By Akshita Kumar:
Ever since I was a little child, the universe told me I was different. This particular word reverberated throughout my pre-teens with an alarming regularity. I often asked smiling cousins, brooding uncles, glowering aunties for an explanation, but I was usually laughed away. I felt like I was missing something that was entirely obvious to other people.
For everyone around me, girls were supposed to enjoy dressing up, playing house with dolls, being shy and quiet and organised. I was confused because I was a girl but I did not enjoy any of those things. Instead, I really enjoyed wearing trousers, climbing trees and was obsessed with sports.
But it did not bother me much at the time, and it did not bother the people around me because I was still a child. Everyone around me simply believed that things would ‘set course’ once I hit puberty. Even I was convinced that puberty would help me feel and behave ‘like a woman’. As a result, I started looking forward to puberty as other children looked forward to Eid, Diwali or Christmas.
To the disappointment of everyone around me, and my own queer self, nothing of the sort ever happened. Instead, puberty brought with itself even stricter norms that further baffled a person struggling with gender categories.
I used to enjoy playing gully cricket with other boys my age. But suddenly the boys I played with started making fun of me. They did not include me in their games anymore. Instead, they expected that I would stand on the sidelines and cheer them on. They started suggesting that there were other games that I could play with them, things that did not interest me at all. They expected me to be something ‘more than just friends’ with them.
This period of life, that brings first dates, sweet nothings, and a whole load of mush to life, added another ton of confusion to mine. Boys wanted me to be more than just friends with them. I wanted the same, but not with them. With other women. What was wrong?
It was a turbulent phase of my life, especially because there was no one I could talk to about this. It was only when I started to have more unrestricted access to the Internet that I began to understand who I was. It acquainted me with words for feelings that I had struggled with all these years. I started to become more and more comfortable in my own skin.
Finally, at the age of eighteen, before moving to Delhi for college, I was prepared to come out to my family. I felt like I was going to be finally free. It was around this time that the Supreme Court of India criminalised homosexuality again. This was a big setback. When I had finally broken free of my internal struggle and was ready to tell the world, the world seemed to close its doors on me!
Nevertheless, I told my parents. It was important to me. But it filled my parents with fear – of the prying eyes of neighbours, policing by extended family members, my own mental well-being and added possible harassment from the police and just about anyone due to the prejudices of our society.
In this atmosphere of fear, I moved to Delhi for college where things became better for me personally. Moving to Delhi gave me an opportunity to increase my knowledge and to meet people, who had the same experiences as me and were now fighting passionately for the queer cause. This gave me hope and a reason to believe in a brighter future.
When I was younger, I would often feel helpless when I was unable to be like a girl, act like a girl or feel like a girl. I wanted to change myself into somebody who would be more acceptable to the society. But now, I feel it is not me who needs to change, it is the world around me that needs to change.
And the biggest change happens when people are aware. Awareness melts away the fear of the unknown, of the different, and it makes people become more accepting of others and their individuality. I am optimistic that this change will happen. And I hope it will come soon.
Akshita Kumar (name changed for privacy) is a student at Delhi University. Akhsita wrote about her experience for Love Matters (LM) India to support LM’s work on sexuality, rights and minorities.