queerness is more than just an identity. it forces you to look at how the world functions and makes you examine your position in it.
in the patriarchal social structure that we live in, this realization of your queerness can not only be a late process but also a harrowing one. growing up in a brahminical family, under the shadow of 'god' and tight-knit morality, i learned to despise queerness even before becoming aware of its existence, and the journey from the acknowledgement of queerness being out there to its presence within me was definitely not an easy one.
i began accepting my queerness only in my undergraduate years. before that, there was almost a decade of denial and an effort to conform to heteronormativity that resulted in severe depression accompanied by suicidal thoughts. though the depression has managed to sneak into my queer life, and is as much a part of it as it was of my assumed cis-hetero life, my queerness has given me strength to battle it more effectively. the gradual self-acceptance, followed by coming out, first to my best friend and then to the wider world, has given me a family of choice built on the ethics of care and not on blood. i have managed to build a support system of people around me who constantly make sure that i not only survive but also live.
the second person that i came out to, hoped and prayed even, that i be bisexual. she said, 'dharmesh, please be bisexual. how do you know you're gay? how do you know you're not interested in girls? at least try once!’ i couldn’t give her an appropriate response. all i managed to say was, 'i might be.’ this acceptance of same-sex attraction as long as you are attracted to the opposite gender as well is a stark reminder of the fact that homosexuality is seen even by the most well-meaning people as some sort of an ailment. they love you despite your queerness, how generous of them!
after these “coming outs”, i lived in dilli for a short while, and that city gave me so much confidence and freedom that coming out became a bit easier. earlier it took me a lot of mental and emotional strength to come out, but after dilli and later attending the pride, it became much easier. pride instilled pride in me - that i can say without any doubt. i kissed a man at jantar mantar surrounded by happy non-judgmental people - my desires and sexuality was no longer something to be hidden, something to be ashamed of - it was my whole being. i was no longer a man, but a person, a queer person, a queer individual and at the same time part of a queer whole.
and though i left dilli soon after, queerness didn't leave me, nor did i leave it. i carried my queerness on my sleeve in ilahabad, firaq gorakhpuri’s sheher, a sheher where he was out and wasn't. a sheher which respected his profound genius and tolerated his shameful queerness, and got rid of it as soon as he died. in this sheher, i have, since february, 2017 tried to build an environment where queerness wouldn't be shunned or tolerated or accepted, but loved. people have come forward to hear me out and understand queerness as much as they could. other queer people of the sheher, however, have not been as accepting. having lived through a lot of discrimination and ridicule, a new kid talking about coming out and equality arouses suspicion in them. revolution is not a word an average hindustani lives by and queer people are no different. so far there's a small group of women rights activists and volunteers from student organizations who are willing to help me in whatever way they can, but their help holds little value if queer people themselves don't come forward.
the zahiliyat that queer people have, their internalized homophobia and transphobia, and misogyny, their toxic notions of masculinity, and their shame and guilt usually associated with their god(s) is extremely disheartening. but even in this, i have found some queer people who are willing to navigate and learn to be free from oppressive cis-heteronormativity. where will we go from here? only time will tell. but for now, i will continue to take pride in my queerness and support others who have just started on a journey to find themselves.
The lower case is used to break the hierarchy of angrezi language. Same is the aim of using Hindi/Urdu words.