I spend most of my free time scrolling silently through my Twitter timeline. Facebook and Instagram are crowded with massy posts, annoying videos, and thousands of commercial ads. The monotony on these platforms annoys me. Although Twitter is not entirely immune to the said things, it creates a sense of direct connection with the influencers. With the #MeToo movement finally getting its deserved momentum, as a homosexual man, I am trying to find myself in between of these hashtags.
The immediate notion of many people is that there will be only women at the receiving end. Not true. It has been a year now that I am working on the issue of child sexual abuse and many of my queer male-bodied friends came out to me with their instances of being subjected to sexual harassment. Interestingly, many of them don’t treat their abuse with the importance it deserves. The reasons are deeply enrooted. Queer children grow up within a non-inclusive patriarchal structure where men are supposed to confirm certain stereotypes. We feel lost, rejected, and vulnerable. Somebody touching us, even if that is inappropriate, makes us feel accepted and wanted. Eventually, with the urge of exploring our sexuality, we end up being exploited. Sex is so normalised within the community that these voices fail to find a space for themselves. While I witness multiple such voices, I don’t understand what fails them to be tagged along with the #MeToo? Here am not talking about all men, but very specifically the marginalised fraction of the majority, gay men.
I don’t know about others, but I realised how the normalisation of sex and the privilege of having a male body misguided me to overlook the sexual harassment I went through. Last year, I went to Karnataka to attend a workshop. There was a visible amount of LGBTQ participation in the event, and hence I assumed the space to be very safe for me. The decision of attending the event was so sudden that I couldn’t find a place to live and decided to find something once I reach there. Fortunately, a man from the organising team lent his hand to help me and offered a room to live. But with the warning that I don’t tell this to anyone since they are supposed to provide accommodation to domestic attendees only. I felt safe since he was from the same community and there were other participants around. At night we went out, had dinner and then went to a party. The man started behaving very weirdly and started being very touchy. I refused to entertain him and ignored. Things got little overwhelming when he tried to come over me forcefully at night. I laughed and warned him. The next morning he had the audacity to behave so normally like nothing happened last night.
So here this could have been, or is my #MeToo moment but then I didn’t feel threatened at all. I didn’t counter him. A friend argued that because he just tried to push your boundaries and didn’t come hard on me, or try to harm me, I didn’t feel violated. If this argument is to be believed, then the issue of sending unsolicited pictures of male genitals don’t stand ground. Gay men receive a lot of such pictures Grindr, but they choose to ignore it. But I fail to acknowledge this hierarchy of sexual assault. I’m sure my sister would have felt unsafe and traumatised in the same situation.
I thought about it a lot and came up with two possible explanations. One, I was at a party and hence had a subconscious sense of security, and second, we are used to this. Most of the queer men are used to be objectified, dehumanised, unheard and often reduced to a sexual being only. I was traumatised when an older man tried to block the road and touch me while I was going to school. I was 12 at that time, and I am 24 now. Double the age, double the experiences of witnessing prejudices. I have refused to succumb within this objectification and developed immunity towards such situations. I will not allow someone to push the extreme boundaries of mine, but will subconsciously pass a lot of normalised gestures. Like people touching you without your consent at a gay party or men touching you in a train. We have normalised all these. Especially if these people come with the token of being my people, from the queer community then I feel talking about them will scar all of us. Perhaps that is why I am very mindful of protecting the identity of my offender. I don’t want to name and shame him.
I am not a victim, not a survivor, not even a slut. Then where does my story falls within the #metoo narratives? Is the campaigning failing to accommodate our voices or we are normalising many of our stories? If that wasn’t the case, I am sure Twitter would have flowed with rainbow voices converged with pain, shame and decades of ignorance.