The month of June marks the beginning of Pride. It’s a month full of joy and celebration among the LGBTQ+ community.
There are a series of Pride marches across the globe, and thus, the community feels like one big world. On account of the COVID-19 pandemic, the celebration of pride like an open fest isn’t possible, however, the spirit of pride lives strong amidst the hearts of the community.
Having said that, how would you feel if I told you there are various people who still can’t celebrate pride or even feel the essence of the rainbow in its true sense?
I hereby narrate to you my story with the hope to fulfill my wish to feel the rainbow:
I was born in a middle-class Maharashtrian nuclear family. Till the toddler years, one hardly understands what it feels like to be different.
In my case, it was in my secondary KG Class where I felt completely awestruck at my teacher’s sarees and salwars. Every time I attended her class, I felt amazed at the way she would dress up, and coming back from school I would indulge myself in playing Teacher-Teacher, where I would dress up trying to look like my teacher in school using my mothers dupattas draped as a saree or a body towel wrapped up and tucked to resemble a saree.
I would teach my imaginary students and felt contented in doing so. My parents back then thought it was just a little boy playing, and thus, they played along and never tried stopping me: “He is small, doesn’t understand”, “let him be”, etc.
On the contrary, I knew exactly what I felt like draping those dupattas and carrying my mum’s handbag on my shoulders. I felt joyous.
As years went by, I made more female friends and we would play Teacher-Teacher and Ghar-Ghar together.
We are two siblings and my older brother was the complete opposite of how I was. He would indulge in playing Bat-Ball with his male friends. Many times, his friends would ask me to join them to play cricket back then, and I disliked it.
I couldn’t hold the bat correctly, couldn’t bowl in the way it was expected, and fielding was a nightmare. I would shut my eyes and cover my face at the sight of the ball.
This triggered my brother and his friends to never play with me and instead make fun of the way I played. They would tell me to join their sisters or other girls and play Teacher-Teacher and Ghar-Ghar.
But I didn’t care, I loved my games and felt happy playing them. My parents noticed my dislikes and forced me to play with my brother. Trust me, my heart never felt it.
Years passed, and in the growing years, school became difficult for me — I was a studious child and a rank holder, but that didn’t stop the bullying.
As a child, I always kept my mouth shut at the homophobic slurs. In a Marathi context, a word called Baila is used, and I was repeatedly called by this slur. It made me think as a child for the first time: why am I less of a man/boy? Why am I not like the other boys at my school/colony? What is it that makes them call me that slur?
Back then, I couldn’t answer any of these questions.
Then, in the mid 90s, a show called Shriman Shrimati used to air, and the cast included a character called ‘Dilbura Uncle’, who happened to have his hand movements in an effeminate way. Suddenly, all my classmates and society kids called me by his name and bullied me.
A similar character was in the famous Bollywood movie Raja Hindustani, and most people teased me by singing the background score of the character in the film. It never really mattered to me until one day, a close family cousin did the same to me; and that’s where it triggered my parents.
They behaved strictly with me, didn’t allow me to play with girls, stopped me from watching romantic TV serials, forced me to watch sports, etc.
It’s strange in the growing years. Every single person; your teachers, your folks, etc. want you to be a “Good Boy”. Little did I know that even that tag would be used as a bullying mechanism in a quote, “yeh to ‘gudd’ boy hai (sweet or meetha like jaggery)”, followed by cheap laughs.
Growing up, until my college days, I couldn’t really make any friends. It was difficult for others to be friends with me because they feared similar bullying.
In my college years, I had changed myself to be more like a ‘guy’ and be more ‘heterosexual’ in my behaviour, and thus, made a few friends. But deep down, I couldn’t hide who I was. It was in college where I faced much of the bullying from girls. They made fun of the way I walked, made fun by asking me to wear makeup or telling me to use the girls washroom for laughs.
Again, as usual, I kept all this to myself and would cry alone. Even though I tried to be the same as the general society, they still wouldn’t treat me as an equal or even a human, for that matter!
In college years, everybody seemed to have a girlfriend or had a ‘hot’ crush; however, I couldn’t really figure out why I did not feel the same about girls. It could be the bullying, or every time I looked at girls, I would end up noticing their hair, makeup, clothes and didn’t feel anything beyond.
Feeling romantic was out of the question. But then, I didn’t really feel anything for people of the same sex either. I didn’t feel any love/romantic inclination towards anybody.
In early puberty or college years, one is exposed to Porn, so was I, and that was a revelation for me. It was probably the first time, my body responded to an outside stimulus that I saw on screen.
It was also the realization of the process of sex, and it meant only binary sex, boy and girl who indulge in a physical way to feel love or romantic emotions.
Still confused, because even straight porn had an impact on me, I kept introspecting. That’s when I got exposed to non-binary sex and realized that I bore more inclination or attraction towards that.
In my working years as an adult, I knew my truth, yet I couldn’t express it completely. It was in the starting years at work that I felt romantic about girls and boys.
Strange as one can feel from the above storyline, I felt these varied emotions gushing through me.
What is happening? Why do I feel both ways? Is it just a phase that will pass? Questions and more questions, with no clear answers.
The biggest question that remained: How do I make peace with my truth? How do I tell my folks about myself? How can I identify myself as part of the LGBTQ+ community?
Talking about love, I felt my first attraction towards a boy in a local train. Funny as it can be, I liked him a lot, but couldn’t really express anything to him.
One such time, in a crowded train we happened to be close to each other, and that’s when I saw him swiping on a Queer Dating App. I became hopeful and tried to connect via the dating app. But I came to the realization that he was not into me and my love or attraction was one sided.
I didn’t want to give up on my love interest and tried connecting with him via a social media platform. That too was in vain as he never responded.
Post that, I have tried finding a true friend or a partner on these apps, but discontinued, having realized they had more inclination to the sex part of the relation than being in love.
Yet, I am being optimistic about myself and I keep a never-ending hope that one day, perhaps, there will be someone who is made for me.
Today, I understand my reality as a person, who still feels closeted, because of my own socio-economic shortcomings. I feel the fear of being judged, fear of being identified as different, fear of being exposed to hatred by the large heterosexual society, and the dismay it may cause my family.
To conclude, I feel hopeful that one day, I will feel the rainbow in its true sense. Recently, I joined a few groups on social media, and it feels great to see that I am not alone. There are so many people with varied talents and expertise and who are proud of who they truly are; and that keeps the rainbow flag flying with glory.
I am also working towards improving my financial constraints and seeking counselling from Queer affirmative counsellors, so that when the time comes, I can take care of myself.