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.

Yes I am a half male and a half female!

I am Daniel Francies Mary Mendonca, I look like a male, but I identify myself as a women and with this statement I write my story. From the bottom of my heart I thank Ram for doing this great work in getting brave story in front of the world.

Yes I am a half male and a half female. To say these words to the world and make myself comfortable with the statement has taken me long years. It has never been easy to come out of the closet and explain myself to the world, but with time, coming out to the world has filled me with happiness and joy. Through this life journey there was only one person who was next to my heart, which was none other than my friend, my savior, my love “JESUS”. Today with faith and convection I say to the world “I am in love with a man whose name is JESUS”.

I am happy that I am what I am. Looking at my past reminds me of all pain, discrimination, hatred and all form of violence that I have face being an “INTERSEX” person. It was never easy to face this in the, so called normal world.

I was born as a conjoin twin. My sister and I shared my one body. We were one body two heads. Difficult to digest the fact, but the work of nature and the hands of Gods created this wonder. As soon as we were born my sister was born dead. So the doctors took the decision of separating my sister from me. Form outside I looked like a male, but the doctors said that, though he looks like a male he has women organ inside his body this term basically called as hermaphrodite or INTERSEX. The doctor told my parents that your child is a eunuchs. My father, when he came to know this he abandoned me. A child who has just come to this world, doesn’t even know who his parent is, is rejected for who he is, is rejected because of his gender, is rejected because the child is a eunuch. At that very time my aunt who’s my father’s sister adopted me as her own child, she said that

if this child is born the way he is born, there must be God’s plan in creating the way the child is.

Having parents I was given to someone one, having parents but still I was an orphan.

Life continued, right from the time I was small I knew that I was different and the world around me did not leave a single chance of abusing me and making me feel out of this world as if I was an alien that was born on another planet. I never received fatherly attention, my relative always ignored me, and I was always kept behind of attending any religious and family function. Everyday became a questioning day, not single day of my childhood has been a happy day, my age children enjoyed childhood and I enjoyed the loneliness around me. The silence of fear, the silence of voice, the silence of being who you are were all over me.

The time came to me to go to school, the biggest mistake that my family made was putting me in Boys high school. As I was growing up in the school I was the only girl in the school. My teachers my school friends always used to taunt me, tease me and always insult me for who I was. Whenever I used to go to the washroom my senior always use to pull my pants to see what organ I would have down. I have been abused and also my seniors have tried to rape me, but with God’s grace I have been lucky enough to be saved. It was just not the situation at school, in home also when my own cousin brother tried to rape me, I thought at that age who am I, when I shared that incident with my parents, I still remember the words my father told me, it is ok if people use you for sex because people like you are born to serve the society. When people enjoyed their childhood I enjoyed the silence within me. When children played, I played with my questions, the only question asking myself who am I?

The time came that the truth be revealed to me, the question would end but I never expected this would be the way. I was in 4th Std,  9 and a half years old. It was an usual day I went to school, but before I left for school from home I told mom that my stomach was paining. She thought I was just making excuses and sent me to school. I went to school, after the lunch hour, I came back to class suddenly I felt strong pain in my stomach. I ran to the loo, like never before, I had just removed my pants because I felt something coming out of my stomach. I removed my pants and my ass broke into two parts along with the intestine came out my first menstruation. I opened my eyes after 3 days and I found myself in a hospital in London. It was possible to admit me in London because my aunt who had adopted me, her boss took me for treatment in London, so that I could be saved. I asked the doctor what happened, he said there was no place for your menstruation to come out, my child you are different and unique, and you are just here for your treatment.

The treatment went for long 8 years I spent in the hospital. In 8 years of my life in the hospital I have gone through 29 major operation and 19 minor operation and it was only to see how my body is working. Only my aunt was there with me my parents never bothered to ask how I was. It is in this hospital where I came to knew about myself. I tried committing suicide three time and with God’s grace I was saved. The doctors took a decision that they will give me religious counselling. That was the time when thing changed.

This was the time when I met my best friend JESUS, through the Holy Bible. I was very keen to know if there were people like me and what has God to say about people like me. I always cursed myself and God for who I was. But then I came to the verse which changed my whole life and the verses were (Isaiah 56:4-5), Jeremiah 1:5-7). These verses have changed my life.

Slowly as day passed JESUS become close to me and I become close to him. Personnel relationship started to develop with him and I become comfortable with myself. The sooner I accepted myself the way I was the better I felt of myself. Days passed and I was happier than ever. It was declared by the doctors that I had a female organ inside my body so it would be better to change my sex and become a full fledged women. I also was ready for the operation, but just few hours before the operation I decided not to go for the operation and reason was

I will stay in this world with my original identity

and not become  who I am not. Finally 8 years of my life was over in this hospital it was time to decide whether to continue in London or come back to India. It was not easy for me to decide but yet I chose to come down to India, the only reason being is I wanted to show my parents specially my father that an intersex child can also take care of the parents and live a dignified life.

