He Sells She Sells Seashells: Love In The Time Of Phobia

Although indeed a form of transphobia, this story is intended to be first a way of cognizing a problem. It is a contemplative piece designed to stimulate empathy towards the phobia as a psychological human issue, rather than blind hatred towards the person perpetrating the behaviour.

I for one try not to hate people for finding drag uncomfortable, because hate is a useless and damaging emotion. I see this story instead as an attempt to build conversation around the phobia.

So this is a fantastical story based on a real situation that is quite sad for me personally. In my reality, my boyfriend breaks up with me because he thinks I have become a different person in drag. So in my dreams, in an alternate reality, he tries to understand and like me for who I am.

Based heavily on our last trip in March this year.

Setting: Beautiful coastal village in Kasergode, Kerala – early morning. The two of us are on the first day of our annual vacation together. We get 7 days a year together because he lives far away.

We are staying in a hotel by the ocean, and decided to wake up early morning to catch the sunrise even though it will be behind the beach not the ocean. Jumping out of bed at 5am with the alarm, he nudges me.

Me: Ugh I’m so sleepy and it’s so nice do we really have to go ?

Him: yesss come on come on wake up, how often will we get to see such an amazing sunrise together.

Me: but this bed is so nice and warm

Him (disappointed): fine, then I’ll just go on my own..this is special to me you know

Me: Ok hang on im coming..dont be like that..

Ten minutes later we’re outside on bicycles, now wide awake because of the incredible early morning environment. The grass is actually whispering in the twilight silence, and birds are humming everywhere. There’s a slight drizzle as we meander through the path, and we soon realise it’s morning sprinklers. The air is cold for a March morning.

Me (squealing): Omg omg this is crazy I’m getting wet aaa

Him (muttering): god you’ve become such a drama queen where’s your sense of adventure?

Me (surprised and a little hurt): no I’m not complaining , I love it, this is magical

Him: Oh okay, haha. Yaay (performing a wheelie)

At the beach, we drop the bikes and set off on our walk. The new sun is just peeking through the trees and we scramble to take photos of the giant orange orb. Thrashing waves provide background music.

Him: your camera is full of your drag photos, there’s no space for any photos

Me: alright let me try to delete a few

Him: okay. Want to stand there against the trees, you’re looking cute in your slippers

Me: Yess (running to get clicked)


Me (conscious): Ugh I look so funny in these lumpy shorts

Him (holding my hand): I like you just the way you are

Me (thinking about the little diva Kushboo hiding in my brain): aww , I love you too

We set off for a slow walk along the length of the beach. It’s really beautiful, and crabs are scuttling all over the place. We’re just chit-chatting and dragging our feet through the sands.

Him: so you’re really getting into the drag thing huh . I can see it’s becoming an important part of your life

Me: Yeah..it really is. I feel liberated and like a different person.

Him: I get that , you are often like a different person. You’ve changed a lot.

Me ( getting defensive): yes, I mean, but I think it’s for the better

Him – (stays quiet)

Me (probing): what you don’t agree?

Him: Yes but you’re..different. I don’t know if I like Kushboo’s personality. She’s loud and expressive but what I like most about you is that you are soft and sweet.
Me (upset) *stomps off*. That’s just a horrible thing to say. That’s who I am , deal with it!

*disappears behind some dunes*

I’m sitting alone somewhere out of sight, with a scowl on my face. He walks up to me, looking sad. He just sits down next to me and stays silent. Fisherboats are returning with the catch, and we watch them silently for a while. Finally,

Him: I’m sorry I hurt you. I was just being honest.

Me (softening): I can understand how you feel. It must be confusing.

Him: I am not sure I understand all of this , and I’m not sure I can be the partner you need. You need someone who understands all of this.

Me: Don’t tell me whom I need. I’m happy as long as you are *willing* to understand and learn. Are you?

Him: I’m happy enough that drag is good for your own happiness. But I may feel confused about this. What if I hurt you or fail to support you?

Me: I’m strong enough to look after myself. And I have done all of this without emotional support.

Him: Hmm….

More silence. Then, one mother crab and two little baby crabs scuttle out of the sand and try to catch the waves. The mother crab stays in front, waiting for the right wave to swim into. They don’t want to be washed back up the beach. The wave has to be the right size for them to swim into the ocean.

Her two little babies hesitate behind her, waiting for her lead. We watch them, waiting to see what happens. Suddenly, she dashes ahead and jumps into the surf. The babies follow instantly, blindly trusting their mother. The family made it… and we both smile imagining them swimming happily about in the water.

Turning to me, he holds my hand again, as the first fisher folk reach the beach ahead of us.

Him: I want you at the end of the day. So I will try to understand anything, if it means that much to me. Will you guide me through this strange and honestly scary territory?

Me (eyes welling slightly); Of course.

In my head, Kushboo smiles to herself happily.

Artwork by Priyanka Agarwal

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Kushboo is a drag artist and lawyer based in Delhi. She engages in rights-based work and also art to stimulate conversations. Irreverent of gender as a construct, Kushboo uses drag to illustrate the power of illusion and express her imagination. Instagram: @kushboothekween Facebook: /Kushboothekween

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