Interviewee : Mari & Queen
Mari: We met in Dubai in a club there. Q was there to celebrate a friend’s birthday, and I was there to celebrate my last weekend in Dubai before moving to India. This was April 2009. Even though we had friends in common, we’d never met until then, so it was ironic that I met someone I really liked days before I was saying goodbye to Dubai.
Queen: But, I decided that I wanted to come back to India after also getting laid off right after Mari left. I’d already been planning a vacation to Goa, and so we made plans to meet up there, with Mari’s kids and friends all along, and see what happened. I wasn’t worried about meeting them because we’d been texting each other for 40 hours straight on and off by then, and I felt pretty confident that this was going to be it for me. Goa sealed our relationship.
Mari: Our “Platinum Moment of Love”, hehe!
Meeting at an underground gay bar in Dubai sounds mysterious and exciting! What brought you both there? What do you think of that experience?
Mari & Queen: When we say it’s underground, we only mean that it’s kept on the down low, but it’s a legitimate establishment. Dubai criminalizes, and penalizes homosexuality, and so it’s dangerous to be out and sometimes scary. But people need other people, and that’s why you’ll find this club packed on the weekend. You have to be keyed into it, and know when to go, but if you hit the right night, it’s obvious that there are a lot of gay people there. I know many women that won’t go there, because they’re afraid it’ll be raided, and I think probably it will at some point. Right now though, it’s still the best way to meet other gay people in Dubai.
What excites each of you the most about your partner?
Mari: Ok, Queen would kill me if I was really naughty. I like her eyes, first off, they sparkle and dance, and that’s what I noticed in the club that very first night. And I like her body…she’s really strong, from all those years being on the soccer teams. Meow.
Queen: *Blush Blush* Mari gets me with that naughty look in her eyes, her curls and that smirky li’l smile. She’s simply awesome and we fit so perfectly, it’s amazing how we can never stop flirting with each other even after 2 years.
Mari – you are from the States and Queen – you are from India. You’ve mentioned before that this does not affect your relationship. Tell us a bit about what experiences you’ve learned or gained from your relationship with each other? Any challenges or adjustments?
Mari: When we said in the Tehelka interview, that the cultural part of it doesn’t affect us, we didn’t mean that we haven’t had our share of differences. I come from a Catholic family, so I get Queen’s culture completely. Queen on the other hand, lived many years in a Muslim country, so she understands all my Muslim culture.
The biggest challenge is just figuring out how to be together. We started in a long distance relationship with her in Dubai and me here in India; now she’s here and I’m here, but there’s always my visa to consider. It’d be the same if Queen came to the US, just in reverse.
Queen: To be honest, the cultural part wasn’t as much of a challenge as other parts. Initially when I thought of moving back to India and living with Mari and her kids, I was worried about all of us getting along, and that was really important. It wasn’t ever just Mari and I, it was Mari, the babies, and I. However, when we did spend time together, they welcomed me not only in their home but into their lives and so did I. Each of them is a delight and I love and miss them dearly. They are the most well behaved children I’ve met, very respectful. I was amazed at how well they understood our relationship.
I learned a lot from this and wish every person in the world would do the same and respect our lifestyle just like we respect theirs… It would be a lot easier if I could simply legally marry Mari so we could live here together and not be hassled with all of the visa issues we constantly face apart from the fact that she’d be my wife.
What about the other person drives you crazy or up the wall? How do you make up?
Mari: Queen can be a little too laid back about getting stuff done sometimes for my taste, and even more than that, she’s too sweet sometimes, and even when people are pushing her too far, she won’t say anything. That really frustrates me sometimes. I thought at first it was cultural, but no, it’s just Queen’s way. And I can forget about talking to her during Emotional Atyachar or any soccer game she’s following. Bleh. Mostly we make up before the day is out. I think that’s because we’re best friends and I like talking to her too much to keep up the silent treatment for long. She knows it well, so she just waits me out.
Queen: Mari is a hothead, really passionate, and can work herself up into a fit at the drop of a hat. She cools off really fast too, but sometimes by then I’m already mad, and I take time to get back to normal. It used to worry me a bit, but I’ve lived with her now long enough to know she won’t get like that unless she feels threatened or used, and almost always her anger is directed at someone else. Also, she drives me mad with throwing books and clothes on the floor. I hate that, I’m always after her to pick them up. She usually does. If she’s really mad, I just wait for her to cool off, I know I won’t have to wait too long, and she’ll come around. She brought me flowers last week to make up. How can you argue with that?
Are you both out to your families about your relationship? How did you tell them and what was their reaction?
Mari: I was out to my mom and some cousins before I met Queen. And my kids. Queen was the first stable real relationship they’ve seen me in though, and so it was really important that they like her. My kids love Queen, just love her. She’s good to them; she plays with them, and helps them with their homework, cuddles them and laughs with them. I couldn’t imagine a more loving partner, more accepting of my family. My mom has never met her in person, but she’s seen her on video chat, and she likes Queen a lot. It was difficult for her at first to accept, my being gay, but she came around with time. The rest of my family, other than my cousins, is pretty shocked, to different levels. Some of them accept it, some of them never will. They don’t understand how I could be gay after being married and having children.
Queen: Honestly I don’t have much of a family, I lost my parents and my brother, luckily I have an elder brother who is married and has kids and they are my family. I’m planning on coming out to him but am sure he won’t be surprised as he is very understanding and he’ll love me no matter what. My folks didn’t know I was gay…or did they? I’m not sure it’s hard to tell, considering mothers always know: 95% of my friends are girls; I play football with the boys and girls… (I might’ve confused her there) and I ride a bike. She did mention it to my aunt once about her doubts. Before she passed away, she gave me a hint that all she wanted was for me to be happy and if I didn’t want to get married, it was fine as long as I was happy.