I came to India, it was difficult for me at start and very stressful to be with family, but my mother was always there with me to support me. I wanted to study so with the help of my mom and aunt I was able to study. I gave my private SSC board, I had never even touched my book before and never done formal schooling but with the help of teacher I was able to complete my SSC and even passed the examination. I wanted to study future. I joined college it was again a challenge everyone in the college should teased me, I had no friends. One day I stood up in the college and shared my life story to each and everyone in the class, I started saying that “I am happy to be who I am and I am proud of my sexuality & gender”. After sharing my story things changed I had friends who now understood me and I began to get respect in the college for who I was. It was then I got the biggest opportunity of my life I was selected to represent UN from India on the issues of  LGBTIQ+.

With the help of my mother, aunt and friends life continued. I topped the 12th grade and for further studies took up Bachelor of Social Work. The reason being, I wanted to contribute to the issues of LGBTIQ+ in Indian society. My dream was and is to make society inclusive for gender minority community. It was not easy again to survive in the college and in the society but I made the way through proving my existence and fought for my rights in every stage of my life.

This was my special moment of life when NCCI of churches Fr Philip & Fr Thomas entered into my life. My first journey with them began in Anand (Gujrat) where I was invited to share my story and the friendship with NCCI took me all over India to make people and churches realize the diversity of gender. I realized that God was using me for this work and to bring a new revolution that will definitely create a history in days to come. The journey of NCCI had not only made me grown up mentally but also spiritually.

Today the same world looks at me differently. Today I am working in YUVA as a Community organizer, I am a living testimony of Christ, today I work in the church and take Sunday school, and I am part of youth group. This was only possible because I had accepted myself and the world around me accepted me the way I am. The only difference was I had to prove my existence every day of my life. Today life is much happier but the struggle is on. The day will come when people will accept gender minority and there will be no discrimination in this society.

People will accept the diversity of God and justice will prevail in the Kingdom of God.

I remember the word of the famous writer who says “when you were born you cried while the world rejoiced, when you die let the world cry, while you rejoice.” I am a drop in the vast ocean of world contributing towards the life of gender minority people in this world.

 

PC: Images source linked to the images!

I care for you a lot

Ajay Redij

It’s a journey about gratitude, love, care, principles, dreams and many more. It’s about my spiritual journey as a human being. I was born in well-educated and culturally sound family. Life has been a roller-coaster ride till date. What makes us lucky to be living beings is that we can know, understand, feel and respond to everything around us, isn’t it?

I came to terms about my sexuality much later, because I always avoided the topic myself. I would attribute my adolescence to “A birth of a river through the glaciers of feelings and emotions, which went deep underground to be discovered later.” I still remember weird dreams that I used to get, where I used to see a world of only men. My logical mind used to poke me about, “How will in this ‘World of Men‘, people will get married to each other?” Since then I have been living two lives. I used to be an ideal kid in family. And the other who was curious about emotional ups and downs happening inside me. I used to avoid the inner voice because, I was afraid of his feelings and I was protecting by hiding him in the deepest parts of my mind. Academically, I was average kid. Music was always my savvier. I am a good singer and used to sing in school programs.

10 years passed by and I was in second year of academic life. Everything was going well with my regular academics and personal life. And then one fine day, I got a huge crush on a guy, those were mixed feelings of joy and fear. I had no option than getting over those feelings. I overcame those situations somehow, but I was hurt. Was totally devastated from inside, was totally heart broken. I was literally ashamed of myself. Time passed and I completed my graduation and opted for Post-Graduation. My post-graduation was more of struggle for everything from my academic, personal and private life. I was in depression. And it was affecting everything around me. My mom used to notice and ask me about “what’s going on?” But I was not able to utter a single word. She already had been through a lot. My depression overtook me so bad that I was on anti-depressant medication for 2 months with counselling sessions. I was not able to tell my problems to my psychiatrist, due to fear of rejection. I used to feel I am only one who is going through this.

And finally I had failed my final exams. That time my situation was like, I had already been placed in a company, I had qualified NET lectureship and I had failed my final exam. I was staying alone in apartment, since I had shifted for job in new city. Those 2 months when I was living on my own and going through all this. I used to keep reading about it. Internet was big help to understand what exactly I was feeling. I came to know that, I was not only one who had been through this. There were many others. I used to see YouTube videos of people expressing their thoughts and that was helpful. I was trying to stay strong, but I was at the verge of going mad. I had read about coming out. How to tell someone about yourself and everything related. One day my elder sister called me and had a nice regular chat. I don’t remember what exactly she said, but that some statement triggered something inside me and I broke into tears. I felt similar feeling as if close beloved one’s death. I was not able to understand, why am I feeling that way? I didn’t eat anything for 2 days. I was having just water to survive and used to cry a lot when alone, which I used to be most of the times. I was realizing that one of my two personalities had died inside me and the one which I used to fake that was the one. I took a decision to commit suicide. 

