Growing up queer means knowing as a wee young one that I was different. Its not so much about knowing what “gay” or “lesbian” etc. means. Its just an inkling that something is not right with your part in the world. At that time, I recall not being able to understand why or how I was different because it was all still ambiguous.
As a college student, I’d lived in the dorms for 2 years – 1 as a resident, 1 as a resident assistant, which is like a hall monitor or whatnot in the dormitories of the American collegiate system. My first year, my roommate was awful, but she moved out after first term and I never had to bother coming out to her. My second year, one of the perks of the RA job was that I got free room and board, with a room to myself.
It is not surprising that the moment one is faced with the prospect of talking about one’s sexuality, the first instinct is to take refuge in fiction. The subjective experience, recorded in the first person—in acknowledgment of the conventions of the autobiographical—rings false; one is suspicious of interpretations of one’s past, however well-intentioned, however temporary.
When I was 16, my best friend asked me what I wanted in a guy. The first thing, I told her, in my naive innocence: "He must dance well." Years later, lots changed on the last and of course, the dancing moved out of that list.
This summer I was part and parcel of the wedding of a person near, dear and true – My sister. With it came all the drama & shenanigans of any Indian wedding. But while I was unfailingly devoted to the cause – Get her and my brother in law married amidst all the ruckus & ballyhoo and come out of it sane ( though that is still debatable ) - I never predicted the varying degrees of discomfiture my queer self would face throughout the entire process that lasted a good 8 months, with particularly brutal intensity in the last 30 days. I say my queer self almost as if it were another part of me.
This past weekend, my cousin called and invited me over for dinner. She knows I'm gay & has met The Girl. Since coming back from Canada this was going to be the first time I was going to meet her & I kept looking for hints in the conversation we had, where she was inviting me over, to figure out whether she was also inviting The Girl.
When we were in Canada, The Girl & I went to a baby planning course. Basically the course went over all the options we had - adoption, surrogacy, artificial insemination with a known donor, with an unknown donor, legalities of each option, costs etc etc etc. We also met the children of other Lesbians who were 'graduates' of the course. It was such an amazing experience, listening to the other lesbians talk about what they went through, talking about the pros and cons of the method they chose and above all to see the babies!
‘Should I? Shouldn’t I? Will he? Won’t he?’ defines the chain of thoughts that run through every gay man’s head before messaging a random stranger they think that fits into their description of a “perfect partner” (basis a profile alone) in the big bad world of online dating.
So there we were showcasing our popular traits; Ruswa and her Colgate smile, whereas yours truly was almost ready to dish out her gyaan on how to attract Quality women & Quantity women, depending on what one is running after. (Please Note: Gaysi recruiters are selfless creatures, who stop at nothing to accomplish their goals). Needless to say, in 30 minutes, our prospect was ready to have “Gaysi” tattooed on his forehead.
What I think is… if one is dating then one is definitely in a relationship, whether it is an open or a committed one! And if you are dating someone, is it really right to call yourself single because in reality you are involved emotionally/physically with someone?
Initially, I thought I was being a feminist – given that my initial journey was always cocooned and protective and had many rules of no coming home late, always being escorted and yes, always being given money when I needed. The payoff, I realized, many years later was high. It meant listening to rules somebody else had then set – in return for the protection and the financial backing parents/spouse provided.
My parents, on the other hand, were overjoyed that their daughter found a partner that they wouldn’t have to hide from the Indian community. You’d think him being white, an atheist, and having a kid would be the typical Indian parent’s nightmare, but all that seems like nothing compared to the possibility of me being with a woman… well not completely “nothing”.
Having been married (to a man) and then going through a traumatic divorce, I know first hand that marriage does not in any way, shape or form guarantee 'happily ever after'. So do I still want the right to marry? The short answer is: Yes.
So I have a love-hate relationship with breasts. Mine included! There are days, I wish I wasn’t quite as plump and there are days, I wonder whether I would look better if I was bigger! The first time I wore a strappy tube top, I kept tugging at it for the fear my top would fall down. When I looked at Pooja Bhatt baring it all many years ago on the cover of Movie magazine, I looked twice. When I discovered, I was gay – I spent time dealing with pretty much everything and breaking long held dreams and stereotypes.
We have been familiar with this verse since the time we were ready for preschool, isn't it? The emphasis of taking care of our parents and the importance they have in our lives , if not apparent to each one of us, have been etched in our minds since childhood. We have always been asked to view them with a larger than life image. We have been told through tearing and painfully slow soap operas and talk shows, how much they have sacrificed in their lives only to see us through. As if we kids have a Ghajini-like memory. Yet the Indian society finds it a necessity to establish this as a responsibility. Wouldn't filial love be enough for us to take care of them in their senile ages?
Like many folks in and out of India, I grew up watching Indian cinema both of the regional and Bollywood variety. And whenever a choreographed dance/dream sequence burst out on screen – Oh yeah! My imagination ran wild! My Queer identity without any rules or societal structures to mimic - mapped itself gloriously onto the coy yet vibrant romance that played itself out in booty busting technicolor.
I am fascinated by happy stories where my gay friends and their families have found peace. When a gay friend told me, how her ex-girlfriend was accepted as a part of her family and her dad got along like house on fire, I almost turned green with envy. Another narrates how her partner and she lived with her parents like a married couple, under the same roof! When a friend’s status update talks about how her sister and her girlfriend are cooking her favourite food, I can’t help but be thrilled for them!
Ek myan mein do talwar nahi reh sakti, a very popular phrase you have heard of, for sure. Now one can only imagine the intensity of a given situation, if a teesari talwar is introduced in the very same myan. Stretch a little further and replace the myan with Gaysi’s Admin house.
We had known one another for more than a year, working in the same organization, and sharing the same company accommodation. We easily discovered comfort in one another's company. We were introduced through a common contact and very soon our professional relationship crossed personal boundaries and when exactly we got so involved, was hard to tell.
I looked around and found all stereotypes melting away. Even the thought of calling it a minority community seemed absurd. I was given slot number three. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into until I was called upon to read.