Welcome To The Land Of Desi Queers

Understand that the only time you can experience and express your authentic gender identity, is during college functions or your behen ki shaadi, when clothes and cosmetics suddenly adopt a universal tenor.

Photograph by Janak Rathod

Welcome to the land of desi queers.

Realize that your skin – brown, mud-streaked and flaky is an object of abhorrence for the desi people around you – who, ironically, also have brown, mud-streaked and flaky skin.

Notice the disapproving curl of their lips and their darting eyes, as they watch you hold hands with the boy next door. And god forbid you kiss your girlfriend’s cheek in a public space.

Welcome to the land of desi queers.

Understand that the only time you can experience and express your authentic gender identity, is during college functions or your behen ki shaadi, when clothes and cosmetics suddenly adopt a universal tenor.

Sarees on hairy masculine bodies; false beards on supple womanly skin – outrageous under usual circumstances.

“Arre, but it’s an annual day na, toh sab chalta hai! It’s just a role”, you overhear someone casually quip.

You wonder how long it will take them to figure out that it wasn’t “just a role.”
Not to you, anyway.

(CW: Transphobia)

Welcome to the land of desi queers.

Learn to look away when your mother dismisses the transgender woman rapping at your window, as you wait in silence at a traffic signal.

Cultivate the skill of humourlessly laughing along with your friends as they mock her effeminate gait – cries of “Hijra! Hijra!” punctuating the air.

Join them, as they tear down a human being – bit by bit. First the flesh, then the fat, and then the bones. Temporarily crumple the waves of guilt engulfing you – into a tight ball, and tuck away the godforsaken curse in an unexplored corner of your body, where games of hide-and-seek are unlikely to invade.

And as she leaves – crestfallen, glance at her empathetically. Apologize noiselessly.

Wonder if you’ll ever succumb to her plight.

Welcome to the land of desi queers.

Have you lied to your parents about your sexuality?

Have you held your boyfriend’s hand under a dining table, littered with people who’re filled with rage at the thought of two hairy brown bodies intertwined together?

And have you spent hours sifting through ‘Coming Out’ videos on YouTube – desperate to find one, just one video by a desi queer person – but in vain?

Did it take you years to find other brown men and women who wear rainbow capes over their coffee-coloured skin?

Welcome to the land of desi queers.

And in this universe, you whisper.

You whisper, as you talk dirty to your nonbinary boyfriend.

You whisper, when your share your ‘coming out’ story with strangers you’ll never seen again – underneath a thin blanket, at a summer camp you’ll never return to.

You whisper, whilst you brandish rainbow-striped flags and carefully-crafted posters at August Kranti Maidan, every February.

Whisper. But not too loud. There’s shame in being an oddity.

And you don’t want your colony wali aunty to know, do you?

Welcome to the land of desi queers,

A land of sharam and subservience.

Toil and turmoil.

Invisibility and isolation.

You are advised to suck it up and remain resilient, as you are advised to occasionally cry and wallow in Poor me sentimentalities – although neither is strictly mandatory.

Dear Desi Queer,

Welcome to being a hybrid of two unaccommodating lifestyles.

Remember that your skin is the color of the earth you stand upon.

Kiss it.

And then paint it – with every shade of the rainbow.

For the earth – brown, mud-streaked and flaky, just like your skin –

Can bear the weight of the world.

And so can you.

About the author

Asfiyah

17. Queer. Socially anxious introvert. Ironically, a performing arts enthusiast. Experiences bizarre minimalistic urges, with often manifest in a desire to encompass the universe and confine it to a glass jar. Has a penchant for books, cats, doggos, horror movies, sunsets, oversized black t-shirts, mountains, Lucy Rose, and rickshaw rides on rainy days.
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