But before that, I just wanted to give a try: how if I come out to someone so that if I get a support it will be like, “getting a support of stick for a drowning person.” If not than suicide option was already there. I could only think about my best friend in this matter. He told me that he was planning to come for an interview in my city. When we met I got really scared to utter a word about it, I went into complete silence. Then after a deep breath I said, “I wanted to share something with you about me that I have never told to anyone and it’s my big secret.” I just opened website of PFLAG and opened web page of FAQs for the close ones of LGBT. That page has answers to all the questions which come in mind of close ones when someone opens up about sexuality to them. He read it, and looked at me in eyes and asked, “What is it? Why did you give me this?” I said, “I never said about this to anyone, since 12 years. I have been living two lives, one is what you see me as and another is one I am protecting since I realised that I like boys and have no interest in girls. I feel very ashamed of myself and feel very depressing about it. I had taken decision of committing suicide. But to give a last chance I just wanted to tell and see the response about it.” He listened to what I said carefully and said, “See Ajay, why you are ashamed of yourself when you have made your family and every one of us proud by your achievements? Look at your achievements, you are so passionate about your research and you also have qualified NET lectureship. Doesn’t that makes you feel good? I don’t care about whom you like or what you are! You are good human being and that is what matters to me.” I broke into tears and couldn’t believe my ears for some time about what he just said. That moment was first moment of joy I had after so long-time. I felt like I saw a ray of light just passed through some hole in the dark room where I was trapped since many years. Some barrier had been broken and had made water of the river to gush towards its destiny. I did reveal to him that at some point of time I had crush on him and we chuckled and laughed it off.

It was time for my re appearing for my October attempt and I had taken exam leave for a month from my company. I went home and was preparing for my exams. One night during dinner, there was a news about Lady Gaga visiting India for her show in New Delhi around 30th October 2011. In an interview she was talking about her album “Born this way” and about LGBT rights. I just casually asked mom, “What do you think about these people?” She was watching this interview and she looked at me in analytical way and said, “What we can say about them? They are also humans like us.” I was bewildered and surprised about her response.

A day went by, I was preparing for my exams, and my sister came to see if I needed any help in preparations. She is my sweetheart. She has always been with me no matter what. She asked is there anything she can do for me. I was at the edge of breaking down, my eyes were red, throat completely dried. I looked in to her eyes and said, “I wanted to tell you something. “She became very concerned about me. I broke into tears and she got emotional and said, “Tell me whatever it is, no matter what I have been and will be there for you.” I said, “Since 12 years I have been hiding half of my identity, I have been living dual lives.” I couldn’t speak any more & gave her my diary. She went through and after few lines and said, “Ajay, I am not able to understand what this is all about. Please, tell me clearly”. I said, ” I am in depression Tai, I was ashamed of myself for being gay. I had decided to commit suicide”.She interrupted me in anger and said,” Why do you want to even think about suicide? Whenever such thoughts come to your mind remember how much efforts and sacrifices Mom and Dad have taken so that you become a better person in this world? How will we siblings feel devastated if such things happen? Ajay, right now I am shocked and not able to understand how to respond. This all thing is new to me and I need time. But you need to focus on studies now.” And we started studying.

Day of exam approached and she came to drop me. As quite obvious, I couldn’t perform well in exam. In between when I was in exams, my sister told mom about me. I came out of exam hall. She had already come to pick me up. She asked me about how was it? I said that I attempted it. Then, she told me that she had told about it to mom. My hands froze, I was numb. I had to encounter her someday. I entered home. She had just finished her bath, hair covered with towel and was doing Pooja. She saw me coming, I was completely tensed. I saw her eyes red. She was reciting some stotra. She didn’t say anything, just went inside in kitchen. After completing her Pooja rituals, she made lunch ready to serve on dining table. I was sitting in hall. She called sister and informed to tell me to come for lunch. While having lunch, I was looking at her she was making sure I am having proper food, but not talking to me. I was calm as I knew she might be shocked and sad. So I decided let that phase pass away. Days went by in similar way. I used to show my sister examples of people like Ricky Martin, who are living a great life in spite of being homosexual. I used to show her video of people who have suffered because of rejections, confessions, how families of some people support their homosexual kids. She used to ask me all sorts of questions that used to bug her. I was open to everything she asked. She once asked me whether if I feel like a girl or transgender. I said I inclined towards being masculine with feminine touch. She took time to understand that. I used to give her to read all FAQs provided on support websites. I used to feel that it would have been better if those articles would have been also published in regional languages. I wanted mom also to go through those.

