and it is okay.

Femininity, Androgyny, and Masculinity: Lili

I had originally intended to write this after I saw the film The Danish Girl about a year and a half ago. It has taken me so long to gather the courage and conviction to write this, because it is not a review of the film, but a window into my own life story. You see… just like Lili, the protagonist of the film, I too have struggled with gender dysphoria, i.e. discomfort due to a mismatch between one’s internal gender identity and the sex assigned at birth. It means that just like her, I was assigned male at birth, but am now transitioning to live as a woman. The film, set in 1920s Europe, shows Lili’s social and then medical transition from male to female as a pioneering example, so it may seem that our similarities end here, but there are still some important parallels in our stories.

JUST LIKE LILI, I WAS ASSIGNED MALE AT BIRTH, BUT AM NOW TRANSITIONING TO LIVE AS A WOMAN.

Like Lili, I am married to a woman, in a relationship marked with mutual respect, playfully questioning societal norms, and most importantly an enduring love for each other beyond our identities. Like her, my true self was so deeply repressed and hidden for so long that I was barely even conscious of it, until I gradually discovered it in adulthood. Like her, I started my transition with small, tentative steps, and then moved with more certainty, gradually gaining confidence along the way. Like her, I have been out in public as my true self in places where I could afford to, mostly when I was around complete strangers or with those who knew about me.

However, being neither fully out nor fully closeted requires a constant balancing act between femininity, androgyny, and masculinity, in terms of clothing, physicality and behaviours, in order to be able to pass as female or male in different scenarios depending on the extent of my dysphoria, where I am going and who I might run into.

Gradually, though, it has stopped being a choice as I am more frequently perceived as female irrespective of what I wear and how I behave. It has been especially difficult in gendered spaces such as security queues and public restrooms when I began to realize that I was no longer credibly ‘passing’ as a man even if I dressed, behaved and sounded like one.

BEING NEITHER FULLY OUT NOR FULLY CLOSETED REQUIRES A CONSTANT BALANCING ACT BETWEEN FEMININITY, ANDROGYNY, AND MASCULINITY.

Like Lili, I have met or heard of several doctors, ranging from those who did not understand my situation or had outdated views on it, to those who have been extremely helpful. To be fair, my personal experience in this regard has been far nicer than is the norm, because I took my time, educated myself, searched for options, and ruled out the unhelpful ones. That’s not always possible for others like me, so far too often they might end up with horror stories.

Also, like Lili, and in fact like most women, I worry about my personal safety around strangers, especially when there is unwanted attention from men. Like her, I too have struggled with drawing the line beyond which such attention stops being validating and becomes dangerous.

However, our stories are not exactly the same. A century ago as shown in the film, the medical process for gender transition itself was experimental, gender roles were much more sharply defined in society, and cases like Lili’s were treated as tragic anomalies. On the other hand, my experience comes at a time when the understanding of gender itself is far more nuanced, when the protocol for medical transition is much more clearly established and standardized, and when awareness about our existence is greater than ever before.

ALSO, LIKE LILI, AND IN FACT LIKE MOST WOMEN, I WORRY ABOUT MY PERSONAL SAFETY AROUND STRANGERS.

There are also several more personal differences. For example, unlike Lili, I have no ambiguity about my sexuality. In fact, my identity as a queer woman is not only relevant to my relationship with my spouse, but it also affected my journey of understanding how my gender identity differed from my orientation. Unlike Lili, I do not consider my profession a reminder of my past life. In fact, I want to stay in my profession and preserve as much of my life as possible even through transition. Unlike her, I did not simply imitate other women in public as I started coming out, but just allowed my natural expression to appear after decades of repression. Like Lili and Gerda, the journey that my spouse and I have shared, especially after my ‘coming out’, has been one of tears and confusion and yet unstinting love and support for each other, but unlike them, it has also been interspersed with a lot of shared joy and beautiful experiences with each other just like before.

Of course, I understand that the film was just a fictionalized account of a more complex story, as the real Lili and Gerda lived for a much longer time together than is shown in the film. My objective in writing this, therefore, is not just to compare the film with my story, but to open a conversation into the complexity of gender transitioning even in this supposedly modern and progressive era. After all, I am not the only one in such a situation, even in India. There are many others like me.

