Today we’re talking to Rashmi, who has been an amazing influence in my life. When she first contacted me I had no idea what it meant to be trans. I will admit to being very ignorant & Rashmi patiently answered my many questions. Looking back I probably asked her what were possibly horrendously naive things, but she always handled them with immense grace .
So without further ado… let me present our aam-gaysi this week…
What do you identify as (gay, bi, transgendered, queer – use any terms you like here)?
They are not mutually exclusive. I am a dyke-identified transwoman, going by labels.
When did you first start to define your identity as such?
Around 7-8, while I was in my 3rd grade. That is as far as I can remember.
Have you experienced first-hand trans/homophobia? If yes, how did you deal with it?
Being trans kinda makes me out. I have no choice but to look physically different. Wouldn’t staring count as being phobic? I started dressing out in public when I was in the US. I haven’t had anyone physically abuse me yet but the looks, the stares are enough to send the shivers at times – mostly from the desi idiots. I used to feel like walking up and slapping them but nowadays it doesn’t affect me much. I think once I became confident and being proud of who I am, it as more like “whatever”.
At a cynical level, I am thankful I am not one of the ubiquituous desis – being married; running behind 2 kids, attending kids’ birthday parties every weekend and eating desi grub and talking about the latest tamil/telugu/hindi movies and gossip about the stars and about that friend whom we all hate, and all this while flaunting the finest silk sarees, dhotis and wearing all the jewels we could ever possess.
I actually feel, I did much better – both in person and in experience. I do feel lonely at times but I still feel content over all.
When did you first out yourself?
To myself at around 7-8. I think I was in my 3rd grade when I loved the touch of a skirt I got to wear. Though a lot of folks think, being trans is just donning on the other dress and looking different, it is not completely true. Being trans is what you feel inside and for me I figured out I would not fit the binary stereotype – physical, emotional, behavioral, or in any other way even when I was a kid.
However, my first meaningful coming out (to family, friend, coworker, etc…) was to my ex. She was amazing and she is still. We cried over it when we lived under the same roof and we now smile over it living away from each other. Thankfully, we are on our paths in a much better way now.
Was it unplanned or was there careful planning involved?
Planned by me to a certain extent. I was resolved from when I was young to not hide anything whom I would spend my life with. I told her before the marriage and I did not know much about the trans thing myself. I was hoping it was just a fetish and everything would pass by and we would live happily ever after. My foot! But later, it turned out to be disastrous to the relationship as well as to her and myself. We felt guilty for loving yet hurting each other. Frankly put, I never wanted to be the MAN in the relationship and very understandably, she wanted just that. But our love and respect for each other kept us together even after we separated. We knew it was just right for us to go seek our own destinies while being supportive of each other. But like a Bollywood film, now everything seems to be working for us in our own lives. Frankly, I cannot imagine not having to share this with her.
How did that person react?
Over 4 years:
confused at first.
anger further later.
bouts of guilt, sadness, confusion and anger
and eventually happy.(now)
Did your coming out change anything about your relationship with them?
No. I think we still love each other the same way but not may be as in a relationship. We know we could count on each other, any day , at any time. We even joke that we could read each others’ mind irrespective of any person we would date.
Have you ever been outed without your consent? If yes, how did you deal with it?
No. At least I like to think so. I am sure a lot of my friends think I am gay because whatever said the world is absolutely trans-ignorant. They would all have seen the Hijras but it would be very difficult for them to accept and event think their friend could be one of them.
How did the people you were outed to deal with it?
Don’t know. Don’t care. I have two words if they can’t take it F * O*. I am actually tired of convincing others that its ok for me to be the way I am. It’s an ordeal and I would not like to do it for those who do not matter to me. If people are interested they will learn about us.
Do you think being gaysi makes it harder to come out & that if you were part of such a traditional & conservative culture you would have an easier time with your sexuality/identity?
No. Not in coming out to others but a huge YES in coming out to ourselves. India like most of Asia is a very sexist country. You have the gender binary stuck on wherever you go – restrooms, airports, train stations, waiting rooms, workplace (the attire matters),…
Also, being Indian means pleasing your parents at all emotional and social costs, sucking up to relatives, neighbors, teachers, professors, bosses in keeping up with the stereotype. We have always been taught to not think independently but to follow norms – as in uniforms, traditions, beliefs/faith (you are born into it and it is taboo to even think of anything else). This is a bad and sad vestige of our past – colonial or from raja-rani times. We have been taught to respect our elders however stupid they may be or follow traditions however bigoted and violating of a person they may be.
But in spite of these, we have myths, stories that totally cross the gender/sexual stereotypes. Yet, the common man, including our parents can’t understand a shit. It saddens me.
If our loved ones cannot even understand their own, how the heck are they going to understand an arcane subject like self-realisation and salvation? Beats me! But I stay with my attitude “whatever”.
Would you recommend that people stay in the closet or come out?
COME OUT. Why should we stay in closet? If people cannot accept they can hide themselves in closets or even better go sit inside a bureau. The problem lies, in not us being different but them being in their cocoon unwilling to listen and think.
Have you come out to any family member?
Sister. And she took it well. We are still working and it hurts me she hasn’t asked me my preferred name or how she would want to address me. All this when she lives in a place not far away from me. Which means, these things are not uncommon. But still she has vowed to understand and has accepted me and is working on it. That means a lot. And I am willing to give her the time. The caveat? – One year more.
One Bollywood actor/actress you would love to see coming out as gaysi?
Rahul Bose & Tabu. (Is Rahul Bose considered bollywoodish ?). They are such wonderful, creative actors, I have no doubt they would be articulate when they speak to the media about what it is to be not straight or Cisgendered. Plus, they are rich, cute and suave, which is always a bonus.
If you could magically go back to being non-queer, would you do it? Why or Why not?
Nah. I think I have become a much better person, as an individual, more humane and understanding sans prejudice (except bible mongers and morons). I fear I would be like one of them, had I not had the opportunity to be different or had loved ones who were not like me. Which is ironical, because I am thanking the prejudice and idiocy in the society for my maturing as a human yet cursing it for my woes.
That said, My heartfelt thanks to all my straight, cis friends who have accepted me wholeheartedly. That means a lot when you are not actually wearing the others’ shoes.
Your favourite queer-themed movie?
Boys don’t cry & Brokeback Mountain
Your favourite queer-themed book?
Hmm. Haven’t read much Q stuff. Read Hostel Room 131 recently and completed it off in 72 hrs straight. It was a good novel – dramatic, queer, masala, and a happy ending. After all, being a desi, wouldn’t I want to see the fire crackers and a happy smile in the end too.
Oh yeah and a kiss too!