Two weeks passed by in similar way. Mom still not talking to me but taking care of me. She used to ask my sister all questions that came to her mind. She ask what wrong they as humans had done that they got kid like me? Maybe because of having 2 elder sisters this might have happened.  She was in a situation where she couldn’t even consult anyone about this. One of my uncles is psychologist, she insisted my sister to take me to him. One evening, I was preparing for my last paper of my exam and I wanted to break ice. So usually I and mom share one cute moment together when I do her oil massage on head. She was watching some programme on television. I took oil bottle and started my conversation, first she hesitated. I was just controlling myself from breaking down to cry.  I said, Mom, why aren’t you talking to me? I know you are holding something inside you. I care about you, I don’t want your blood pressure to shoot high. I want you to express what you have in your mind. You want to scold me do it? You want to beat me do it? I would be really happy if you kill me also, anyways I am part of you. I owe my life to you. This is true that I have not talked about it to you. But mom, there was a time when I was ashamed of myself and wanted to leave this world. She just said, “I am not angry upon you. I want you to meet Psychiatrist uncle and get guidance upon this. I would like to know his opinion in this matter. Look, Ajay I care for you a lot. More than you imagine. And I am worried about how will you lead your life with all this without acceptance in our society? As of now, focus on your studies and build you position so strong that no one dare to think of judging you. Become a strong personality and inspiration to many by your good deeds. That’s what I am expecting from you“. I met uncle and as excepted he was supportive and conveyed this to mom.

Days passed and one day I took her for “Ek Madhav Baug” play by Humsafer Trust. That’s when she fully accepted me.

PC: All images linked to their original sources.

In just one single day

Here I present you my worst experience being gay in my college. I did my hotel management from a college in Wayanad district of Kerala. I was one the best student of my class, teachers liked me a lot since I was also a classical dancer of Odissi. Everyone gave me respect. But an incident which took place, spoiled everything in just one single day.

I was in relationship with a guy whom I had met 4 years back, when I was too young for relationship. But I was in love with him, and he was a good person. But one day I came to know that he was the biggest fraud I had ever met. After that breakup I came across a guy whom I had accidentally met and later became good friends with. One day he wanted me to accompany him to Trivandrum and I went along. In the night we took a room and stayed there he kissed me and did some softcore. After few seconds he said he got to reply some messages and he took his mobile and clicked my pictures.

Few days later he asked me for 4000 rupees, since I was a student and I didn’t have. I said I don’t have, then his way of talking changed and started blackmailing with my photos. I was terrified and I paid him 4000 rupees but few days later he asked me for 8000. I really didn’t had and when I refused he said he will publish my photos and since he was working in a telecom company he easily traced out my address and other details. And started threatening me again and again. And when I discussed this with my friend he said “You are unnecessarily taking tension” and asked me to be bold and tell him to go & do whatever he wants. I did the same and then next day changed my life.

I was alone in my hostel room, sleeping it was early morning 5 am and someone started knocking my door. I was sleepy so didn’t open the door, I asked them what they want in the early morning and they replied me to check my Facebook. I found there was nothing special, I saw there was a new friend request from an account which was looking like my own account my name, details and my photo everything was the same. And it was him when I saw it was showing 23 mutual friends and me saw all were my college mate’s senior’s staffs teachers. And his id was uploaded with my nude photos. I felt like killing myself, suddenly more people started knocking my door and I was totally lost. I went and opened the door and all the class mates were there to tease me insult me. I was crying but it didn’t bother anyone, I didn’t talked to them.
Just ran to the stair case and said I am going to end my life. I said goodbye & was standing near the handrail. Was afraid to die but didn’t had another option too. Suddenly my friend who advised me to be bold earlier came to me n said “what are you doing?” my eyes were filled with tears & said I want to die. He said “Why you say you are gay & can’t survive?” He came towards handrail, pulled my hair & slapped me, hugged me and said “kill him rather than killing yourself.”

The moment when I came back to my room, for my class mates I was like an untouchable person; no one talked to me no one sat with me.  No one talked to me. For several days I didn’t have a seat in my college bus. Always being insulted. I got extra duties. No one clapped for my dance programs. Said bad words about me. I faced a lot of insult from my teachers too. Earlier I used to write attendance register and other works but I was stopped from doing all those things since I was gay. Even if I sat somewhere in cafeteria the other group of student will get up & leave. One day I felt like crying and went to the washroom and threw my foods away. All of this was happening because I was gay. Gay gay gay they gave me several names, teased me, harassed me.
Several times I really felt that it was better to commit suicide.

Slowly 6 friends among them understood me and came to me as a good friends. We had our own good times. Slowly I began to understand that I haven’t done any crime to deserve this. I was harassed even by one of my chief, who taught us food production. One day when the class had to submit our log book and we all submitted in which only my log book was not corrected or signed, then I went to him for getting my log book signed. He was sitting with few other teachers and said “Hey, I came to know that you will bend your ass in front of anyone who waves.” I was really shocked and terrified because a person who was a teacher of mine insulted me. Suddenly I replied “Sir if you want me to bend for you don’t need to wave your hands, just give me a miss call” Listening to this he felt embarrassed & insulted. I added “Sir, you are not paying my fees, nor educating me or taking care of my expense or giving me shelter and food so it shouldn’t matter to you whether I bend my ass or not”. I said “You just take care of your child who is just 5 years old”. He was mum.

Listening to this several well-wishers form my college encouraged me that I have guts to speak. They encouraged me to reply back to people who are nasty & hurtful, I listened to them and did just that.

