Loving well means taking no pleasure in someone else’s difficulties. Further, love rejoices the truth. It is to be delighted when the truth is spoken, when the truth hurts. With this quote, let me share with you a friend’s story of dating and love.
Sana Shree is a young trans woman who lives in urban Bangalore. She comes from a middle-class Christian family, and has two siblings – an elder brother and sister. As the youngest child in her home, she was also her mom’s favourite. Until the age of 10, that is. That was when her mom started to police her, and generally became ruder and stricter. No more love, only rules; rules and regulations came to Sana continuously: do this, do that, don’t go out, don’t speak to anyone. Soon, she realised that her mother’s ‘love’ had turned into the behaviour of a strict teacher. And how can you make love an expression of strictness?
When Sana was a little older, there was an incident that left a mark on her. She was out of the house with her sister when she spotted a man, her neighbour, coming closer and closer towards her. “But instead, he had came to speak to my sister. I was deeply disappointed, because he was my first crush,”says Sana. That day, Sana was dressed in ‘male’ attire. What no one knew was that she was filled with feminine feelings—because that’s who she was, feminine; a woman. It was the first time she had felt love for another person. But the man had come to ask her sister out on a date. Sana felt jealous in that moment. But what option did she have to express her love towards him? A young girl still navigating her feelings, she tried many times to break up her sister and her boyfriend, and to divert his love towards herself. But, of course, it didn’t work.
As a young person she was always very calm. But she almost became anxiety-prone when she went to college. While she was there, she could not even express her feelings for her best friend. The said friend had considered her to be a boy just like him. And when she finally expressed her love towards him, he reacted by insulting her and embarrassing her in public, saying that a boy and a boy couldn’t be together, and that there was no love between them. He went a step further, saying that same-sex love is stupid; that a boy can love only a girl, and a girl can love only boy; that love between the same sex is unnatural, against God, and a threat to society and family.
At this stage, when neither her family nor friends accepted her, she decided to leave everyone behind. But one fine day, while she was still dealing with all these rejections, she was gifted a mobile handset which had supported internet access. And that’s when she became very active on social media. Thanks to daily technological upgrades and innovative apps, she came across Tinder. The app provided recognition towards her identity.
Sana found a wonderful way to use it. As she became an expert in operating this app, it began to fulfill her needs. Here, she began making new friends, new choices, finding new partners, and she finally had a place to express her feelings with like-minded people. It was a way for two people to understand each other better.
She met a guy who was 27-years-old and working in a real estate company. He expressed to her his interest. He told her she looks like the Tamil actress Simran, which made Sana blush. As they talked, she was impressed by his words. But she was still reluctant to take things forward. She worried because she was not ‘fully changed’. Her ‘sex change’ had only happened with her attire. Would people accept that? One day, the guy asked her out on a date. He even said he wanted her to be his lover and partner. It came as a bit of a shock. She felt nervous, and blank, and didn’t know how respond to him. Her mind raced to old memories. Usually, people asked her only for fun and to entertain themselves at her expense.
Sana was eager to have her feelings reciprocated by a partner. Incidents like these were a huge disappointment. But, suddenly, here was a person who came to her with a need to share his love for her. That day, she felt like she was the happiest person in the world.
Love isn’t one action; it isn’t a feeling; it isn’t just a mind-set. It’s more than just ‘being nice’. Love is a way of life, it comes from the spirit within us. It is the by-product of a mysterious interaction between our intentions and God’s; between our will to live well and God’s sanctifying work in us. It isn’t simply there when we’re born; it is developed. It has to be honed, crafted, and practiced. By God’s grace we learn to recognise love, to behave with love, to dare to be different. Living in a loving way is almost like worship.
Sana, very much in love, decided to take the plunge. When she went to meet her date, she went as herself, disclosing her identity to him. It was her behaviour—who she was—that drew him to her. The attire didn’t matter.
And this is Sana’s love story. She and her partner have been living happily together for the last six years! Pretty clear at this point what love does, right? Sana’s dream of love came true, and it happened on an app that has made a huge impact on her life.