By Rituj Sahu:
“Why don’t you walk properly?”
It all started with my father telling me how I did not walk ‘properly’. As a 10-year-old, I did not know what he really meant by that. However, my peers from school were never hesitant in reinforcing what my father loved to say – that I did not walk properly. Except for this time, they defined my improper ways – I walked like a girl. While the idea seemed absurd to me (still is), the consequences of my then (un)discovered queerness were rather tangible. I was mocked, humiliated and cornered.
Pride was an alien concept to me during my teenage years. I was always extra-conscious of not portraying a certain image, an unacceptable image. From the way I talked to the way I walked to the way my hands would move while talking – everything changed.
I immersed myself into academics and never really understood when I saw my elders talking about how ‘golden’ their school days were. I tried really hard to fit in and waited for school to get over. My queerness was a solo journey – marked by confusing and (un)natural attraction which also included exploring the queer groups on Orkut through fake social media profiles and a frustratingly unexplained desire.
It was after the advent of college that I felt I could breathe while being ‘improper’. It was like learning how to swim – you know how to, but you get there only in a period of time. I am often asked, “When did you realise that you’re queer?” and I always wonder if there ever was a moment of epiphany which defines whom and how to love.
Over the years, I have realised that as opposed to a sudden moment of realisation, my queerness has always been my companion. While it may not define who I am, it still is an integral part of my being. I have embraced it, just like I have embraced the fact that I like mutton korma and sheermal.
To my own surprise, the concept of ‘Pride’ is still ambiguous to me. I keep questioning myself – “Is it okay to take pride in something that you did not work hard for, but rather occurred naturally to you?”
For the reason same why I’m not able to say, “I am proud of being an Indian”, I am unable to say, “I am proud of being queer” – both just happened to me by chance.
Having said that, I do take whatever little pride I do in being myself – unapologetically and uninhibitedly. There’s a long way to go in this adventurous journey full of rainbow escapades and dubious sea waves. I hope to meet many allies on the way – not because I yearn for their approval, but simply because I want every one of us to be able to love without fear and to exist in the space of what constitutes the ‘improper’. That, to me, is real pride.
What are your experiences of being queer, and tackling heteronormativity?
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