Once we had an extempore speech competition in our quality development class and before like I mentioned I had few best friends and among them, one was a girl. She took the lot and her topic was “Should gay marriage to be legalized or not?” And she asked me to help her to prepare for the speech and I helped her, she asked me my experience and all… And when the debate started it was like she said everything in an opposing way. I felt so hurt & insulted. My madam asked me to counter her arguments, I said my part and made her mouth shut and on that day our friendship ended.

After finishing the speech whole class supported her and I said you are you all clapping? I said “You fools before clapping and encouraging others, you all don’t know that there were 11 boys from my class who asked me for sex date and had sex with me. I will never disclose their names because I have promised them, I will disclose their names one day when I leave this college.”

The whole class started looking at each other, all started to doubt their friends, roommates etc. I lied that I had sex with 11 people in fact I never had sex with anyone in my college but my gutsy dialogue made them confused. And because of that doubt popped among friends several classmates of mine fought with each other doubting each other. But only I know that what I told was just a lie, to divert everyone’s mind.

Final exam came whole class became enemies with each other. I was happy to see that because they spoiled my 3 years and my one single lie spoiled their friendship which they build in 3 years. Everyone dispersed from college like how they were in the first days of the colleges without speaking much with each other. I was happy to see that no one gained anything in return of my tears. Finally those 11 names became an unknown secret to everyone. Till now they are waiting for that. College over classes over and here I finish my long story.

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 😉

Every day is battle

Anonymous

Yes I didn’t come out to my parents but my surrounding society made them know about my sexuality. Yes I am Muslim and queer. I am proud of my sexuality, of being a 21 year old Bangalore based gay guy, and I am doing my graduation in well-known college of the city. Being a Muslim I never felt uncomfortable about my sexuality. We are 4 members cute family, my mom dad and my sister who is 7 years younger to me. Being queer even I faced sexual abuse, harassment and blackmail during my childhood. In my childhood I thought I was only person in this universe who is attracted to same gender. My first abusive experience was with my own cousin brother, I was in just 8th grade at that time. Later my school senior when I was in 9th grade who abused me couple of times.

My mom was from rural area, she was 37 year when I was 20 and she was suffering my major cardiac problem called as Dilated Right Atrium. Only one side of her heart was working, I took her to all major hospitals in Bangalore and cardiac surgeons.

I felt alone and depressed. To find company I went to dating sites to overcome the sadness, I was around 20 then. I met many guys through dating apps, it was going on well. In the other hand I was the only one taking care of my mom, my dad and my sister never bothered. At my age every one love to explore their life and express themselves, so I was bit open to social networks such as Facebook and Instagram about my sexuality. I had great followings. I was active in events and parties. Another truth is that girls love gays and I had many girls following from my college and my neighborhood too.

I don’t know why I was in depression. Was that due to my sexuality or my problems at home? I was not able to bare my mental trauma, all my days were filled with tears. Every night my pillow and bed knows how many emotions I was hiding inside me. I was not able to withstand it. I had questions “Should I come out to my mom?” But I was not able because she was not healthy and she may get heart attack if she hears about my life because I was the only son for them. But the day came it was January 17 /2017 night my mom expired leaving me alone. I can’t forget that day how it was, I can’t explain it in any words. At last even I was not even able to express my sexuality and reality to my mom. My aunty took my sister because she was young and needed attentions. I was alone at home. My father was working from early morning and coming back by night 10pm. I totally house arrested myself for a month, none of my neighbors or relatives came to meet me.

I myself want to meet a psychiatrist, I was not well. No sleep at night always crying and thoughts of suicide. My psychiatrist was very supportive to me, even though I went to a government hospital. She was the only doctor I meet until now, who was open to hear about my all problems

My neighbors and relatives were always speaking about my pictures on social media and many raised question if I am in gay. The rumor went into my father’s ears. I was studying for my final year exams, he came into my room just cried a lot, and I was today confused about what was happening.

All my relatives showed my picture & videos of my social media, which was bit girlish. My dad abused me so much with his words I was not able to bare them. But I thanked God because someone helped me to come out my dad. He house arrested me, morning from 9-4 college, at 4.40 evening I was to reach home. He was looking in my room, checking my phone; he was drunk and started abusing me and scolding as “hijra chakka ..gay” and all even my neighbors stared speaking that I am hi-tech gay. Not only neighbors, even my sister who is 7 years younger than me started scolding me. She acted like spy on me, she was carrying all information of mine to dad. My dad is blackmailing me if I go out or post any picture on social media he himself will commit suicide and write my name in letter.

I have hope that one day my family and neighboring society will understand me. I hope that day is very near, this typical Muslim family will understand me and bring my smile back on my face.

I know my mom’s soul have understand the emotional burden I am hiding in me, I know she has accepted me from heaven I can even feel her warm hug!

It’s my life and I should live it

Nalin

Bangalore

So, it all started when a YouTuber named Connor Franta came out in a video. It got me thinking, as to why do I invest so much time and energy in trying to keep my gayness under cover. I mean, it’s me, so sooner or later people are bound to find out. But then again, fear came over me and I remained mum.

