Siddhanth Kodlekere as told to Tinder:
I am a cisgender gay man.
Let me start from the top. I remember these moments so vividly. My mother dressed me up as a girl for a tiny photoshoot inside the house. She always wanted a daughter so she dressed me up as a girl when I was 3. I still have those photos and the entire thing has stayed with me. This moment was definitely a trigger; I began dressing up a lot after. I would convert my mother’s dupattas to dresses, try on her lipsticks and eye-shadows, essentially cover myself in what are popularly accepted as ‘female’ markers. Don’t forget I’m still a child and am unable to grasp the extent of my experience.
As a product of a joint family, I faced a lot of judgement from family members. Everyone was against the idea of me dressing up as a girl. There’s a distinct memory that is funny to me now. My uncle was so concerned for me dressing up as a woman, he would feed me green chilies every time I dressed up as a means of negative reinforcement. This had no effect on me.
School until the tenth grade is a blur. All I recall of it was bullying, taunts in the neighborhood of “oh my god, you’re so gay”, “why are you so feminine”, “what are you going to do tomorrow, are you going to suck d***”. These events made me mentally stronger, and I learnt to ignore them, but it did have an impact. It was the last two years of school and I went and got myself a girlfriend, even though I know I wasn’t interested, just to prove I wasn’t gay. I didn’t kiss her even once, or even try and hold her hand.
I met this great guy in college, it was an instant match, we kissed and realised we liked each other. This is when I realised I might be really really gay but I never came out to anyone.
My coming out story is very special to me. While doing my Masters at Christ college in Bangalore, we had a theatre workshop. The task was simple; we had to act out an entire scene from our life without using any dialogue. This is how I came out to my entire class, and this was a turning point in my life.
A match on Tinder introduced me to drag! After we matched, I asked about his hobbies and he told me about RuPaul. This is what started my drag journey, and now I am a fairly popular drag queen. I go as Lady Bai – basically an NRI domestic helper, sophisticated and dances to Beyonce but has a Marathi accent.
I like wacky, things that are out of the box, and which challenges standardised norms of beauty. This is very important, because India hasn’t yet realised what drag is and thinks that we ought to look like realistic women, and only that is authentic drag. This is not true. Drag is basically an exaggeration of womanly features. And I plan on embracing this fully.
Gender to me is something a person has to decide personally, and cannot be decided by someone else. I feel that gender should not be put into a box only to ask a person to put their hand in and pick one. They should be able to pick whatever they want and how much ever they want to, with absolutely no restrictions!
Life is good, and I hope no one else has to go through this without having to sacrifice what they really want to do.