I grew up in a small town in West Bengal, a village boy who jumped around trees like a ‘little monkey’, as I was called. But a more cruel nick-name stuck to me as I grew older.
Needless to say, this one mentally destroyed me. Why was I so effeminate? Look at how I move my hands, and how I talk! I would do anything to erase this horrid shame of being one of the ‘ladies’, even if that meant rewriting my personality.
This was the start of my practice of acting straight.
By 2008, I had finished college and moved to Bangalore, populated then by an urban crowd that was confidently queer.
The open-mindedness certainly helped me explore my sexuality. But then the shame I had internalised in my childhood was so powerful, it was now subconscious. Fitting in was second nature to me. And I drifted into a world of the compulsive party-goers, muscling up merely for the gratification of fitting in with a cool crowd that clearly intimidated me.
My social media buzzed with an active life, but inside I felt lonely and isolated. I craved for something meaningful, but instead of reaching out to the right people, I was becoming more and more defensive.
If someone asked me whether I had a girlfriend or when I was getting married, I dared not correct the assumption that I was queer. I stayed aloof, acting straight in auto-pilot, refusing to accept the humans I loved and even going as far as hiding it. There was no way I was going to normalize my sexuality in a world where homosexuality itself was alien. No way I was going to be called ‘ladies’ again. (Years later, when I eventually came out to my colleagues and managers, I would realise that even coming out to them would have made no difference to my life. What I had internalised was too strong to erase by one symbolic act).
By chance I discovered trekking. It was as if I had left the city and all its toxicity and returned to my village once again. I was a ‘monkey’ again, though no longer that little. The sense of belongingness I shared with my trekking buddies was one of the most meaningful things I experienced. I held conversations in my heavily-Bengali accented English, talking about everything under the stars. Somehow, in the absolute vastness of nature, everything was easy. And here I learnt to own my second nickname too. I became a boy who could walk and talk like a girl and dance like no one cared. This was the start of Out and About, the primarily Bangalore based queer inclusive travel community. Nature was my cure, and I wanted to share this new-found capacity to connect there with everyone. I felt unleashed. And our circle of trust slowly grew. Sexuality didn’t matter. Queers and allies joined, yes. But so did singles who wanted to stay single, divorcees, people who didn’t want to have kids, non-monogamous couples, anyone who felt disconnected and craved an alternative lifestyle from the one prescribed were flocking to us. Our focus is on finding human connections, which can happen through any activities, so it can be a trek, or a potluck, a pottery class, slacklining or a dance workshop, it can be an open mic evening!
Today, I don’t feel the need to fit in, I am ok with my singlehood, my femininity. I found my tribe. It’s called Out & About and ŪRU – Your Queer Village, Queer Camping Festival.
I am not sorted but I am quite unique in my own ways. We all are unique and we all are nothing but a bunch of stories.
We can just try to set the right tone of our stories, a story where we are not the victims, we are the heros. Cheers to all the heros.