*Trigger Warning: Mention Of Trauma & Sexual Abuse*
I vividly remember the day I logged onto the portals of CBSE, flogging with students trying to download a certificate, which at that moment could break or make their future choices in academics. Amidst the pandemic, another death was witnessed, the death of the soul that burdened itself with trauma.
Looking over the lunch table while my older brother, who set a benchmark of setting a 10 point CGPA during his 10th grade, kept hitting Ctrl+R. A minute passes, I try to finish my plate of food when he looks at me with eyes of disbelief. I knew that look. The look he gave when we promised our parents that we would handle toys with care but broke them within a week.
I saw that coming from a mile away. A “C” in Mathematics and a “B” in Science. I wished to be flushed away with the things I had planned if my GPA was not to break, and my tears. Having locked me up in the room, I had not only disappointed myself but also my parents, who would, to date, remind me of that day’s result.
How did I see it coming? You see, being a queer kid is not easy, especially in a country like India. Did not expect this answer? Why? Kids, q…queer? Huh? Don’t look away. Haven’t you enjoyed the banter of belittling your physically weaker peer and called them the “c slur”? You know what I am talking about. You do.
Imagine being a tennis ball, the neon green ones you used to play with, as a kid. What does a tennis ball have to do with this? You throw it around, enjoy the hits you score with it and the moment it falls in a sewer, it’s unworthy. That has been my life for the past 18 years of my existence.
Not only being bullied, even sexually assaulted for being effeminate my entire life. I also endured my downfall when I reached the point of actually admitting that my bullies were right: not a boy, they’d say, at least not a straight one. Funny how they knew it before me.
In a country like India where sex education is vulgar but school washrooms are filled with nothing but doodles of penises, do you expect my classmates to know what homophobia is? Let alone homophobia. Do you think they care about misogyny?
And by the time I was 16, the perfect records for my results came crumbling down because my mind was preoccupied with intrusive thoughts of running away or even ending things for good.
I could not bear to see my father, already burdened with problems of his own, crying and yelling — “This is not the son I raised.” Or my mother, unable to make eye contact with me, all of which are the presumptuous scenarios that play in my head all day. And in that state of mind, I was expected to understand “what is Sin Theta+Cos Theta equal to”.
I had always dreamt of making it to a university abroad if I could, making my parents proud to be the first generation student in my immediate family to achieve the feat.
But do the same universities care about what I am beyond my GPA?
This is not just the fear of an individual like me, but any person belonging to a minority subset of the population. To us, merit is a privilege. Not only are we expected to perform in the way that it equates to the rest of the applicants but also make ourselves worthy enough to even apply.
Others might not have thought of killing themselves every night. Not everyone has to go through the emotional turmoil of separating parents and go somewhere beyond the rainbows and the happy world of child prodigies. There’s some suffering within those confined boundaries of performing well.
And to this, do we get a chance to explain those scenarios? And while I fill my college applications this autumn, I hope that the people who decide who is fit for academia and who is not, take out the effort of seeing us beyond our percentages and the 4-point-scale.
See our circumstances and talk about how the field itself works only for those privileged enough: materialistically or otherwise, to succeed.