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‘I Feel Coming Out As Homosexual Is Like Being A Refugee’

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My tryst with the word ‘refugee’ dates back to my childhood days when I used to listen to the gory, horrifying and saddening stories of partition from a group of Sardaar-Sardaarni uncle and aunts. That was the time when I first heard the word and understood what it meant. I think I should hold my horses here. I actually got the real understanding of the word when I lived like I was living when I came out loud, clear and absolutely unabashed about my sexuality. I think I know the immensity of this word now, more than I ever did during my childhood.

Refugee,” they said. I’m not quoting the exact definition here. They are the ones who came to India from Pakistan and vice-versa. And what made them refugee was that they were seeking validation from others and were totally dependent for help of any sort from any authority in charge and the rule in the land where they had come to take refuge!

I feel like coming-out as a homosexual is the same thing.

Isn’t it like coming from a different terrain? I mean what’s the point, your folks don’t even know such a thing exists. Yes, that’s the way they put it. “Aisa bhi hota hai?” (This happens as well?)

I wonder at this hour of the night while I’m writing this, what difference will this article make? What in hell will this do?

Can it change the honourable Supreme Courts’ judgement which refuses to identify us and rubbishes us as a ‘minuscule minority’? Dear court or the keeper-of-the-law, isn’t it your duty to protect the rights of a minority, howsoever minuscule it may be? Can it change the social and moral order of contemporary India? Can it anyway bring about a revolution, the way I want it?

Can it help me recognise as one among the equals, who has the right to live, enjoy the fundamental rights, feel free and kiss a man/boy I like out in the public without being judged?

Can it help change the mindset of those people who’re congratulating me on Facebook, saying, “Proud-Of-You, More-Power-To-You?” How does it matter anyway? Was I weak when I didn’t disclose my sexuality? Is it bad enough to be confused than to come to terms with your sexuality?

For almost a year or two, if I’m not wrong, I’m struggling or fighting these questions. Who am I? Where do I fit? Do I fit at all? Which label should I assume?

With this I want you to understand this very interesting compartmentalisation. Either you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, heterosexual, queer, asexual or whatever that may exist. You don’t have the liberty of being who you are without being associated with any of these compartments or assuming any label. With this I mean to say that one has to fit in even in the community itself! They don’t offer you a choice. [Just exploring if someone understands the nuances of being someone, one among the LGBTQIA+ cohort]

It baffles me when I think of this again because I now resonate with the word ‘refugee’ with the intensity with which my neighbours used to narrate me the stories of atrocities.

I’m a refugee here in this country which refuses to grant me the rights which I deserve to exercise just because of a Victorian law which the current government in power feels necessary to be kept in the Constitution, just because a baba, masquerading as a Yoga-guru says homosexuality can be treated and just because there’s an army of saffron brigade which will shove the idea down your throat that homosexuality is an ‘original sin’.

When I think of this, I’ve nothing to do but split my hair. I ponder upon this time and again. I’ve caged myself and I’m sitting with the key in my hand.

I’ve nothing to say but still, I have a lot to say. I want to say to my family that it’s really impossible for me to date a girl. I love them [girls/women] and it’s fine but we’re friends. They know it. And I know it. And that’s where it should be stopped.

I’ve nothing to say but still, I have a lot to say. I want to say to my friends that it’s really nice that you’ve been there with me all this while but I hate when you pass these homophobic jokes. I get uneasy when I see my very own, so-called ‘best friends’ calling someone meetha or gur (one of my eastern U.P. friends’ slang) if they happen to observe that the person whom they’re talking to is slightly effeminate or when they learn that the person is gay.

I’ve nothing to say but still, I have a lot to say. I want to say to my teachers that you’re the real culprit for not guiding us through ‘gender and sexuality’ even though it’s not a part of the curriculum. What more can you expect from an educational board of a country which rules judgement in favour of an archaic and barbaric law?

I’ve nothing to say but still. I have a lot to say. I want to say to everyone that one shouldn’t feel like a refugee in their own bodies.

I don’t know how to sign-off writing this extremely personal essay which will soon attract a thousand eyeballs on the internet.

If I have the liberty, then I should say, ‘Trust me, my friend, there’s something beyond social acceptance and recognition and it’s found somewhere between the process of coming-to-terms with your sexuality and its declaration. It’s the courage of being who you are, a bird who can’t be caged.”

You must be to comment.
  1. Himalaya Singh

    Nicely put.

    1. Saurabh Sharma

      Thank you!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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