What is it like being co-parents and being a gay couple raising children in India? Any fun/not-so-fun stories to share?
Mari: It was great. I say “was” great, because my children were taken hostage by my ex husband 8 months ago and are currently being held against court order in UAE. I’m the legal guardian, but that doesn’t matter much when he knows I’m gay and will out me in court. We’re doing everything we can to get them back but it’s been and continues to be a horrible struggle. I don’t think I would have made it through these months if I hadn’t had Queen with me. She made me eat, she held me tight when I finally passed out from crying, and she was there when the nightmares woke me back up. She saw me through the dark. It took me a long time before I could be even a little bit normal. I love my girls more than anything.
We were a perfect family though, before that. Both Queen and I had courses we were taking, and we were gone at different times of the day, so we each had “alone” time with the kids. Then when we were all back in the evening, we’d start it off with a “group hug” and then all fix dinner together. We made a point of having at least one meal together, and talking about our day. Queen would download movies, kids’ movies, for the girls and we’d watch them all together. My oldest girl loved to bake, so she’d make us all cookies. We had parties frequently where all our friends would come over, and have family time with us. Each of my three daughters had their own special relationship with me and with Queen too.
They loved their school, and made lots of friends right away. Their friends still call me, even now after they’ve been gone for so long. Of course we had the usual stuff of having little kids in the house: late night bad dreams that resulted in a 5 year old sprawled across the bed, or that same 5 year old throwing a tantrum that meant the walls got colored on….but it was home and it was family.
Queen: It’s been a great experience and I feel blessed to be a part of their family. The kids are adorable and intelligent and so loving, I could go on and on and on. We truly miss them and I have no doubt in my mind that we’ll soon be re-united and it can’t go on like this. The girls love each other and care for each other. My fun experiences with them were mostly every day kinds of things. They’d never fail to surprise me: from a birthday song that they learnt to play on the piano just for me, to the daily welcome greeting I’d receive from them that involved them “picking me up” from the elevator in our apartment building and carrying my bag all the way upstairs. When we reached upstairs, they’d stand on my legs and I’d walk them to the room where I’d give them their “individual” hugs. I miss their warm smiles and giggles and the laughter and noise in the house now. It’s not as much fun without them; each one was special in their own way. The not so fun experience for me was waking up in the morning walking them to school with Mari, initially I was all excited about it but then I gave up, am definitely not a morning person and I couldn’t keep up with it as much as I would have loved to.
Do you believe in marriage? Would any of you like to be legally married one day?
Mari: Yeah I do believe in marriage, and it’s something that made me even more attracted to her, that she felt similarly. We’re having a commitment ceremony later this year, and busy planning it right now! The legality issue bothers me because it cuts off our rights, but I don’t need their validation of my relationship to make it real. They used to not let Blacks and Whites marry either, but it still happened, and people like me were born. Our commitment ceremony will always be our “real” wedding date, regardless of what our “legal” status is.
Queen: I’m not big on the getting legally married part of it but I’m definitely up for a commitment ceremony. I don’t believe in the legalities of marriage as in my opinion it’s just an institution which is rarely respected these day. That being said, I do hope that gay marriage is legalized in India someday and everyone has equal rights to love as they please and marry who they please. Love should be free.
Do you live together?
Mari & Queen:Yessss, yay! Love it. It’s been a year now.
What are your thoughts on the growth of Queer spaces in different cities in India? How do you actively interact with the Queer community around you?
Queen: I’m only familiar really with the scenes in Bombay and Bangalore. Each space has different things to offer, but I feel more comfortable in Bangalore. That being said, the lesbians in Bombay are more enterprising and have done a lot for the community which is growing with wonderful promise because of their work. Bombay’s home, after all. I’d say we’re pretty active.
Mari: I’m one of the co-founders of WHaQ!, (We’re Here and Queer!) a group that was started in August 2009. Though I took some time off during the early days of my daughters being gone, I’m back now as the facilitator/coordinator and as part of WHaQ!, we’ve gotten to contribute in a lot of community events: the Bangalore Queer Film Festival, Bangalore Pride, etc. Also, Queen and I organize Bangalore’s ONLY all girl parties, which are billed under the name Lavender Nights. Watch this space; we’re having another one soon, to celebrate the first anniversary of Lavender Nights.
What two cents on relationships would you share with all the Gaysis out there who want to fall in love and think it may never happen or already are in love and wonder why on earth it happened?
Mari: What I’d like to share is that it can happen, if you really want it to. Know yourself first, what you want out of life, what you love and hate. If you want out of that bad marriage you feel stuck in, then do it and get out. I am so glad I took a chance on what life had to offer, because when I least expected it, there she was: the woman of my dreams. It was all worth it, to find her and be found by her. It’s great fun getting all the women together, and it’s helped some women to come out in a bigger way.
Queen: I’d like to give my 2 bit on this as I’ve been questioned by my straight friends at times and they ask me, “How long do you think your relationship is going to last” or, “How long will this Gay phase of yours last? “. I’d tell them, “Who knows when a relationship will end ever? If we knew all the answers we’d never get in one”. It’s all about taking that chance, doing what you believe in and respecting the person who you’re in love with. If you want want to be gay, gay it forward, if you want to be straight, straighten it out. Love has no boundaries and love can happen when you least expect it to, you just have to keep the faith and keep believing that someday you will find that special someone whose heart will match yours.