Hi, I am Shiraz. My degree reads that I am an architect, but as my Tinder profile says, I am just another regular human with some crazy ideas, stuffed with rainbow sass, wearing fancy shoes. When I was five years old, my aunt found me walking around the house in my mother’s heels, and when she saw me again 19 years later, I was wearing my own.
Even though I have never really had to ‘come out of the closet’, there were a few things that helped me explain my identity and make myself more relatable to others around me. And here they are:
Neha Karode is my friend and soul mate. At a time when I wasn’t even aware of that word ‘gay’ – thinking instead that I was asexual – she pushed me to think about my identity. She would tease me and link me to every woman she could think of, and finally, just to get her to stop, I finally admitted to her (and myself) that I am gay. As a result, she helped me to not hate the tag I was so afraid to put on. She made enough space in our friendship for me to confess to her “Neha I want to wear heels all my life long.” And I haven’t removed them since.
The book is as much about war as it is about a woman’s grit. Even as an 19th century woman constrained by her gender, her parents and society, she was this war-queen who went ahead and took what she wanted. As jealous as I am of Scarlett O’Hara, who has men constantly swooning over her, she is a character who inspires me to ask for what I want, and be unabashed in my desires.
My profession chose me. It made me look beyond what met the eye. It made me questions norms and constructs which we assumed as hard facts. The way that buildings evolve may seem externally driven, but you have to see how complex the processes on the inside are. Just knowing this made me question and-cross question a lot about where I came from, and become more comfortable with myself.
My work is complicated, unrestrained, and challenging and in many ways has helped me realise my queer identity as well!
The Ang Lee movie reminded me of everything I DON’T want to do. I don’t want to marry a woman and destroy her life. I don’t want to hook up and fall in love. I don’t want to cry over the blood soaked shirt of a lover. And I don’t want to have everything I want but no one to share it with. As much as this millennium asks us to embrace ‘singledom’, I have believed that life is about companionship. It’s about living and thriving while waking up and remembering that you do it constantly for someone else.
I’ve grown up seeing how many Indian men mistreated women (and that’s putting it gently) or any group of people who are deemed ‘physically weaker’. And to change that, my agenda has become to raise my own children to treat others with dignity and respect. And that I want to do with another man – my husband or partner who shares these same principles.
I also want to change how I am represented as a gay man. While I’m still waiting for my organic love story, I realise that when someone meets me, and knows I am gay, I represent the entire community for them. So the picture I put forth will not be of this stereotype of a charged sexual being, but just a regular person.
I can’t end without talking about how this wonderful fairy tale reinforced my ideas. But I have my own retelling of it because it’s not about the prince, the gown, or the shoes. It’s about the desire to go out, and having your wishes granted.