At a time in India when very few people actually knew the meaning of ‘gay’ and ‘lesbians’, it was Pramada Menon, a queer feminist activist today, who didn’t care what people would say, or how would they react. It was she who took the plunge and came out in the open declaring her sexual orientation. Many years after, she says that she couldn’t understand what is so wrong about being a lesbian and she could not think of any other way of living other that the way she does. It is this attitude that makes these women stand apart from others, a new kind of women who are open about their sexual preferences and give a damn about what people would say.
Another very famous international personality, Ellen DeGeneres of the ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ fame has always been very vocal about her sexual orientation; she has dated three women in the public eye and is currently happily married with long-time partner Portia de Rossi, a Hollywood actress. This league consists of many women like Drew Barrymore, Anne Heche, Alexandra Hedison and so on. They do not shy away from their sexual preferences and do not understand why it has to be otherwise.
Today these women are achievers in their own defined ways but the journey has not been an easy one, whether it was in India or abroad. People have always been sceptical about homosexual women. Anne Heche of ‘Six Days and Seven Nights’ fame, who also dated Ellen DeGeneres, claims that her lesbian status did not go down too well with filmmakers as they would shy away from signing her in movies. But she adds that it did not deter her and today she is not an ounce regretful about anything that she did, and is on the other hand very proud of herself as she had the guts to be what she is, not what people would want to see her. Same is the story with all these other women; they are very proud of their decisions and are satisfied with their life.
Family has always been a major support for most of them. Despite initial hiccups, their families accepted them and supported them. In her book Love, Ellen, DeGeneres’ mother Betty DeGeneres is described as being initially shocked when her daughter came out as a lesbian, but has thereon become one of her strongest supporters, an active member of Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and spokesperson for the Human Rights campaign’s Coming Out Project.
Another common thing about these women is that they are very effective social activists and address many issues ranging from legalizing gay and lesbian relationships to domestic violence, etc. Pramada Menon is a founder member of Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action (CREA) in 2000. CREA is currently based in New Delhi and aims to enhance the “capacities of a new generation of women leaders using a human rights approach. The organization works on issues of sexuality, reproductive health, violence against women, gender equity, economic justice and women’s rights”. Ellen DeGeneres served as campaign ambassador to Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-A-Turkey Project in 2010, asking people to start “a new tradition by adopting a turkey instead of eating one” at Thanksgiving.
They are an inspiration to many others who are living in hiding and are afraid to come out with their own choices and likings. They send out a very clear message: it’s your life, live it your way.