On Feminity And Words

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. There would be days when the movie, “Shall We Dance?” would air on TV, and all I would dream of was being in Richard Gere’s arms. Over time, I have been asked to explain this again and again, and I really can't tell you why I felt the way I did.

Let's face it, a few of us  have to stare at ourselves in the mirror and justify what we want to look like. In a country where drapes and flowers are a norm for men as well as women (classically, if not in modern times), I still found it difficult to connect  my inner "femme" soul with this masculinity. I liked it when my beard grew but I also wanted to wear high heels, flowery tops, and gowns.

That was when it started.

I put on winged eyeliner and plum lipstick and put the photo up on Facebook. I loved the positive reinforcement I would get from all the girls and how I could feel like I was one of them. I could feel like men wanted me and it would be fine.

Except, it became a joke.

You see, being homosexual in India is easy. However, it also means that growing up, I could point at ten school friends and out of them, five would have molested me. Somewhere in the middle of all this, my sexuality, my presentation of my body, and heck, my body itself became a part of a running gag. I was the punchline of a joke that everyone was laughing at.

You see, everyone, including my family and friends, laughed at me because of my tendencies. These were the people who had told me while growing up that I was supposed have been born a girl. These were also the people who had denied me any access to traditionally feminine toys, even though I just wanted a Barbie.

It didn't end there. For as long as I hid my sexuality, it was quite excellent. However, I could not do that forever; I could not hide behind walls and pretend that it will never come up. So, I started coming out.

It was only when I started to come out that I realized how safe the closet had felt. When you are gay in India, you are the bonafide sex object of the group who is supposed to divulge every sexual detail, and be okay every time someone makes a face at you because you enjoy anal or creep away when you want to hug them. You're also molested regularly, and every hookup becomes an act to reclaim the self because it is brave to go out with a stranger in this community.

But, let’s face it. I wore blue lipstick yesterday. I looked like an empress. Someone (a love interest) told me I looked sexy. And you know what? All these guys who were laughing at the 12-year-old me would never get to see that side because they blew it. Whose loss is that? That’s for you to decide.

By Uttiya Roy