The day of the parade is one day in my life where I feel legal, I feel like I am allowed to be who I am. I don’t even talk to my friends…I am so excited, I just dance, and jump, and distribute the parchas (laughs)…whichever city I go to. I feel like getting involved in the parade as much as possible. I get lost. For me, pride means a lot of things. It intersects with so many other aspects of our identity. For some people, the work they do becomes an important part of their identity.
I remember having discussions about caste in middle school where classmates would unanimously ask me to shut the fuck up – not because they were casteist, but because, at least to them, my discussion was always out-of-the-syllabus. That’s how caste and gender are still taught in school – as syllabi rather than realities.
Balancing my privilege with the legitimacy of my own identity and emotions has been challenging, and it pushes me into a constant state of expressing myself and holding back. I’m still learning about how I can hit the sweet spot between taking up space that isn’t mine, and allowing myself to see myself as a legitimately queer being.
For me, pride is about the aspiration that someday I will go back to my family, my school and college and talk from the bottom of my heart about who I am and why I never stood up to people when I had the choice.
We are all gifted with the innate ability to feel and recognise love as an emotion and expression. But we are never taught about how to use it and how important it is to accept that love exists in many forms. I guess we really need to learn how to USE our love, i.e., Understand, Support and Embrace the love that we have for ourselves, and the love we have to share with the world.
Rafiul Alom Rahman is the founder of The Queer Muslim Project (2017), and of the Delhi University Queer Collective (2014). In an interview with Avali and Arunima from The YP Foundation, he talks about the challenges of organising around queer issues and politics within university spaces, about the queer movement in India, and about the importance of The Queer Muslim Project - not only in the lives of Muslim-queers, but also in the larger socio-political context of the country.
I write not in the hopes of swaying any of your future decisions. I am in a happy place now and wouldn’t wish you to take an alternate route at all. You might already be thinking of all the possible course of actions you could be taking in the coming time. While not all of your wishes will come to fruition, hereon you won’t regret any step that you take.
Maybe it is time for the queer community to reflect upon its own hypocrisy, and realise that even queer spaces, which aim to be inclusive and accommodating of diverse identities, can be intolerant of differences.
In a short conversation with Avali and Tara from The YP Foundation, Ritwik, Jamal and Chitraksh from Transmen Collective talk about issues of representation, inclusion and marginalisation of trans youth in the larger queer movement in India. They share with us the challenges of forming collectives such as the Transmen Collective, as well as recognising and acknowledging the intersection of queerness with other identities.
A large portion of the last decade has been quite tumultuous for the LGBTQIA+ community in the country. From the decriminalization of Section 377 in 2009 by the Delhi High Court to its recriminalization in 2013 by the Supreme Court, from the state recognizing the discrimination people from the hijra community face to the more recent disaster that was the Transgender Persons Bill of 2016 - the community has been through a lot.
Frankenstein’s monster is a thing of utter despair. Its creator is a parent unwilling to acknowledge their child's existence and their right to live , even though he's the one because of whom the so-called monster comes to life in the first place. Once created, the ‘monster’ was shunned and thrown out of civilization.
Unfortunately, as bizarre as it may be, I have often reluctantly admitted to similarities between the lives of a trans-women, like me, and that of Frankenstein's monster.
Whenever I start talking about homophobia, I feel like I am a sham. To be honest, according to me, being gay in India is relatively easy. However, claiming and representing your gay identity isn’t. We don't get noticed when we are in public spaces, we don't have to hide our bodies, the way society expects transgender people to, and most times, because of our ‘normal’ appearance finding work is not so difficult. You see, India is not homophobic unless you want to claim your identity.
I was 12 years old when the feminine form became attractive to me. I wanted to emulate what actresses did on screen.
For a country where arranged marriages continue to be a norm and ‘love marriages’ scandalous stories that are kept within the families, India seems to have an unhealthy obsession with love stories. From folklore to contemporary cinema, our media is saturated with stories that glorify love as an unstoppable force, and an inevitable fact of life.
What’s more, all of these stories are about two individuals - most certainly a boy/man/ mard overloaded with mardaangi (masculinity ) and a girl/woman/ nari with no backbone – who against all odds (and logic) prove that nothing is impossible when you’re in love.
Growing up in Lucknow was an integral part of my life. It molded me into someone who was always worried about what others thought about them. I always acted the way people around me expected me to, and shaped my gender expression into what was considered to be ‘masculine’ or ‘normal’.
But ever since I came to Delhi, I have witnessed a lot of changes in myself - physically, mentally and sociologically. But these changes have not always been welcomed or accepted by those around me. Heterosexuality is still considered to be the norm, and anyone who fails to comply with it is subjected to homophobia.
Ever since I was a little child, I could feel that I was not ‘normal’, precisely because that is how I was made to feel - every time I refused to wear a pink frock, every time I chose to play sports I was made to feel that I was doing something wrong. As I grew up, things became even more difficult and confusing. Puberty brought new challenges, especially the different way in which I experienced puberty as compared to my other friends, whose desires were as heteronormative as the desires I saw being represented in popular culture and media.
When you’re a 14-year-old, there’s a lot of mystery and confusion around the word, ‘sex’. Along with this, there is also a feeling that you know more about it than your peers - or at least you pretend like you do. Not many grown-ups talk about how it all goes down, so eventually the ‘knowledge’ about sex comes from your own friends.
I first learned about periods in primary school when one of my classmates suddenly got hers during the first period in school. There was a lot of chaos, and some seniors were helping her. When my friends and I asked her what a period was, she told us that after a certain age, girls secrete some sort of liquid from down "there" (which according to me was the clitoris - I didn't even know there was something called a ‘vagina’).
Till about a year ago, like many of the people around me, I used to think that Sex Education only revolved around teaching people about sex and the reproductive system. But because of the Know Your Body, Know Your Rights (KYBKYR) program, I learned that it was so much more than that. I liked the program’s agenda: providing Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) to young people.
One day, when I was 7 years old, I was sitting in the car with my mom, my Taiji and my two cousins who are 5 years older than me. They were having a conversation I clearly wasn’t meant to be a part of. So naturally, I absolutely had to know what they were talking about. I mustered all my kid superpowers of asking many questions loudly and persistently, but my efforts were in vain - all I got was the word ‘napkins’, and the mumbled reassurance of “it’s fine you’ll know this when you’re older”, every child’s least favorite words.
While I was still in school, I remember telling my mother “I don’t understand why women cry so much about inequality. We can vote now and they reserve seats for us in the parliament. We are equal.” Sure, back then, it seemed that way to me, because it seemed perfectly normal that every boy in the boys’ football team in school was a hero while the girls’ team had spent years and years fighting just to be allowed to take part in inter-school competitions.
When I was in school, I was second to nobody when it came to cracking dirty jokes. I could find an innuendo in anything – but in very real terms, I didn’t know much about sex or about my own body. The funniest part about this was that I didn’t know how little I knew – at least, not until I started dating people.
WHEN WE MET FOR THE FIRST TIME: “I have no problem with ‘them’ but I would not like to associate myself with them” – First statement he made when we went for a chai date, “I mean you understand right!”- He sought some support.