By Hritvika Lakhera:
I was 15 when I discovered my sexuality while talking to a friend. She went on to be my first girlfriend. I never felt like there was something particularly wrong about it. I knew a lot of people wouldn’t accept it, so I couldn’t let them know. But I also knew that I wasn’t committing a sin.
Love is love. I came out to my closest friends, just the next day. They came out in full support; we had all been allies already. The first person I came out to in school was a friend from my psychology class. It was accepted as just another fact about me, completely normalised. That kind of acceptance is really important when you’re just coming to terms with your sexuality.
One of my classmates was quite horrified when I came out to her. She never thought about issues seriously. To her, what was the norm was right. But by that time, I was comfortable in my skin, and soon she herself had a change of opinion.
Over time, I moved away from heteronormativity, educated myself and talked to others in the community over the internet. My father is an openly aggressive homophobe, so I have refrained from telling him. My mother knows but says she would educate herself before discussing it. It’s never mentioned in the house.
When my girlfriend’s parents found some letters, they were in outrage. We weren’t sent to the colleges we wanted to go to. Our plans were all thrown, haphazardly. I tried to contact many helplines, but none picked up. Some numbers did not exist. Around the same time Tyler Oakley’s YouTube series “Chosen Family” came out. It became my greatest support.
Coming to Delhi, I soon came out to some girls in my paying guest accommodation. It didn’t change a thing between us, there were no stigmas attached. I found others like me at Miranda House. The Kashish Forward film festival made me feel safer than I ever had. I realised the importance of discussions, of figuring out identities and of discourse in the queer community.
I got involved in the formation of the Miranda House Queer Collective (MHQC), where I found the greatest support system for those like me. There were people with all kinds of personalities, from different backgrounds and I was educated on many issues that I hadn’t so far considered valid. Marginalisation within the queer community is a reality I was introduced to.
When carrying out the demand survey to establish the need for the Queer Collective, I discovered the ignorance that still exists amongst the majority. I remember explaining to a classmate the entire LGBTQ+ spectrum only for her to ask at the end, “So, do I write here that I identify as queer?” She did not, in fact, identify as queer but hadn’t grasped a single thing I explained.
It was then that I realised the need for a basic introduction to this topic. When we were assigned presentations for our internals, I took it upon myself to educate my classmates about who we are and what issues we face as LGBTQ+ individuals. Working with MHQC has somewhere been like leading a double life. When my mother asked me why I was late on certain days, I’d tell her it was a meeting for the Women’s Development Cell at college that kept me busy. I know she wouldn’t be comfortable with the idea that I am visible as a queer individual.
Visibility is something that would make me an easy target, true. But that’s a risk I’m willing to take. Activism and revolutions don’t work without some sacrifice, and if we don’t step forward to demand our rights, no one will. Soon afterwards, the Supreme Court declared freedom of sexual orientation to be a fundamental right under the Right to Privacy judgement. Since then, I haven’t tried hiding my orientation. I wear it with pride. I have normalised it to myself first and then to others. There’s no looking back now.
Through my journey, I have learned the things that empower a community and the power we, the people, have in our own hands. And I vow to use every ounce of it. This is my pledge on this 10th anniversary of the Delhi Queer Pride March.
What are your experiences of being queer, and tackling heteronormativity?
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