What I Won

The teasing started, and that was followed by bullying. Things got worse. I changed schools hoping that the problem would vanish but it seems like the problem was never attached to the school, it was attached to me.

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At a young age when you are expected to have fewer thoughts and more friends, it was the opposite for me. I had more thoughts and fewer friends. Not because I didn’t like having friends but because no one wanted to be friends with me. You see, I was that ‘girly-boy’ of my class.

The teasing started, and that was followed by bullying. Things got worse. I changed schools hoping that the problem would vanish but it seems like the problem was never attached to the school, it was attached to me.

“What was wrong with me?” A quest of self discovery started early in my life, when everyday experiences point out being unfamiliar to you and what others your age did. You learn to put your chin down and be seated in the backseat. That may have been the first act of remaining silent.

Gradually the taunting reached a saturation point, and it became a part of my everyday life. So when your fear makes itself so familiar to you, it seems like you no longer fear it.

It was in class VII, that I decided to confront my fear, and gathered the courage to share my truth. I enrolled in the inter-class speech competition. I penned down the little that I could express and a lot more of pop song lyrics with which I connected at that time. The day of the competition arrived. One by one, students performed and it was my turn next. A beating heart, the loud mic, and 1200 eyes. That moment was when I realized this had become serious. The moment all the suffocating feelings stacked from many years was to be unleashed. This was it!

“My name is Soyeohang Rai from VII ‘B’, and the title of my speech is Born This Way”.

But, I forgot my prepared speech. I nervously glanced up to the ceiling and how miraculously the quote inscribed on the wall “The key to change… is to let go of fear” pushed me to go for it, some force within inspired me to share thoughts I never thought I would be able to share.

That afternoon a boy of 12 poured out his heart’s content in the school auditorium, and those raw emotions seemed to influence the audience in a queer manner. There was cheering and clapping after each pause. Every speaker was allotted 5 mins to speak but later I realised I spoke over 13 mins (God knows what I spoke) but maybe it was the undivided attention and the unexpected response from the audience that made me lose track of warning bells. I just went on and on and today, I still think of how supportive my teachers were to not interrupt my emotional outbreak.

Taking the courage to speak for myself in class VII made me realize that we all have voices within us that desperately want to be heard. When familiarities in life reveal themselves, no one is deprived of the capability to feel. When these feelings are directed with correct words it is then that changes dawn. After that day, students grew in interest in me. I was no longer seen as weird, but different. I didn’t win the competition. Yet, I won something greater than what the winner could have ever won.

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Today, at 19, six years from this incident, this boy is still the same at heart. The difference is just that these emotional outbreaks have found a more defined and refined way of presenting themselves.

I see myself as an artist. I paint, I sing, I act sometimes and do a little modelling here and there but the main reason to do so has been the same. The boy of 12 wanted to express his truth and this boy of 19 too, wants to express his truth.

I come from the hills- Gangtok, Sikkim. A cozy place in a chilly altitude. I see we lack representation here, people like me or should I say the growing children, some children of 12 need someone to look upto, to feel represented and  valid. Yes, the internet and Pop culture may give them information but it is only someone from your place who has been through what that child is going through who can truly inspire confidence.

With rapid inclination from the youth of the hills towards the ‘western’ way of life, along with queer identities being a minority and unrepresented, we are loosing touch with our culture as well. My attempt as an artist is to promote and safeguard my culture alongside be a queer representative who does this.

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Soyeohang Rai

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