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.

Bhai Dooj

Unmesh Potdar

 

“Happy Diwali! Happy Bhau-beej!” chimed sister right from the bungalow gate. Mother ran down the steps as usual to shower kisses on her grandchildren. It was Diwali 2015; day of bhai dooj: when both my sisters will come down to Satara to celebrate the festival.

Day went well, exchanging gifts, jokes and family gossips. Once that quota was over, father turned towards his favorite subject: His son’s marriage.

“I am not forcing you to do anything”, he hissed. “I am just curious to know your plans for future. Look around in our colony. Most boys of your age have at least 1 kid now. Your mother and I have to answer people, you know!” By now, I had lost appetite even though there was a plate full of my favourite Chakalis and Khoya Karanjis in front of me. “Let’s have a discussion.” He said. This is his favourite line because in such discussions he’s the only one who gets to talk.

I have not thought about marriage yet, Baba.” I tried sounding disinterested as possible – “You know I am not stable career wise. Let’s take possession of our Pune flat first, let me buy a car and have some savings, then I can think about it. Jaldi Kya Hai?”

I knew I had pressed Play button on a record player. I am so used to this- He starts off by saying how I never listen to him, How I am not serious about my future, How he’s always tried to be my friend more than a father but I always cling on to my mother’s Pallu; etc etc etc. I prefer to keep mum. Else it’s WW III on the dining table.

20 minutes of him going on and on about the same topic, there was a moment when I lost my patience. “I don’t wanna get married”; I barked. “Look around! You think marriage is the ultimate goal of life? Sorry to disappoint you but I don’t think that way. I don’t believe in the institution of marriage. So henceforth don’t ask me anything about getting married.”

I could see his flushed face. “What the hell are you talking about? Did you learn these things in the UK? What now…. you want to be in a Live-in relationship or what? I may even agree to that! Who’s the girl? Is there one? Tell me! I am talking to you!! Tell me!!!”

He had always mocked me and mother with a phrase- ‘Mounam Sarvam Sadhanam’. (Silence can convey everything) I chose the same path. Being quiet. He kept staring at my face with a demanding look. I was still biting my nails. “FINE!!!!”; he suddenly bursts like a volcano, “Don’t tell me anything! I don’t want to be part of this conversation anymore. Talk to your mother and sisters like you always do. I am out of here!”

We heard the car engine growl. Before mother can even utter a word, he was out of the bunglow gate.

“What is the matter, Unu?” She turned towards me. I can sense her concern in that kind voice. “Why are you saying all this? Has anyone said anything to you? See, we all have to get married one day. We need someone to look after us in our old age. Spouse, babies, grandchildren: they give meaning to our life. What’s causing you this fear towards marriage? Why this hatred towards girls?”

“Aie, sit down” I muttered. “You want to know if I am scared to get married? Do you think I have hatred towards women? I’ll tell you something that I have struggled for 28 years of my life. Don’t think that this has dawned upon me overnight. I have given it serious thoughts since last 3 years and only because of that I can gather enough courage to tell you that I don’t have any feelings for women. I have feelings for men.”

I am sure if anyone had dropped a pin, we would have heard its sound. I was just cold and numb. Cold and numb with sweaty palms. Most awkward 5 minutes of our lives.

“Have you considered visiting a counsellor…….”, sister tried to mumble but I cut her off. “I have done the counsellor as well as psychiatrist bit, Tai. As I said, I have given this enough time to gather courage to speak in front of you. I am not saying accept this right now. I have taken years to accept myself. Take your time. But this is me.”

Silence just grew deeper as the night progressed. I tucked myself in the bed yet my ears were stressing themselves to catch traces of whispers outside my room.

Next day was the real struggle. I think it sank into everyone what exactly happened yesterday. I knew: an open dialogue is much needed and that’s what I did.

“Put yourself in that girl’s shoes.” I had told my sisters. “Every girl wants and deserves a perfect husband. Do you think I’ll be able to satisfy her emotionally? You both are married. What if you discover that your husbands are Gay? How will you feel? And who gave me rights to toy with a girl’s emotions?” They gave me a startled stare. “I agree to what you are saying, Unmesh” elder sister spoke. “But what is the future of this? This isn’t legal in India. You know what sort of narrow minded city our parents live in. How are you planning to deal with this?”