Moreover, the issues mentioned above, such as self-awareness and self-acceptance, relationships, freely expressing oneself, personal safety, medical care, social awareness, professional opportunities, and media representations, all affect most queer people, not just those who are gender variant or questioning. When I question myself which gender I ‘pass’ as better and whether or not I may face trouble on any given day, it is an experience shared not just with other gender variant people, but also with others who express themselves in non-conforming ways, despite stares, comments, questions, threats or even worse.

It is not even a queer issue alone, as gender norms regarding self-expression apply even to cisgender, heterosexual people, placing limits on all of us. When my spouse and I worry about any possible backlash to my transition, its impact on our lives together, and the continued legal status of our relationship, we know it is a question relevant to other queer couples too. More broadly, in fact, the question of what relationships should be socially accepted is relevant even to other couples who defy boundaries of caste, class, religion etc.

IT IS NOT EVEN A QUEER ISSUE ALONE, AS GENDER NORMS REGARDING SELF-EXPRESSION APPLY EVEN TO CISGENDER, HETEROSEXUAL PEOPLE, PLACING LIMITS ON ALL OF US.

We do not know all the answers, but we do know that there is a need to break the silence, to start conversations to show that we exist, that families like ours exist, even if all of us do not fit into neat little boxes with clear labels. After all, what makes someone a man or a woman? What makes someone queer or not? What makes a relationship queer or not? Is one’s identity or the validity of their love or their relationship completely determined by the individuals involved, or do others’ opinions matter? There are no easy answers, but hopefully, breaking the silence will help in figuring some of them out.

 

Re-blogged from feminisminindia

All picture are linked to their sources.

It was happy yet sad ending

Sozz Siddiqui

Things started with the daily pressure from my parents to tell them if I have a girlfriend or not(May be it was their way to do the detective work to get confirmation if their son is different not) but they never got a clear answer from me ever,  which lead to more question and more detective work.

My brother has always doubted me thinking that I am Bi(bisexual) could be because I had more girlfriends rather than boyfriend.

Part I
One fine day after finishing my job and gym I reached home (You will find my sister in the story too as she was visiting me or may be God has sent her to show her his other CREATION). My mom opened the door with a big smile like she is hiding something or was playing some kind of happiness trick on me. While having dinner my mom started questioning me the same thing but this time there was a twist she asked me if I have a boy friend, she consoled me or I must say took me in her confidence while asking that, where she spread the layer of her understanding telling me that she would be fine if I have a boyfriend too. No wonder we love our mom and when mom loves you , you forget all hide and seek games and with that I told her that yes her son is different, by the time I realized it was too late to understand that she just played it well and I lost the game, I could hear the silence the one which really kills you.

Part II

Her face went from white to red and then pale , the first tear started rolling out from her left or right I don’t know may be simultaneously form both the eyes . While she was crying I was just giggling , it was tough for me to decide what emotions I should show , should I cry as my mom was crying or should I smile as I was finally free but I was just smiling and smiling and smiling I couldn’t stop. It was a fantastic feeling to tell her that her son is not what she thinks but is what she was always afraid of(Don’t think that I am a cruel son or she is a cruel mom, she is the best and most loving mom it’s was just tough for her just like it was tough for me). On the other hand my sister started to command me not to speak THAT WORD yes the same word for which I am writing this, as per her understanding just by saying people become like one, yet again don’t hate her for that as there are certain things which even we don’t understand so she has all the rights to express her feeling.

That was the first and last discussion which happened between me and my mom, my father never got involved in this whole process and still he never tried to talk to me about this(May be that is the way all fathers behave.)

Part III

She still loves me and so my sister and my whole family, you might be thinking that it has one happy ending but I would say it was happy yet sad ending as they accepted me the way I am but they never accepted that their son can be different which of course hurts at time but I am fine. I feel like if they would have abandoned me, it would have been much easier for me to handle that but it really kills me to digest that they accepted me and love me but not my thing.

PS: My brother is the coolest brother as he is the only one who accepted me the way I am, he read the books and tried to understand things for me. We still go out together to a coffee shop to checkout(You know what I mean.) we also play game of identifying who is what 😉