Artwork by Tanya Saggi

Numinous – n. describing an experience that makes you fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted – the powerful, personal experience of being overwhelmed and inspired.

I was around ten when I first realized that there’s more to gender than men and women. It started with a simple question in an after school discussion connecting our sex-ed session-

“Why do some boys dress up and act like girls?.” As a part of their value system, our school always believed that we should ask questions, no matter how silly they may seem or how inappropriate they may be in the outside world.

“Some people are just born into the wrong body you know? They may look like a boy but they don’t feel like one, it just doesn’t feel right. You know how when you wear someone else’s shoes and they don’t fit? Kind of like that.” At this point we were far from understanding the nuances between sex, gender, orientation, pronouns; anything that we understand now, anything we might know in the future. But this made sense, it seemed logical to us. That’s how easy it was.

From then the journey started, being fascinated by every new detail that would fall on my ear. I loved all the stories and experiences I read and I hoped for all the best things for every single person behind them. From pictures of gay couples and organizations working for the trans communities in India; my fondness and love for the community just kept growing. Through all this research and readings I felt so close to the community, without being a part of it or even knowing anyone personally. But that was about to change!

I started college and along with that came new people, new stories, new ideas. Suddenly I had a friend who was thinking about transitioning,  exchange students who didn’t fall into the binary segregation and even a gay couple in their fifties giving us a talk about gender and sex dynamics. But this isn’t when everything changed, it changed when a girl with dimples and superhero t-shirts told me she liked me. Again, that’s how easy it was.

I was confused, not really sure of what I was thinking and what my thoughts meant. I had never even thought about it till now. When everyone had crushes and talked about sex quietly, I always felt a bit confused. Don’t get me wrong, I did have crushes, but never in the sense of attraction. So based on my extensive research and professional expertise in the area, I decided to do what any sane(?) teenager would do: define myself as asexual. I mean it made sense, I really hadn’t felt sexual attraction in my life. Just measly aesthetic crushes on someone’s wavy hair or the way their eyebrows furrow when they think. So naturally I told her no, and broke both of our hearts.

It took me a year to figure out how I loved her, but maybe not in the most conventional way. But it was something, I knew it was something special, but somewhere deep down I wasn’t ready to be with her just yet. I kept thinking, ‘if only she were a guy’ or ‘I wish dating didn’t have to be all about sex’. But I didn’t realize that there were two orientations, sexual as well as romantic. This epiphany led me to really think about the whole situation; how I feel, what I want and who I want it with. I was worried that this extremely miraculous enlightenment was too late now, but like I said, it was extremely miraculous! She said yes and flashed her dimpled smile, and it felt right; the shoe finally fit!

It was still scary to think about the general connotations attached to dating. Being intimate and vulnerable in that way wasn’t terribly unappealing, but just frightening for me. But she made it easy; making me feel safe, never overstepping the boundaries or making advances without asking. I was beyond happy and thankful for all of this to pan out the way it did. But yet another miracle was waiting for us.

Over the days, I started feeling like a new person, suddenly feeling drawn to her and wanting to get closer; feeling attraction. Scared of this label I had created for myself falling apart, I started to read up more. Looking at explanations to make sense of it all, trying to find out why I suddenly feel this way, but only for her. That’s when I found out that demisexuality has nothing to do with Demi Lovato, and once again, I felt like I belonged.

Through all of this, the support of friends and family was vital. For me the most important thing was being treated like any other teenage couple. Parents still had the same protective rules and friends still had the same occasional teasings. They made us feel like we were still ourselves, just with new embellishments.

I’ve changed a lot over the years, change is vital for growth. And with that change came compassion, understanding, and some sort of wisdom. I am not a constant of specific characteristics and behaviours. I am fluid, just like you. It seems difficult to specify what you feel, who you are, what you like. But don’t get caught up in this idea that you have to be in a certain category to belong somewhere. You may find it in a label, in a community, or maybe something that’s new to the whole world. But always remember not to tie yourself too tightly to anything, that the ropes would become too rigid on your soft skin. Remember and cherish your individuality, your uniqueness. And be your true self, as dynamic as you want or as constant; as long as you’re true to your roots.

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