Dear 13-year-old Malika,
Today I write to you because I want to thank you. I want to thank you for fighting battles that still make me weak in the knees when I think about them. I want to thank you for epitomising strength every time you felt like you were wearing out. There are things I wish I could’ve told you sooner, weapons I could’ve introduced you to that would’ve made these battles so much easier to fight. But that’s okay, because without you failing and trying and failing all over again, 17 year old Malika would not have been half the person she is today. So thank you, for making the mistakes that you thought were blunders and embracing your moments of weakness because without all of that, there would not have existed this fire in me today to keep fighting the good fight. For myself and others like myself. So thank you, for being you.
The journey we’re leading will always be riddled with hurdles and more often than not, we’re going to find ourselves at odds with our own thoughts. So today, I write to you solely with the intention of letting you know that it’s okay, everything you’re feeling is okay. I write to you not because I’m upset that you didn’t know better when life continued to torment you with bitter situations but because I’m grateful that you were naive, clueless but ready to face every obstacle that came your way, head-on. I vividly remember how your first (and oh so random) kiss with that girl you found unusually pretty and attractive, drove an urge to explore a rather untouched aspect of your personality – your sexuality. I remember just how intrigued you were by the newness of this concept because as we all know, nobody educates us about it. Looking back and seeing you try to decipher the difference between your relationship with your regular girl-friends and the rather romantic one with your prospective girlfriend, you seemed baffled. I think you recognised how something about all of this did not fit right in. You recognised the presence of a gray area and this revelation didn’t come easy to you, I know. I remember you would often find yourself losing sleep at night because you deemed your non-normative preferences, abnormal. But I so wish you hadn’t. I so, so wish that you knew your sexuality is an aspect of who you are just as much as anything else is, just as normal as anything else is. However, you didn’t. So today I’m here to tell you that it’s okay.
It just got tougher from that point on, didn’t it? Your journey of self exploration, comprising of frequent moments of apprehension, phases of denial and delayed self acceptance, led you to come out to yourself as bisexual before anybody else. And coming to terms with your own truth and being okay with it really gave you the opportunity to be your real, fierce self. Because you, Malika, are the most resilient person I know, I just wish you’d seen it too at 13. As time went by, the conflict within yourself came to a peaceful halt and the drive to battle external stereotypes rose. Now, the challenge lay within the environment.
I remember how desperately you wanted to put yourself out there with your newly gathered courage and the urge to start an effective dialogue about deconstructing closets and prejudices. I remember you even tried, but I also remember how you were called an attention seeker for doing so and how that shattered you to the core. You took a step back because your externalities crushed you at your first attempt at shattering boundaries. This was your very first encounter with stereotypes that people of your community have been facing for generations. It was troubling, to say the least. You knew it was wrong, it felt wrong. So you didn’t back down. You got up, again and again and yet again and you bounced back, every time. For the first time in your life you had to fight for a place in this world and you weren’t going to give up. You refused to be put in a box, to be defined by other people’s ideals, to be denied the choice of living life on your terms. So then came the moment of truth – one that marked the bravest milestone of your journey thus far. You had to come out, publicly, for yourself but also for those who could not have been as courageous as you.
Today, as 17 year old Malika – a passionate advocate for the queer community and a freelance writer at one of the world’s coolest Desi queer communities – Gaysi Family, I want to tell you that you are so much bigger than the battles you fight. You, Malika, have not just come out of the closet but you have outgrown and deconstructed it for yourself. I wish you’d lived in a world where there were no closets, because who decides who’s closeted and who’s not? I wish you’d never been subject to the cruelties of these suffocating boundaries that prevailed around you. But in all honesty, I’m thankful that you did. I’m thankful that you experienced all that you did because time taught you best. Now, being ‘different’ is no longer uncomfortable, it’s empowering. With this whole journey of learning and unlearning, both you and I have understood that letting your guard down is indeed being strong, and that no matter how dark and dingy this tunnel is, the light at the end of it is like no other.
With love, respect and admiration,
17 year old Malika