Interviewee : Sonal Giani
What do you identify as (gay, bi, transgendered, queer – use any terms you like here)?
I identify as bisexual/gay/queer. I also identify as extremely cute.
When did you first start to define your identity as such?
I started identifying as such when I was 15.
Have you experienced first-hand trans/homophobia? If yes, how did you deal with it?
Yes, a whole lot, especially in my college. I was outed without my consent. An anonymous person messaged all my batch mates in college that I was lesbian. This was then forwarded to everyone I knew as part of a news flash message campaign by my batch mates. A poll along with my photograph was also put up on the orkut page of my college to vote if I was lesbian or not. A lot of people voted before I fought for it to be removed. I was teased a whole lot, also was isolated by my so called best friends after this happened. At that point of time I hid my tears and held my head high and shrugged off everything as though none of it were actually happening to me.
When did you first out yourself?
I outed myself first when I was 19. I was still in college at that point of time.
It was entirely unplanned. I’m a spontaneous person. This seems to get me into tight situations many times.
Who did you come out to & why did you come out to that person?
I came out to my best friend, she wanted to know who had given me love bites. There was nothing we hadn’t shared, this seemed inevitable.
How did that person react?
Well she took it quite positively, in the beginning at least.
Did your coming out change anything about your relationship with them?
My relationship with everyone I have come out to remains the same.
These are people who I have come out to on my terms with my consent. I understand now that it is important to give people enough time to understand you.
Have you ever been outed without your consent? If yes, how did you deal with it?
I had a particularly rough time in college, teased, isolated and bullied. Also my girl friend broke off as she could not take the pressure.
I was severely depressed and lost tremendous amount of weight however I got over it once I came in touch with good counsellors and the queer community in Mumbai. After moving to Mumbai things changed for the better for me.
How did the people you were outed to deal with it?
They isolated me, some teased and rebuked, but some close friends stood by me and they are the ones I consider my true friends.
Do you think being gaysi makes it harder to come out & that if you weren’t part of such a traditional & conservative culture you would have an easier time with your sexuality/identity?
Yes, the traditional and conservative culture does make it extremely difficult also we don’t have easy access to people who could help answer our questions. We need more people to reach out to such as counsellors in schools, colleges and institutes. It’s imperative that we push for sensitization in all institutes and corporate houses. Also we need much more visibility as a queer community than we currently have.
Would you recommend that people stay in the closet or come out?
I would definitely urge people to come out. It lifts the albatross off your neck. Whether your close ones react negatively or positively at least you don’t suffer silently. And once you are out, you actually start living for yourself, it is liberating.
Have you come out to any family member?
I am out to my parents and siblings. I feel lucky and blessed that our family bonding is so strong that I have been accepted whole heartedly.
One Bollywood actor/actress you would love to see coming out as gaysi?
If you could magically go back to being non-queer, would you do it? Why or Why not?
No I would never want to be non queer. I love myself and my being queer makes me even more special to me. A queer lifestyle is interesting and very fulfilling. Every day makes me stronger.
Your favourite queer-themed movie?
There are so many. This question is difficult to answer. I will mention the first few that enter my head.
If these walls could talk, Equal ground, I cant think straight, Prayers for Bobby and last but not the least…MILK.
Your favourite queer-themed book?
Facing the mirror : Lesbian writing in India (This was the first queer themed book I read and was actually brought to me from a friend in Los Angeles, kind of ironic!)
Because I have a voice : Queer politics in India. (This book answered so many questions for me)