If you grew up gay in India, chances are you didn’t know that loving someone from the same-sex was even an option. It would have been a lot easier for me when it came to battling it out with my identity if I had even an inkling that there was more to life that the heteronormative stereotypes we have been fed since we are born.
I remember being told from a young age onwards that I need to be cooperative because one day I would have to adjust at someone else’s home. I remember being told that I need to learn to do household chores because one day I would marry a man and do those chores. I remember being told numerous times by my relatives what they would do at my wedding.
I remember being told my option of how my life would play out – just the one.
I know everyone who fed me this version of a life I ought to live wanted me to be happy, but they never asked me what kind of life I wanted to lead. And would I have even had an answer – after all, all I had learnt was that a woman must love a man and not a woman.
I wish someone would have told me you can love anyone – because loving someone is the greatest feeling in the world. If someone had, I wouldn’t have hated myself for years, thinking that I was disgusting and how no one would ever love me. I wish to tell that child who cried alone that you’re normal. I want to tell her that you are not the only one who feels this way, that there is a whole community out there and you may not be able to meet them yet, but you will – you will get out of this small town and you will be able to be your true self.
I know this isn’t easy for anyone who isn’t what our society calls ‘normal’. I’m constantly asked by straight girls if I’m attracted to them and they think I’m predatory, while straight guys are busy sexualising my body. I remember this straight guy once told me on my face that he won’t have to watch porn if I gave him my sex tape.
While this is inappropriate without a doubt, we also need to understand where this behaviour stems from and I think you know it too – Bollywood. Years and years of misrepresentation of the LGBTQIA+ community has made people believe that we are either a joke or disgusting. You might argue that it is 2020, and there are some good films with LGBTQIA+ representation. Yes, there are some good films but then there are also films like Laxmii Bomb, which is transphobic in every sense and further pushes the community to the margins. And it’s not just Bollywood, capitalism thrives on homophobia and transphobia in more ways than one. But suddenly, during Pride month, they simply paint a rainbow flag on their questionable actions.
Also read: Pati, Patni Aur Trans-Misogyny
I knew I liked women at a young age. But since I couldn’t find people like me around, I grew up thinking I was a freak and would be alone forever. The only time I felt represented was in an episode on homosexuality on Aamir Khan’s show Satyamev Jayate. I was 11 when I saw it and I remember thinking, “There is someone who is like me, maybe I’m not alone after all.”
That’s why I say representation matters – I can’t stress enough why it matters so much. No one should ever feel that they are alone and that they’ll never be happy. Especially a 10-year-old kid. I may be grown up now but I still find traces of that 10-year-old scared kid when I think about my future at night when I can’t sleep. I find myself in my old bedroom, staring at the ceiling and thinking it would have been easier if I were just like everyone around me.
I don’t feel that way now.
Anshu Malik is a 19-year-old law student, who grew up in a small town in Haryana.