Personal Stories

Dilli Dur Ast, The Heartache Of Loss Is A Lot Closer To Home

More often than not, as individuals, we often impose the expectations of being a queer rights activist upon ourselves because no one else seems to care.

Being queer in India for me means living in suspended realities and falsified identities in different social circles where I need to survive. Surviving is key, thriving is secondary.

Who am I? I don’t know, really. Growing up queer in small town India and constantly moving cities means that you live a different reality with every social circle you interact with. You live behind facades, each one carefully propped up to hide your identity just enough for you to earn social acceptance, but also just enough so that you don’t suffocate to death.

Even as I write this article, more vocal of my queerness than ever before, I make a mental list of self-censure: people, platforms, spaces, social circles, institutions and communities, and the microcosms within each of them, where I would have to perform the due diligence of hiding this piece from. Self-censure is part of life.

Let’s talk about ‘earning’ social acceptance. When I moved to a bigger city, and started pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree from a reputed private university, I was suddenly exposed to a thriving, socially-liberal student body. I met people who were proud and open about their queer identity. I also met a lot of liberal cis-het people who did not care about my queerness, and accepted me for who I was. Mostly.

What I did not realise until very recently, that as queerfolks, we tend to sanitise our outrage, and by extension, our identities in liberal cis-het circles to find acceptance and perhaps some space to exist with a heterosexually-palatable level of queerness. Too much outrage is off-putting. Social activism is distasteful. Constantly being the sole voice talking about queer issues reduces your identity to solely your orientation. So, you sanitise your identity and self-censure to exist in a liberal utopia where performative allyship benefits your straight friends in liberal circles, but makes no difference in your life as a queer individual.

In the last few years of existing in liberal circles, I had formed very close friendships with cis-het people. I was living the utopian dream, being myself (just palatable enough, ofcourse) with friends who did not care about who I was.

The lid blew up this facade only recently, with the (Honourable) Supreme Court’s disappointing marriage equality judgement. Even though the verdict offered no solace to the queer community, and despite the archaic and homophobic arguments we were privy to during the hearings, most of my disappointment and anger was directed closer to home, not at the court and opposing parties in Delhi.

The stunning silence from my closest cis-het friends, who pride themselves on being allies, had me dumbfounded. It took me weeks to realise that the liberal lack of care is, in fact, indifference towards the plight of queer citizens.

Even more profound than this indifference, was the expectation upon queer individuals to function normally in cis-het dominated spaces, when they were once again relegated to be second-class citizens in the country.

But hey, I am sorry, my rage is not palatable. I must sit quietly so that my liberal, straight friends can pretend everything is happy in their utopia. I thank them for the conditionality of their support, and the indifference of their allyship.

However, after saying all of this, I am not writing this down to change the opinions of straight people. I am writing this to tell the queer folx here to look after themselves.

More often than not, as individuals, we often impose the expectations of being a queer rights activist upon ourselves because no one else seems to care. Each day of existing as an openly queer individual means that often, you are the sole voice in a cis-het dominated space, fighting for your right to exist as you are. Every day is about finding courage to call out shortcomings, with the risk of facing discriminatory behaviour as backlash.

It was during the aftermath of the verdict, that I sat down with my therapist, and discussed my grief with her.

In therapy, I realised that when our appeals yield no result or change, it leads to a cycle of unjust pressure and grief that is wholly self-imposed. You are wracked with guilt, shocked by the indifference of people in your life, devastated to see the disappointment within the community. We haven’t even touched upon homophobia yet. That is secondary, almost distant, when the lack of solace, forget outrage, from your prideful allies leaves you dumbfounded.

That’s why it is important to sit with your grief in moments like these. Allow yourself to be sad and process it. Always being on the defensive will only lead to burnout.

Find kinship in the community, be stronger together. Often, in the relentless pursuit to be accepted in liberal circles, we isolate ourselves from beautiful queer friendships. Here, our rage is ugly, our outrage loud, our love tender and fierce, our existence revolutionary, and our dignity an unconditional birthright.

3 thoughts on “Dilli Dur Ast, The Heartache Of Loss Is A Lot Closer To Home

  1. Resonating so hard. Thanks for putting words to how I’ve been feeling since the marriage equality hearing, as well as the verdict. The shocking lack of care from the cis het allies and also feeling like you’re the only one with your fist in the air yelling into the void.

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With a background in journalism and public relations, Atharv likes to write about art, pop-culture, and stories that often get lost in the zietgesit. He is deeply passionate about communications, and has worked across diverse fields ranging from Public Policy and Wildlife Conservation to Education Technology. During his free time, you can find Atharv in and out of art galleries or walking around the city searching for stories.
Atharv Unhale

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