I had to explain to them that though it is bit difficult to find a stable partner, but there’s always hope. How we are fighting our battle for our rights and how family is the first place where we get immense support.

“We are always there to support you but you understand that we have our families too. Focus on your career and find yourself someone to take care of you. For god’s sake, don’t die like Parween Babi.”

Talking to mother was extremely emotional for me. I am attached to her deeply since childhood and I always felt like I am cheating on her by hiding this big secret of mine. I knew that behind her disappointed face she was trying to hide her worry for me. More than the society, she was worried for me, haunted by the common question: Humare Baad Tumhara Kya Hoga?

Father had his own doubts about what is homosexuality and I’d never blame him as he belongs to a city which takes immense pride in defining masculinity and femininity: Kolhapur. “I know you watch blue films”, he said in hushed voice, making sure mother isn’t around. “I have seen those CD’s in your room. Dont you feel aroused looking at those women? Khada nahi hota?” “Hota hai”, my tone was cold as ice. “But looking at the man in porn, not because of the woman.”

And then there was silence.

Since then three more bhaidoojs have come and gone. I think they’ve made peace with the fact that I am not going to marry ever, with a girl at least. I still think they are struggling to understanding homosexuality. I am glad that I took a step to take that huge burden off my chest. They are still worried about my future, but at least they are happy, because I am happy.

A Miss or a Messy Miss

  “Had it not been a miss by God, I would have been born as Miss”

Why is this a mess? Because the incongruity between mind and body generates a huge amount of stress and its energy sapping (cannot be compensated by Glucon :D). To compound it, there’s a hell of process to go through to be what I really am. There’s a fear of outcome of process; what if it turns out different than what brain has perceived because hormones have already played the unintended part, so, how much it could be corrected. To further compound it, there is massive societal pressure; many people tend to fear us or make fun of us. To compound it even more, I like my job, what will happen to it.

So, there’s no easy way out, except the technology shown in Mr. India or ability possessed by Raven (X-Men). After battling these thoughts for so many years, the stress absorbing black hole (brain) is bursting with this negative energy, so, finally I have reached a stage where thoughts have turned suicidal. Although I am seeking counselling to manage them; I have no idea who will go first, so, a snippet of how it has been till now.

Childhood
————–
As is common with kids who have Gender Identity Dysphoria (GID), there’s somehow a belief from this early age, that there’s something which is not right. Unfortunately, there’s no name which pops up what to name “not right”. This is more so, if you are not a millennial, since the internet was not there, not much content on television except Ramayan/Vikram Betaal/Shaanti. Oh! By the way, I liked Mandira Bedi in Shaanti too much.

So, before too much negative thoughts start making sense, I have been recently diagnosed by a psychiatrist with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I then starting co-relating my quite fearful thoughts up till now. I think it’s because of this, I never came out to my parents, fearing exceptionally bad things could happen. Now, as if other stresses were not enough for me, there’s another thing messing in the black hole, which is not allowing me to make my decisions as quickly as I would want. In this case, so many years.

I was a thin frame not growing more than 4’6″ till my 10th standard. So, with a tiny frame, I was not physically prepared to respond to being bullied. There were many instances which I could easily remember, out of which here is one. It may not sound a big thing as it is, but seeing from kid perspective getting ridiculed for a small thing as choice of color is torture. When discussing about things, other kids used to ask the favorite color, so, obviously favorite color was blue, although I liked blue, there were other colors too which I couldn’t name them because I have seen kids being ridiculed just for this stuff.

A good few centimeters later, where I could wear non-infant clothes, there was instance, when my mom was making a skirt for my cousin and she used to check its size on me. I was happy with it, now you can imagine why. Obviously, someone has to make fun of me, so, it were the siblings. I was not born thick skinned, so, although I was happy wearing the skirt, I chose to resist the temptation because I didn’t want to take this bullying from siblings. Then, a few more centimeters later, I was given my elder sister’s jean which I obviously liked as the fit was good, and then had to return it to her since I was not ready for the name-calling. My mom thought that I don’t like jeans and never got me any jeans over next few years. There were many other things too but, I will move onto some more centimeters ahead.

