Photographs by Manab Das
At the very start of June month, I was preparing for the rainbow marketing and pinkwashing to kick-off, as is expected every year to cash in on Pride Month. As part of this month-long campaign, all the brands, organizations, people and communities change their logos, adopt rainbow branding, while conducting talks, shows and much more every year to keep the conversation going on the inclusion of people of marginalized genders and sexualities. As with every other year, all the spotlight that is deliberately kept away from me for the remainder of the year, suddenly falls on my face, as I am a queer performer in occupied spaces. Each of these spaces become a battleground for me to re-tell the story of my gender, sexuality and the significance of my existence.
While this was going on, I always had a 100% clarity on my sexuality. Initially at the age of 5 I experienced attractions to only two genders and came out as bi, but as I grew, I started getting attracted to folks from across the gender spectrum and began identifying as Pansexual. I always stick to my Pan identity firmly, but did not realize that even that would be invalidated.
As I started connecting more emotionally and physically with my current partner, who belongs to the ‘opposite sex’, and my interactions increased, I realized that there is no patten to my physical interaction. Now, I was intended to settle that pushed another alienated idea of connecting romantically with a certain gender and aromatically with another. These emotions were indeed confusing as I wasn’t fitting into the conventional delineations of pansexuality, since my sexuality applied even to agender and xenogender persons and sometimes to cis-gendered people as well.
Sometimes these labels of sexuality caused me more stress and trauma. It led me to the idea of defining all my partnerships and prove time and again my position within the LGBTQIA+ community. My sexuality has been validated with my choices and redefining it with a label was something which was upsetting and deteriorating to my well-being and I believed that it’s more than just a mere definition.
This was the time I came across the term: “Pomosexuality”. Pomosexuality describes people whose sexual orientation isn’t represented through conventional terms, such as homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual. Some pomosexual persons may be queer, or questioning, while others may not. As and when I read further, I understood that Pomosexuality, also called Labeln’t, refers to someone who denies or does not fit any labels for a particular kind of attraction. A pomosexual person rejects, has an aversion to, or does not fit any commonly-known sexual orientation such as gay, straight, bisexual, asexual etc.
This can either be because one finds the typical way of describing sexual orientation wearisome. It caused a huge burden on me when I was expected to define things like “I am attracted to x”, “I like to romantically kiss x”, or “I am repulsed by x”, and in Pomosexuality this approach is not applicable to my sense of identity. This is also to indicate that a pomosexual person may or may not feel sexual attraction, but is not interested in specifying whether they feel it, or to whom. They do not want or need a specific label.
I also dig up the history behind this word and learnt that the term was coined in 1997 by Carol Queen and Lawrence Schimel. Pomo is short for postmodern. The term was never meant to replace LGBT+; rather, the LGBT+ community with its own labels and theories serve as the starting point for the concept of Pomosexuality. They draw parallels with the postmodernist art movement, stating that the beauty of Postmodernism (a la pomosexuality) cannot be appreciated without looking at its roots in modernism (much like the LGBT+ community). Their book acknowledges that the “neatly organized” sexual orientation labels found within the LGBT+ community might fit some, but not all people can find themselves in those labels.
My quest to define my sexuality has finally met a satisfying end. This was a moment for me to redeem my true self and own my feelings, attractions and affiliations, while receiving validation. I believe that there was not a correct word in English to define my sexuality all this while, and pomosexuality was something that came along at the right time.
When I started coming out as pomosexual to people, that’s when the struggle started. Some believed that I was misspelling the word ‘homosexual’. Some others believed that this is a fancy word to define my sexuality or attributed it to having a fear to come out as a homosexual, due to which I was probably using this word to hide my sexual relations with men. Some even ridiculed the entire existence and called me an attention-seeker.
When we are still fighting for the acceptance of lgbtiqa+ and marginalized genders in the very first place, my sexual identity is completely invisibilized. Alternative sexuality acceptance still has a long way to go and the fight has not even begun for pomosexuals. This was the time I realized that there is something which can reach faster than my voice of explanation. There is something which can make people intrigued to think about the word Pomosexuality and that was my art.
I really wanted to celebrate my true sexual identity and as a tribute to many such people who identify with me; I wanted to create a work of art to stick into the context of the present narrative. I have always believe that sometimes art has more power and acceptance than words and hence, used my secret weapon. I wanted to use my Drag sensibilities to talk about the journey of self-acceptance of my own sexual orientation. As the pomosexual flag sports the colours of ponk and white, I wanted to create a look inspired by these colors and present an image of pomosexuality. I took the help of Manab Das, a friend and a photographer who helped me recreate what I had imagined.
Using major shades of Pink, white and blue I decked up in a soft saree, and an open sleeve. I expressed my sexuality by showcasing my upper body bare while some parts were covered. I used objects like A soft Panda toy (an object of indescribable gender and sexuality) to show the idea of ambiguity of my attractions. The imagery was majorly focused on recreating a look inspired by the Pomosexual Pride flag and we titled the work, Pink Flamingo, a reference to the older Hollywood movie where sexuality and gender was destroyed by John Water and Divine.
This persona made me sync with the acceptance of my sexuality and helped me sink into self-acceptance. The imagery was clicked as a photo performance to bring in the performative art of Drag. This was my way to send out the message of acceptance and importance of self-declaration of gender and sexuality and accepting people for what they want to be identified as. There may be a fair chance that as we progress there may be many alternative terminologies to describe various sexualities and genders, so much so that every individual might have their own pronoun and sexuality. But even if that’s the case, there is a need to acknowledge our collective responsibility to respect and identify people as they identify themselves. Only with this thought process can we make this world a better place for everyone. It’s important to remember that there is no queer liberation until the very last queer person gets their right to live with dignity and that is the true meaning of Pride that we need to celebrate.