I didn’t really know much about the queer community, or even their existence, until I stumbled onto a Beyblade fan fiction where it wasn’t a girl the hero liked, but another guy. This was when I was thirteen years old. I didn’t find anything strange about it, in fact I rather liked it a lot. But some instinct told me that I had to hide the fact that I read and enjoyed stories with queer characters in them. So I did. It wasn’t until a year later, in 2009 when I first heard of section 377 of the IPC, that I became a little more aware of the terms like ‘queer’, ‘LGBTI’ and queer rights. As the years passed, I read more about queer rights in India and abroad. I read more and more gay and lesbian stories, and I started writing my own too. But I still did it in secret. I still do, because it is still considered a ‘taboo’.
I come from an average middle class family. My parents both were very firm that I wasn’t supposed to do a ‘love marriage’, but they never stopped me from going out with my friends, buying fashionable clothes or talking with boys and hanging out with them; to put it simply, they never restricted me in anyway because I was a girl. For the most part, they are quite liberal minded in a live and let live sort of way. With all the reading I did, I set up my own moral values, but my upbringing is and always will be the foundation on which it is built.
Coming back to what I was saying regarding my queer journey, till I was eighteen years or so, I’d have never considered myself as anything but straight. By then, I had crushes on quite a few male celebrities, and one or two class mates. I had a few female celeb crushes too, but I thought that was just admiration.
It wasn’t until one item song when I was looking at the actress a little too intently for it to be just admiration that I realized, shit, maybe I’m not so straight after all.
I’ve thought long and hard about this. I like guys. I like girls too. I like people who’re neither. So, I’m not straight. Bisexual, maybe, or even pansexual. I don’t particularly care for labels, even if they do make things neat and organised. Labels are for objects anyway, not for people.
I wanted to share this new awakening of mine with my parents. I thought, okay, one at a time should be easy to manage. I decided to tackle my mother first. I started dropping very subtle hints. Watching Modern Family with her, talking about human rights, feminism, and LGBT issues, stuff like that. I asked her what she felt about it, and she said it wasn’t really her business to judge anyone.
Nice, I thought. Still, my instincts that dear old voice in my head said that perhaps I shouldn’t. But I’d admitted the fact that I wrote gay stories to a few of my school friends, and one friend in college despite being afraid that they’d reject me, and they’d been fine with it, so maybe I just needed to go ahead and see what happens.
One night, I found the perfect opportunity to tell her about me. Dad was away on an official trip, so it was just we. Since my mother was feeling a little ill, I had to sleep in my parents’ bedroom instead of my own, so I could easily help if she woke up in the middle of the night wanting water or something.
We settled into the bed, and switched the lights off. My mother was on her back, and I thrashed around till I found a comfy position that involved two pillows and a foetal curl. There was no noise except for the whirring of the ceiling fan. “You know… I’ve been thinking,” I said.
“What about?” she asked me.
“I’ve been thinking, about my future and all… About relationships… And that I might like girls like I like boys.”
I don’t know what I was expecting, but a rather loud and angry “Chee!” definitely wasn’t even in my list of possibilities.
“Don’t say things like that,” she hissed. “All this LGBT and other bullshit. You’ve been influenced by reading and watching too many western things. All this gay stuff isn’t suitable for our culture and lifestyle. And don’t breathe a word of this to your dad.”
What was I even suppose to say?
I was literally dumbstruck, staring at the ceiling fan with my mouth ajar and wondering, is she being serious? Is she really saying that to me?, while my mother muttered about how I needed to stop reading whatever I was reading on the internet that was poisoning my mind.
“Well, I said I might,” I hedged, self-preservation instincts kicking in. I should have listened to the damn voice and not said anything. “I was just…” Tears sprung to my eyes. “I was just saying. It’s not a big deal. I’ll still marry a boy and give you grandkids and all. Just forget whatever I said, okay? Just forget it. I’ll never mention it again.”
At this point, people might be thinking I have no spine. I don’t particularly care about that really, but I do care what my mother thinks. I knew that making a big issue out of it would do no good for me. So I remained quiet, and went to sleep, disappointment and sadness pushing tears out of my closed eyes.
This was about two months ago. I never spoke about it again, but my mother occasionally asks me if I still have ‘thoughts like that’. I smile and say no, and feel no remorse for lying.
I still have ‘thoughts like that’; some days they’re all I have. What I don’t have is the energy to explain to my mother about how being queer isn’t a western import or something that is against our culture, because I know I’ll never win against her. She is stubborn and will not change her mind about it, and trying to do it for her is nothing but an exercise in futility. She would never speak ill of people who fight for LGBT rights, because in her own words, it is not her job to judge. But she will be dead set against me being bisexual, because she sees it as a hurdle to my happy future, because she fears for the stigma I would face from society if I publicly came out (not that I have plans to do so anyway; who I am and who I love is my business and mine alone). But you know what? I’m okay with that. I realise now that I don’t need approval from anyone to be what I want to be. Approval is always nice, of course, but I wasn’t going to let the fact that it’s not there affect me either. I am who I am. I know that, and that’s enough for me.
Maybe in the future, when I fall in love with a girl and she sees how happy that girl makes me, my mother will change her mind.