Coming out – Myself/Mom
———————————–
When I was around 11 years old, there came a time which initially seemed a phase to me. I just wanted to be a girl and, I had no clue why, and there was more stress building up. My mom’s a homemaker, and I had seen all the stuff which she used to do. Although I wanted to try it out to learn that, but, I was too afraid to come out because I thought my education will be stopped and I’ll be forced to sit at home. So, I decided to just go on, and study well. I started struggling a lot with studies over next years but somehow I made something out of me. On the same centimeters count, one day the GID stress subsided a bit and I was bit relaxed thinking, it’s a phase and it’s gone. However, it wasn’t a phase, the feeling came again may be within 6 months or so, which never got ever, and probably be over when I am brain dead.

It was my 12th standard when I came out to my Mom. I had no thoughts about how my mom would react, but I was like not prepared for anything. She asked me if it’s about some girl or some stuff I am unable to recall. I pleaded my mother not to tell papa, because my anxiety had me thinking that papa will blame my mom, so, I wanted to block this information from him. Although I knew, papa is quite good, even then I had some more fearful thoughts. So, few inches later, I got into engineering college, and GID stress was growing, still hiding behind anxiety thinking that it’s the right way to go at least for now.
A consolation is that I have worked for quite a number of companies which would otherwise have been out of my reach. These are really big companies, so, anxiety took many things – but gave me quite a lot too.

Career
———
I completed my Engineering and got a job. The only company I feared was Infosys because of its dress code. I never wanted to part of it, because I knew I couldn’t survive in it. At least casual clothing was a bit of breather in that stranglehold. I will not reveal the company which I worked for in the first. The next company I switched too, I started dressing androgynously and was already getting the eyebrows raised. It’s common to be ultra-self-conscious when starting out like that. Finally, I decided to tell papa, but again couldn’t do so because of some more scary thoughts.

I feared I could be administered testosterone shots because I had already gone through some text that it is due to hormonal imbalance in pregnancy and I feared that if he will stumble on it, I am gone. I had also read about people getting electric shocks for this. To me being alive with this stress was okay than being through that torture.

Now
——
Now, most of my family knows who I am, and obviously they are not liking it. In past few months, I have been trying to cope up with all this stress as I have been doing since so long, but the black hole of stress is spinning out of control. I am quite emotional and because of my commitments I have already made in my life I have come to a crossroads. Although, all the commitments have been very transparent, and thankfully I don’t have the guilt of hiding anything, but still.

So life goes on, and lets see what’s in store next.

Tears of exasperation by an effeminate are crushed

There’s someone who does not fear to own up to her trans identity. She is a young and beautiful 20-year-old renowned poet, and a Radio Jockey from Bangalore, Shilok Mukkati.

Her mantra:

“Explore your body and mind, see yourself intensely. It should be that intense that you should find your spirit burning like a sun. As you see yourself, now you are ready to fly away. Fly.”  -Shilok

This is a her first poem which beautifully capturing the duality of her existence , the challenges from the society & family and he hope for tomorrow.

Kinnaras of the Dark World

Look at us, born as sluts,
BEARING heats of the embargo,
a girl [is] rushed by The tears of
compassion,
The tears of exasperation by an effeminate are crushed.

My mother loves me, but never understands me.
As for my Father, I am not the one he wanted.
We are ghastly Speech For the siblings,
Forget the relatives, it’s a Far Speech at all.

My CHILDHOOD was drenched by the rain of molestation,
Hush …! They zipped My Mouth, never opened My abduction,
Here comes the Lover in My sixteens,
But for him it’s only the lust, not love.

Never told the Reality of molestations, exploitations,
Even If I tell, Who’s there to listen to My oppression?
I was chased by the nightmares of shame and abandon,
My Bed is wet with the tears and Blood.

NAMES many do not have even the Gods,
But We Labelled as such it blows are our NAMES,
like The Bloody leeches sucked do have labels,
The labels are as swallowed and curl We do Pythons.

Noose, Bottles of poisons, Pond and Well,
as days rolled as Welcomes Well,
But the Fire is burning in the Heart of femininity,
there is no fault Why should We WHEN die?