I watched a few more coming out videos by some other You Tubers. Some reaction videos of people coming out. There were loving and horrific incidents mentioned in all of them, and because of the fear that hatred is what I’d have to live with, I chose to ignore the love that might have come too.

Around the even semester of my third year, I was in college hostel, and would visit home every weekend because my parents stayed in the city. I remember, the entire week I’d just think of all the people living a happy life, out and proud, and here I was, who didn’t know of a single LGBT human. I remember crying myself to sleep. And then on call, I told my mom that I need to speak to both, her and dad, when I get home this weekend.

Now, I don’t know why, but I decided that the first people I wanted to come out to were my parents, I mean they always said that they were my friends, so technically that made them the friends I have had for the longest time. More so, I think I just didn’t want them finding out from some random source. So that weekend, when I got home, they had some party to attend, and that gave me sometime to think as to how was I going to break the news to them.

When they got back, I sat them both down, and just started talking. I was scared I would be disowned. I had no other place to go if I was thrown out of the house, I didn’t have a plan in place (I know, stupid. But yeah..) and that just made me more and more scared.

I tip toed around the topic, asking them questions to find out if I was a decent enough child, if they’d want to disown me, and then I told them I was gay. I couldn’t get the word ‘gay’ out of my  throat. I remember stuttering, struggling to convince myself to tell them. I was in tears, thinking of the disappointment I had caused them. I was sobbing like a baby.

Now, I always knew that my dad would take it better than my mom,so when I did come out, my mother remained quiet (which in her code is utter disappointment and disagreement), and dad said “oh, okay, I thought it was something much serious”.

I was a virgin boy, who hadn’t even kissed a boy, and then came the questions, how do you know you are gay? Have you slept with a man? Has someone taken advantage of you? How can you know you are gay if you haven’t been with a woman?

And it all startled me. You father asking you what turns you on in a man is maybe the last thing you want to answer, especially when you are 20 going on 21.

But yes, he tried to crack a joke at the end of all of it by saying “I actually thought you got someone pregnant and we’d have to get an abortion!” (typical dad jokes he has)

When I came out, I asked them to maybe go see a psychologist, so that it could help with with the shift in dynamics in their head. The stupid thing I did was let them pick one out. And they managed to find the most homophobic, illiterate, fuck ever. He gave me an online quiz about “how gay are you?”, which had questions such as “what would you choose, a sausage or a donut?”

Post the quiz he tell me, see the quiz says you are bisexual, so don’t go around telling people you are gay.

And you don’t even know if you are gay, you are virgin.

And I questioned him, that if a boy walked in asking him why is he attracted to a girl, no one would question him, or ask him his experiences with a man, to which he promptly responded, “I would” and I snapped, I was like, sweety, even I wouldn’t, so don’t you bullshit me on this one. This was maybe the first time I was speaking up about any of it and it felt so good to put that ‘doctor’ to his place.

After this, I never saw him again, and like a good Indian family, we just never talked of things that make us uncomfortable.

Slowly I came out to friends, became more and more accepting of who I am.

2 years later, I came out to my sister, and her reaction was “huh, okay“. When I asked her if that was all, she said, I don’t know what else to ask.

For all this while I had avoided coming out to her thinking that she might be like mom, and not be the easiest person to deal with it, but she did turn out to be the biggest support I have in the family.

The only time my parents ever spoke of my sexuality, was when I was with my dad, and he was telling me about how depressed mom is, and that me being gay is one of the reasons, maybe a major one, and that he has been trying to tell her that it’s my life and I should live it..

Cut to, October 2016, me being in Bangalore, louder and prouder than I had ever been, Being vocal, sharing my views, and then I shared a meme on Facebook, that practically outed me to the whole world, and I was kind of happy!

What I didn’t realize was that most of my family was on Facebook too, so that just ruffled a lot of feathers in the extended family..

Mom got a call from an aunt asking what was up with me, and there she went spiraling again. I heard her cry, telling me things like I have made her want to end her life, and that’s maybe not the best thing one could hear their parent say..

In the process I came out to an aunt of mine, and though it wasn’t received in the best possible way, it want the worst I had gotten.

Cut to May 2017, I was in Chennai for work for a few months, and a drag show was happening there. I had worked with a few drag queens back in Bangalore so I was asked to take part and perform in drag. I didn’t mind, and that gave me a chance to actually try out drag!

So I did the show, and it was the ‘first drag show of Chennai‘ do a lot of online news platforms covered it..

The articles were flooding across my timeline, and then, somehow, mother found out! (I guess they do find out everything, after all!)

The entire shenanigans started again, I was being told to just leave them alone, to stop trying to take revenge for an upbringing they had provided, to stop trying to tarnish the family name.

Some how in all of this, I was just scared shitless what would happen if dad found out. Needless to say, he did.

He gave me a call, started talking casually, and maybe once other things were out of the picture, he just asked me what was up, and what was I up to.

