By Jared Massar:
I am a Khasi-Assamese gay boy from Meghalaya and I am a Christian. My experience of ethnic and sexual identity is qualitatively different from other heterosexual minorities and from most LGBTQIA+ individuals.
As a young queer individual belonging to an ethnic minority, I have been mistreated on the basis of gender and race. I still remember the time I was at the receiving end of a racial slur at my university in Kolkata, just because I looked different from the students who belong to the ‘mainland’. My fellow students also sneered at my sexuality and even dared to suggest that I should wear a skirt.
My feminine features seem to be an invitation for them to intrude into my private life and to attempt to take a complete authority over it. But these issues are not exclusive to any community. Even the LGBTQIA+ community is not immune to the gross stereotypes that are casually thrown around against feminine boys. My concern is to survive everyday life – living at the crossroads of being gay and belonging to an ethnic minority.
My first pride event was the Pride gathering in Shillong, held on September 30, 2017. As it was raining, we could not march on the streets. However, the first ever Pride get-together in Shillong was super exciting for a suburban teenager like myself – the palpable energy, love and acceptance was breath-taking. Being surrounded by people who were LGBTQIA+ and allies was an actualisation of what’s it like to be in a world where you are valued for who you are.
As a community, we champion diversity but pride made me realise that when it comes to these celebrations, we often perpetuate a specific type of ‘gayness’ – one that meets the needs and the demands of societal norms and fits our preconceived notions of ‘attractiveness’. As a result, those who do not conform to these standards of beauty, get lost in the shuffle, or even worse – they are told that they do not matter.
There were also many questions running through my mind: “Is the LGBTQIA+ movement failing at intersectionality? Are we also marching against racism?”
Scrolling through the gay dating app, Grindr or any other dating site, one can notice the amount of body shaming at display. Conventionally masculine men are seen ‘warding off’ femme boys with ‘No sissies’ written on their profile.
I find this to be highly objectionable. Of course, an individual’s preference is a private sphere that none of us should intrude into; however, oppressive labels like ‘sissy’ are thrown around not merely to differentiate and to mark a boundary of preference, but also to castigate and to rob a person of their individuality.
When a gay man subscribes to stereotypical and utterly discriminatory notions of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’, it only goes on to show how deeply ingrained femmephobia is. ‘Sissy’ isn’t merely attributive of physical features. It is symptomatic of the psychoanalytic urge within a person to sever the dignity of another person just because he differs from the stereotypical expectations of masculinity.
This makes me think that even the LGBTQIA+ community needs to address the issues of sexism and body shaming if we are to demand that everyone should treat us as equals. We cannot only be interested in seeing our affairs being taken care of, while at the same time some people from our community receive a ‘Judasic Kiss’ only because they cross the heteronormative gender line.
As someone who manages to live under the predicament of a different set of experiences – ethnic minority, queer, feminine – it is surprising that I’m still in one piece. Yes, along the way, I have met both good and bad people. There have been some people who have been supportive and others who have straight away threatened me.
However, I’m still overwhelmed at the audacity with which people with multiple experiences of marginalisation continue to pull through their lives – often, pushing our very boundaries of hope and imagination. I somehow realise that death and survival is easy. It is the narrow road along the way that is difficult.
What are your experiences of being queer, and tackling heteronormativity?
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