A few days back I read somewhere about how social media amplifies the voices of oppressed people and helps create a revolution. The true power of social media is to influence. It provides an avenue for people to navigate their thoughts and feelings. As social media outgrows traditional media, people are choosing online platforms to share their experiences. I am astonished by the whole (deserved) attention the #MeToo movement has received. but at the same time, I am disappointed with the poor participation of the queer community in the movement. The failure to create a non-judgmental online space for LGBTQI+ people is evident.
I have been a part of an online private Facebook support group, Yaariyan, for a while. It aims to create a safe and inclusive space for young Indian queer individuals. Here, the community can speak, crib, connect, and express themselves without any apprehension, or fear of judgment and discrimination. A space which feels like their own. With #MeToo hitting mainstream media, some people took to Yaariyan as a space where they could freely talk about their experiences of sexual abuse and harassment. The more I read these accounts, the more my anguish and anger grew. All these experiences are equally bona fide, deserve attention, and need to be heard.
With the consent of the members of the group here, I am sharing some of those stories:
When people say that the #MeToo campaign is for women, I think they are mistaken. What started as a campaign for women has now crossed the gender and sexuality divide. The sheer magnitude of it is mind boggling and sad.
I remember being molested by a girl at a friend’s place. I was sloshed; she was playing the damsel in distress (“it’s late, how will I go home alone?”), hinting that one of us drops her off. I passed out on the couch, waking up to the sensation of her hand in my pants. She was a big woman and it was difficult to get her off me. Thankfully my friend saw that and helped me out. She did all this even after being fully aware of my sexuality. In fact, I came to know later that she does that to every inebriated gay guy she can get along with. I bumped into her again in a social event and she tried to first forcefully kiss me and when I resisted, turned her attention to my friend. It was a horrible experience. It disgusted me and I am lucky to have been saved in the nick of time. There are millions of others who have not been that lucky.
When I was in 7th Standard I went to a mall to attend a conference with my dad. His office was behind the mall and he told me to wait there for about an hour till he comes back. While I was standing there a guy was continually staring at me and suddenly came near and stood beside me. He started talking to me and suddenly he tried to show me something on his phone. It was porn. He started talking about porn. I got scared and ran away from there but he followed me everywhere. I hid in the washroom, and, to my surprise, he followed me there also, groped me from the back, tried to touch my private body parts. Fortunately, somebody came and he left. I locked myself in the bathroom until my father came.
I was traumatised, shaken, and tears were rolling out of my eyes, but I couldn’t share the incident with my dad. I got sick for a week. Still today I haven’t told my parents about the incident but with the onset of the #MeToo movement, I finally gathered the courage to share it.
I had left home for my higher studies, and started living in the hostel. Fortunately, I got never subjected to ragging or bullying; the first year went really smooth apart from missing home badly. In my second year, a senior suddenly shifted to my room, but I never anticipated anything bad. One morning I had a high fever with severe shivering. The senior locked the door, came inside my blanket and raped me. I was screaming out of pain but that hardly bothered him. Since everybody was in class nobody was there to help me. I was left alone bleeding in my room. For two years he molested me; he made it a daily routine. My friends left me as they thought I was acting weird. I could never talk about it to anyone because my sexuality was anyway always a subject of ridicule and mockery. I knew people would blame me for everything.
Today, even after being sexually harassed for two years I am standing strong. I don’t think people realise how much strength it takes to pull your own self out from a poisonous situation, so if you have done that today or any day be proud of yourself.
The year 2005.
I was 23. Social media was barely there. Met a man who introduced himself as A. Khanna on the internet. We got talking. I started calling him ‘Dadai’ (exactly what my younger brother calls me, an extended adorable version of Dada/Elder brother).
I was stupid enough to leave my job, take whatever savings I had and fly away to Mumbai with my parents’ permission, who trusted him just as much as I did.
I met Dadai at the airport who looked way different from the picture of him that he earlier sent me. Almost 20 years older. Still didn’t strike odd (yes I was that naive).
We drove down to POPCO Colony on Yari Road in Versova, and he took me to an apartment there.
I went in, and he left the house saying “I’ll be back in some time, there’s food in the fridge, have it.” Strangely enough, he locked the main door from the outside and left, only to return past midnight, heavily intoxicated.
The apartment was tiny, messed up, and dirty. I somehow cleaned a mattress and slept on that on the floor only to be woken up by someone biting into my neck.
To my horror, it was ‘Dadai’. I pushed him aside and jumped up. He stumbled and gathered himself and said sorry to me and went and slept off in the other room.
I was too shaken up to sleep, but may be too tired too and I dozed off. Next morning he woke up and left again leaving me locked up. When I told him I need to call my parents he said: “Tonight, once I’m back”.
That night he didn’t return until midnight and I fell asleep, this time around I made sure I bolted the latch from inside.
It was around 2:45 am when I woke up to use the restroom and heard faint voices and suppressed laughter from the room across the tiny dining area.
I stealthily walked across the room and to my horror saw a few cops and Dadai all indulging in food, booze, drugs, smoke etc. One of them asked “Chikna kidhar hain? (Where’s the twink?)”, to which Dadai replied, “Next room. Tomorrow we’ll end his story for good.” Also by whatever I could gather, they were planning on sending me to someone in the Middle East.
I was standing there peeping in, my legs quivering, sweating, crying quietly, remembering my friends and family in Kolkata, and telling myself, “My parents and I trusted him so much, and this is what we get in return?”
I was wearing a pair of boxers and a vest. The door was locked, and the keys were with them.
I had to leave to live! Anyhow.
Taking advantage of their inebriated condition, I slowly slid open the window in the dining room and with the help of a strong tree and close to 40 bruises, I climbed down from the first floor and ran for my life.
I will be ever grateful to the security guard that night who was kind enough to let me flee without getting caught.
The rest, as they say, is history. That incident has left a scar on me, so deep that one lifetime might not be enough to get rid of it.
Lesson learned: never trust a complete stranger unless you know him well enough.
May I say #MeToo
or it was my wish?
Then I was a child
didn’t know what it is
He hugged me from back
He held me tight
He shushed me always
And I kept quiet
He told the others
what we did that night
others too shushed me
and I remain quiet
Unknowingly I attempted
to shushed someone
I am wasn’t aware
It will harm them enough
Those people caged me
that you did wrong
but they continued to shush me until they found a girl
I have a filth I did something wrong
I am stuck in the line am I a victim or not
I don’t know can I say
#MeToo or not?
You may now hate me
or say bad words
But I was a child to
I faced enough
I raise my voice to know enough
it wasn’t my mistake
it was you who shushed me first.