Trigger Warning: This article addresses homophobia; mention of abuse.
To mark the International Day of Non-Violence, Love Matters India brings you stories of intolerance LGBT+ persons have faced in their day-to-day lives. One question pops up frequently and in all the stories: “Is there something wrong with us?” But, reading through their experiences begs a different question, “what’s wrong with the rest of us?”
“I work at a call centre and live with two roommates. I was at work on Monday, so I asked my roommates to give the token money to finalise the deal of the house and submit the required documents. We were asked to bring various documents.
My friends went there with all the documents. The landlady was ready to take our documents and get them photocopied. At this point, the broker took her aside and said something. Soon they returned and said it will be difficult to rent the house to us.
When I got back home, my friends told me what had happened and it felt a bit weird at first…I then noticed Abhay was wearing green eyeliner. It suddenly dawned upon me that the green line on Abhay’s eyelid had perhaps caused the u-turn.
I assume that they did not want to ask us about our friend’s appearance and his eyeliner but declined to rent us the house fearing his identity. What strikes me is that people in India can possess fake Aadhaar and PAN cards and still get houses on rent, but we, who had all the original documents, were denied a house.
We met that landlady again after two days when some other broker took us to the same apartment to show us some flats. She appeared to not recognize us and avoided eye contact. I really wish she had given us a chance, to know us as people, to see how good tenants we could have been and how we all could have had a relationship that wasn’t smudged by prejudice over an eyeliner.”
Divyaroop*, 25, is a call centre employee in Mumbai. Hear his full story here.
“I had just finished an exam on a Friday afternoon and was looking forward to starting the weekend. So I changed, wore my favourite dress and went to my favourite hangout at Connaught Place (CP).
I was quite fond of that pub because of the ambience and the cost-effectiveness. It was familiar. However, when I went up the stairs to the entrance, the doorman bluntly asked me what I was wearing. I was at a loss for words. He told me that I wouldn’t be allowed wearing those clothes.
The words hit me hard. I had tipped him multiple times just in the last month. Now, he stopped me at the gate. He not only questioned me about my attire but also did not allow me inside. I had gone there wearing shirts before and was served. When I showed up in a dress, I was turned away at the door. I had noticed women wear the same kind of dresses and are allowed in. So why not me? My money was suddenly not worth taking? My anger soon turned into tears.”
Rajneesh, 21, is a queer feminist pursuing his bachelors in computer engineering from NSIT. Read his full story here.
“I have always been an effeminate guy and was often reminded of my trait by all and sundry ever since my childhood. Girls would pull my cheeks and call me ‘sweet,’ ‘chikna’, ‘cute’ and other such names.
One day we were planning to do a group activity in the college. There were five girls and six guys in our group. As we were sitting and relaxing, one of the girls in the group asked, ‘So, are you the sixth girl or are you the seventh guy?’ She pointed her finger towards me. All eyes were suddenly on me. They were searching for an answer on my face. My throat went dry. And before I could say that I was the seventh guy, somebody put a towel over my face and wrapped my head inside it. And thereafter came a shout, ‘let us find out!
Despite my pleas and requests, I was forcibly laid down on the floor and stripped to my shorts. They threw my clothes under the table. The boys were holding my hands and legs while the girls were watching. I could hear some nasty comments every now and then. Everybody was laughing and having ‘fun’ because they were about to find out my gender!
I cried and begged them to not remove my shorts but nobody listened to my requests. The boys still held me tight. I felt scared, helpless, embarrassed and wanted to do something about it. I had never felt as powerless as I did that day. Girls poked my belly and chuckled my cheeks.
I had come there to have fun but ended up getting humiliated by my so-called ‘friends.’ After a few minutes, they let me go. The room went silent. All the madness came to a halt and I managed to run towards the bathroom after picking up my shirt and my track pants.
I went home but could not share it with my parents. I felt they would scold me too for being ‘girl-like’. I have been the talk of my family in the past too because of my looks. I could not sleep that night and also on subsequent nights that followed. I faked illness and remained confined to my room for a couple of days. One question that followed me from the incident was – ‘Is there something wrong with me?’“
“My parents are not the kind of people who’d check social networks. So, I didn’t think much when I posted pictures of me with my boyfriend Sameer on Instagram after our coffee date last night.
I had just returned from college and kept my bag aside to freshen up…After a few minutes, I heard a loud cry from my mother. I panicked. What I saw outside was something straight out of a nightmare: my parents sitting together and flashing my own Instagram at me.
Abuses followed expletives I hadn’t heard before, at least not from them, and definitely not for me. “You are dead to us.” Their anger didn’t simmer down. My father only grew drunk as the night approached. I was feeling more and more unsafe.
That night was the longest night of my life. Each second felt like a day. I could hear my mother’s cries and my father’s abuses till late. I was alone, scared, shivering, crying and hungry in my own room.
Even as days passed, things did not get any better. Needless to say, I was cut off. I was spoken to in curt tones and I had to rely on my internship allowance for travel and other necessities. I had to get my internship changed to a job. My parents tried to convince me to leave my ‘zidd’ (stubbornness) and become a ‘normal’ man! I wish I could explain to them how normal it felt to me to be what I am.
A couple of weeks later, amidst my mother’s usual routine of shouting obscenities at me, she burnt me with the hot pliers she uses for cooking. The physical pain was not as bad as the realisation of how dangerous living there was for me. I rang up two friends who both knew about the situation and asked them if I could crash with them. I filled my bag with clothes, IDs and other documents, booked a cab and got the hell out of there. I haven’t looked back yet.”
Vivek*, 20, is a student and is active in Delhi queer circuit. Read his full story here.
* Names have been changed to protect identities.