Bones in the roasting prison of manly,
womanly I’m burning the Soul,
In the world of Darkness,
Shining With the crown of tears,
I’m the lightening power who rules the hurdles DAWN & dusk.

Neither the masculine sea of dropping seeds,
NOR giving the feminine nature breathes,
I’m Them between the space and peace,
I’m the Guardian Angel of the genderless GENDER hum …

Kinnars as the pages of the Vedas called us,
We are the TWO spirited people the Seas Over,
The Revolution has Come of Kali rushing by,
hear the roaring awaited battle of Equality.

You so called nature’s dear Homo sapiens,
the erroneous JUSTIFICATION To Flood of You,
the stereotypes of hierarchy To Blood & patriarchy,
Real Humanity is … We have Come To teach what.

For the realisation and Recognition & dignity of our existence,
We are Here, The Kinnaras of the dark world

– SHILOK MUKKATI

I knew it since I was 14

Anonymous

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A week had passed since I moved back to India after living in USA for about two years.

I am 30 and single so like all Indian parents mine too were looking for a suitable bride for me.

Unlike every other person who feels excited and elevated whenever their families discuss a prospect with them, it gave me cold feet. I never even looked at the pictures that my parents showed to me, I just told them “You better know”. This has been going on from 3 years and I used my stay in USA as an escape from all this.

My trip to USA made me comfortable about my sexuality. Being gay isn’t a taboo there, people discuss about it openly. Of course there is a prejudice in USA too but the best part is law protects homosexuals unlike India’s Draconian 377.

It was a Saturday 10 April 2016, my parents had arranged a meeting with a girl’s family. My mother was cleaning the house from morning. She had changed the bed sheets, sofa covers, dusted the entire house, a regular drill that we did whenever she invited someone over house to meet me. There was a storm in my mind, I was fighting with myself about telling them the truth but I wasn’t able to gather the courage to do so. It was 04:00 in the evening and we were expecting them at 05;00. I was sitting on my couch and was so depressed about it. My face was all pale and my mother asked me “Is everything alright?”.

I said “No”.

She asked me “What is bothering you?”

My parents were sitting in front of me and I looked at their faces, the dream every parent has about getting their children married and seeing them start their family, I was about to shatter it. But  decided that it is high time that I do it and it’s the right thing to do.

I told my mother, “Have you heard of a man marrying a man?”. She said “Yes, they are crazy people and I don’t know how do they do it.” I said ,”Mummy, I am one of those”. Both my parents were taken aback. There was a dead silence in the room. My father shouted at me, “Are you an idiot? Are you impotent? If you are having problem in having sex let’s take you to a doctor and get you treated. Those homos (fags) ruin their lives. They cannot be with one person and they die alone and in misery. I cannot let that happen to you”. My mother asked me “Did you marry someone in USA?”, I laughed and said “No”. My mother asked me “How do I know that I am gay?”. I told her “We all know that. I knew it since I was 14”. She asked me “Why didn’t you tell us this. We would have helped”. I said “Mummy, it isn’t easy to accept the fact that you are different from others, it is a journey that takes its own course”.

My father was screaming in the background “You are just confused and since you have been a virgin all this time you started having sex with men. It is just a phase, get married and have your family and forget about this part”.

He told me about his friend who told him that he was gay but then he got married because of family pressure and everything is alright, he has kids. I should get married too.

I told him I can show him so many married gay men desperate to have sex with a guy. They are frustrated in their lives and they aren’t happy with their wives as they always are on Grindr or PR looking for next guy. I told them, I can’t live like this and cheat on my wife or partner. But all in vain.

But he wasn’t ready to listen, my mother was worried and pale. My father was breathing heavy and I had to calm him down, I told him to relax and talk about it.

I tried to understand their concern, I explained to them that I am financially doing good, I don’t have any addiction or any bad habit so why do they think that just by not marrying a girl how would I ruin my life. But all my efforts were useless, I could see fear, disgust and anger on their faces.

My father still thinks that I am impotent and that’s the reason I like men, my mother she is worried rather than being judgmental.

They are still trying to get me married to a girl.