A Queer-Affirming Childhood

Every other day on Netflix, I watch a queer-affirming, high school series or movie. Elite, The Prom, Glee, Moxie, Sex Education, the list goes on. I wonder if this is just on the reel, or if it actually has permeated to schools? As I think and process these feelings out loud, I wonder, how many of us queer kids had an affirming childhood?

I remember…

How I spoke very highly of the schooling and education imparted to me, while having to erase the scars of body image issues and gender dysphoria that stemmed from my schooling days. I have been constantly criticised by my classmates, bullied for having poor hand-body coordination, failed all sports miserably and was ostracised systematically for my dislike to play/watch cricket or other organised sports.

I remember my math teacher was the only teacher who stood up for me against my bullies, and questioned the children about their cruelty. Until that point in time, I hadn’t even realised my classmates were cruel bullies. I thought the cis-het male friend I had at the time was my best friend. He adored me most of the time, but shrunk away when it came to confronting these bullies.

Several other teachers who encouraged body-shaming, nerd-shaming, fat-shaming, top, left, right and centre. I remember the most horrible experiences were mostly on the playground. I had wheezing, breathlessness and visible trauma responses to most games in an all-boy centred playground.

Reading with tears in my eyes, that a trans person fought hard to be accepted into NCC. I vividly remember me being the only male student of a 66 student class, who was turned down to join NCC. In retrospect, was it my queerness that ostracised me or was it the ostracisation that polarises queerness. Were these battle lines already drawn much before I even could spell ‘War and Peace’?

How much I wanted to be a school captain, but I knew I would never be one, since I never got through sports class. I loved leadership and public speaking, but I failed miserably at it, since most of my childhood was spent second-guessing if I was being too girly or if I would ever learn to walk straight.

My aunt, who also headed a school at a point in time, looking at my long nails and jovially telling me how drag queens in America have pretty long nails. Was it affirming or mocking? I do not know to this day.

Not being able to come out to my friends as they spoke about their teenage crushes. I spent most of my time trying to figure out why I never liked any girls at all.

Reading a social media post a few months ago, that said we spend most of our lives building our lives, modeling every possible juncture, so we don’t even really know what our authentic lives would be like.

I wonder…

Would I have had a gender-neutral wardrobe if I had an affirmative school wardrobe?

Would I have had kind classmates if we had sex-ed and queer sensitisation in schools, that would have accepted my gay self?

Would I have been comfortable growing long hair and nails, if my teachers didn’t bully me into chopping them off?

Would I have had a killer gait with a characteristic swagger, if my teachers and adult role models didn’t make me spend most of my childhood questioning why I walk a certain way.

Would I have loved my naked body and not worry, with a thousand anxious thoughts every time I undress, If my classmates hadn’t spent most of their free hours in school and tuitions bullying me for my fat body and my sexuality?

I wonder what an affirming queer childhood in India would be like?

I wonder what an adulthood that stems from a queer-affirming childhood feels like?

About the guest author

Raju Behara

Raju Behara is genderqueer, panromantic, neurodivergent greysexual. They have been working with pharma and healthcare industry for over seven years. They are a student of public health and policy at IIPH and are currently serving as the National President of AIQA, Ambedkarite feminist queer union, are a peer support provider, alligned with Safe Access., and also work with other queer feminist collectives. They enjoy writing poetry on queer issues and on mental health., and spending time with their cat Maya.