He very calmly asked me about the show, and told me that it was my life, and I was allowed to live it the way I wanted, but that this hurt my mother quit a lot. So maybe I should try and do everything in a way that she doesn’t find out..

Which was more than reassuring because I never thought that any of my parents would ever be okay with drag..

In the process I did have to come out to another aunt of mine, and when I did tell her, she said “so what? It’s not like you are killing people” and maybe that was the second time I ever cried during a coming out.

All I ever wanted was for my mother to say those things, but well, at least someone did. Later I apologized to her for bombing such a news on her, with no prior warning, and she said “never ever be sorry for who you are”

So now, I back in Bangalore, living with my mother, and we haven’t slit each others throats yet, so that’s my coming out story, so far!

I am just the way he made me

 

My name is Ankit. I am a gay man, 25 years old living in Mumbai. I work for an educational institute “VIDYA” which works for under privileged children in urban slum communities.

I realized I was attracted to the same gender in my early teens but did not know what it actually meant or that it is actually a sexual orientation or that there is a community of LGBT people. As a fact I did not even know the difference between the male and female anatomy until I was in my 10th Grade.

During my summer holidays post 10th grade a few of my cousins were visiting us and one fine evening we were hanging out and I noticed a girl child peeing. I was confused and I questioned my cousin, why is it that she is squatting while peeing? We boys do it differently. Laughing out loud my cousins remarked that you are so silly and explained the difference to me. They also teased me that now that I know I would be more inclined to know a girl better perhaps start having attraction towards them.

The very next day I went back to my cousin and said whatever you explained to me yesterday is so true but somehow am not attracted to girls. I find myself attracted to boys. My cousins failed to understand me and mocked that I would always be a kid. I guess that was my very first coming out.

Years passed and it was in college when internet came to my rescue and gave me access to the information I needed. I googled about being gay and that there are others like me. I started searching for ways to find other people like me and chanced upon gaydia.com and it was such an overwhelming discovery. All this while I was caught up with various emotions and found it challenging to come to terms with my sexuality. I was even suicidal under depression as I kept worrying that there is something wrong with me that may be I am a eunuch (Hijra) and what a stigma this news would be to my parents and they may not accept me.

When I found gaydia.com my life changed. I came across so many other queer folks and through them I learnt a lot about LGBT community, our community! I got to know about Pride March in our country, through an organization named GayBombay.

In 2008 I attended my first GayBombay event which was a parent’s meet. The experience of this event was quite liberating. I got to know and meet parents/family of other queer folks and it gave me hope and confidence. The Pride March also liberated me in many ways, most importantly self-acceptance and that there is nothing wrong in being gay and that Pride March is a way we come out and celebrate being Queer. It has been quite a journey since then and today I am one of the organizers of Mumbai Gay Pride. I continued my journey with queer groups like GayBombay, Humsafar Trust etc. and actively engaged into activism and so far it’s been a great journey.

While at home my family knows about me being queer but I have never had the chance to sit down with them and come out to them in person. For my parents ignorance is bliss for now.

In 2013 when Supreme Court re-criminalized homosexuality as per section 377, I was interviewed by Zee news and was part of a debate. I guess that was my official coming out to the whole world through the medium of a television interview.

Later that evening I was in a discussion with Mr. Pallav Patankar (Program Head – Humsafar Trust) about how can we bring in the change in society. He said the interviews that you gave throughout the day is one way but is not the absolute or accurate way. If we want to bring change in the society we need to reach out to masses directly.

This triggered a new emotion in my and when I was returning home with a friend of mine that evening I felt the urge to at least take one step in the direction to bring that change. I stood up in a local train coach full of every day commuters and started a dialogue in Hindi – “Main ek samalaingik hu! Aaj Supreme court ne mere adhikar cheen liye hai” (I am a homosexual man and today my rights have been taken away from me). I got mixed responses, some people ignored me, some argued and questioned and some nodded in acceptance. While I realized it was a risk taken the greater learning was that when a group of people notice/experience something they talk/share the news. I realized that within that moment I was spreading the information to people from different walks of life, I was indirectly educating them that homosexuality is not an American concept and that even in that very coach in which so many Indians commute every day, anybody could a homosexual. That evening I mustered the courage to speak publicly and learnt that people need to learn more about us before they accept us.

I had found my inner calling and my purpose. I resigned from my job and visited Valsad in the state of Gujrat and held my very first public talk about homosexuality and LGBT people and my journey continues till today with over 500 public talks.

To talk more about my experience giving these talks I learnt tier 3 cities/smaller towns are more receptive to such talks/discussions than tier 2 & 1. I have had both good and bad experiences. I was also jailed when I boarded a passenger train from Jhunagargh to Somnath to hold one such talk. I was released with a warning to not repeat the act in passenger trains without permissions; that too speaking against Supreme Court. Being bullied was also part of this journey and one such incident to recall was when I was visiting a small town a little further from Bikaner and was staying in a budget guesthouse. I was bullied by a few men there who somehow noticed that I am gay and was eve teased by a group of men. The came down to the guesthouse & started making vulgar comments “aajao teri pyaas bujhata hun, mard chahiye tujhe” [You like men, come let us quench your thirst]. I was scared to death, I sat in the farthest corner of the room praying for this to pass away.  I was petrified to even move & somehow dozed off sitting there. This incident did scare me but I never gave up, I believed in my role as an activist and that people in India must be educated about our community and rights.

Personally, I am quite rooted to my culture and my religion. I believe in Hinduism and especially in Vaishnavism. I also read a lot but somehow I could never find any story speak of homosexuality but what I noticed is Hinduism never discriminated against anything or anybody in particularly. I find my strength is Krishna, I am just the way he made me!

 

A gay man decided to make my safety, his priority.

‘So Lesbian, why don’t you say yes?’

‘Maybe the Lesbian is not interested!’

‘Oh this Lesbian only likes girls….’

Image representational

It had been a year of bullying and harassment at the workplace and the jibes were only increasing with every passing day. There were days when I would just smile and ignore the conversation. Sometimes, I would laugh at the hilariousness of the situation. And on others, I would just seethe with anger.

It so happened that I joined an organization and became part of a large team led by millennials. The culture was fun and the team’s umbilical cords were thicker than ever. And then I met this colleague of mine, who happened to hail from the same state as me. All hell broke loose when he expressed his interest openly and I declined the offer.  So over the next half year, the Team’s Leader, a CXO level profile, started taking jibes at my being single. He felt that we would make a great pair, this colleague of mine and me & as the team’s eldest leader, he was duty bound to ensure that we get together.

As the situation started to turn messy, I requested for a HR intervention and the relevant people got this message loud and clear. But my troubles were far from gone; this colleague of mine started invoking sympathy in team connects and offline conversations. Somehow I was always the object of attention in all chai parties. And why not….I was the one who had said no and he was heartbroken!!

Verbal Bullying

At some point in time, he addressed me as a lesbian in a team meeting and the ‘joke’ lingered on. Thereafter my name was conveniently forgotten and I was only addressed with the L word by all the men who were common friends with both of us. So here I was, a young 29 year heterosexual woman, trying to make an honest living out of my day job but being tagged as a lesbian because I had rejected someone’s advances……….and then one day this person did the unthinkable.

On a bright Monday morning, we were all told that he would be leaving the organization for greener pastures. As we all congratulated him one by one, he expressed his interest to discuss the offer letter with me, in private. We walked into a conference room and I reviewed the terms and conditions earnestly. I was sharing some pointers with him when all of a sudden, he offered me a print out of his CTC sheet and said, “No man who will earn this much, will even take a second look at you. Would you like to reconsider saying yes to me?”

I looked outside from the glass door. My entire team was seated bang opposite to the conference room …and in that moment, I made my decision. I walked out with the CTC letter in my hand, clapped loudly for convening people to my desk and literally forced them to get off from their telecom conferences. My colleagues thought that I was falling ill but my blood shot eyes gave my intentions away. Brandishing the offer letter in the air, I asked my supervisor who was a very senior woman leader in the organization, “Will you give away your daughter’s hand in marriage to a man who calls her a Lesbian on one day and pushes his CTC letter on her face, the second day?”

Pin drop silence ensued because different teams co- occupying the space began to move in from their workstations. The conversation seemed very charged up and I was being loud enough for people to understand that I would not be cowered any more. My supervisor got the message and firmly asked my colleague to back off. After a few minutes, the team went back to their work and I walked back to my desk too.

A few weeks later, this colleague of mine, left the organization, after serving the notice period. And the team started getting back into the habit of addressing me with my name. But the incident left a deep mark on me. Proactively I switched gears and moved from a compliance role to being a D&I professional; as I could not stand being part of the same team anymore.

Post my transition into the new team, within the same organization, I had the opportunity to share my experience with another team member who was anchoring the LGBT+ charter for us.  We had a very detailed conversation and his first response is still etched in my memory, “So why did you allow it to happen? Why did you never object?” And from there on, this member of the LGBT+ community who was out in the organization, became my biggest pillar of support. He made it a point to counsel some of old team members and reassured me that I would be very safe in the new team. Had it not been for him, I would have always lived with fear that the ghost of that incident would continue to torment me, if those common friends decided to revisit the agenda, some day.

As I reach the end of sharing my story of becoming a LGBT+ Ally, I can’t help but reflect on how important this conversation is at the workplace and in the societies that we live in. As allies, it is our responsibility and duty to stand up for diverse minorities who may not be able to voice their concerns. It is only by mitigating exclusion, can we create a world that is meaningfully inclusive for everyone.

It has been many moons since that incident and in all my roles, I have ensured that the LGBT+ conversations are elevated in the D&I charter. To the community members who are closeted and the ones who are not, to the allies who are ridiculed for supporting the charter and bullied by stigma of association, to Workplaces that uphold the values of Inclusion, I quote Jean de La Fontaine, “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.”

 

Picture credits: Source linked to the images