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Articles on this Page
- 06/11/18--00:30: _The Loneliness And ...
- 06/20/18--02:53: _The Straight Best F...
- 06/21/18--03:09: _Poem: This Heart Is...
- 06/25/18--01:57: _Navigating My Desin...
- 06/28/18--02:30: _7 Real-Life Narrati...
- 07/02/18--04:54: _The Day Sam Smith T...
- 07/10/18--05:25: _Tips For Aspiring D...
- 07/11/18--02:43: _Brown, Fat, And And...
- 07/17/18--02:21: _Party Girl Problems...
- 08/01/18--02:04: _My Friends Were The...
- 08/13/18--01:51: _Graphic Story: Hell...
- 06/20/18--02:53: The Straight Best Friend Dramarama
- 06/21/18--03:09: Poem: This Heart Is Full Of Love
- 06/25/18--01:57: Navigating My Desiness At The New York City Pride Parade
- 06/28/18--02:30: 7 Real-Life Narratives Of Desi-Queers Out At Work
- 07/02/18--04:54: The Day Sam Smith Turned Gay
- 07/10/18--05:25: Tips For Aspiring Drag Artists
- 07/11/18--02:43: Brown, Fat, And Androgynous
- 07/17/18--02:21: Party Girl Problems: Between Patriarchy And The Pole
- 08/01/18--02:04: My Friends Were There When Family Failed
- 08/13/18--01:51: Graphic Story: Hello! It’s Me!
I had been in India for almost a year before ever encountering any space for queer people, aside from running into the occasional hijra on a train or just out and about. To give a little bit of context: I was a 21-year old college student from the US who’d wandered from Bhubaneswar to Trivandrum and then Palakkad doing research on handloom, with few social skills, long bouts of isolation, and plenty of issues with her family. I’d also only transitioned a few years before, and after spending much of the preceding time fighting with my mother (who’s a born-again Christian and also voted for Trump), left the US and stayed in India because apparently I passed better here. I also had my reasons otherwise, and always had a disdain for being in the US.
In the midst of all of this, another woman around my age found me on a site for queer women and we began talking. She was in Bangalore, and somehow the presence of a circle of queer women sounded appealing for a young trans woman who was still questioning her sexuality but realising nonetheless that she was interested in women romantically. Eventually I decided to come to Bangalore, and we talked of meeting.
I have a lot of social anxiety, and at the time it was much worse than it is now. I’d also never been to a bar before, and didn’t have a lot of experience with the queer community. She’d suggested I come to a pub on Lavelle road, where there were other queer women present - mostly middle and upper class women from urban backgrounds. I agreed to go, it went okay, and I decided to come the following week.
Unlike the first time, my friend wasn’t there. The waiter still must have recognised me or something and directed me to a table with several women I’d never met and maybe one or two who looked vaguely familiar from the week before. And then one woman in particular starts shouting at the waiter that “We don’t know her! Who is she?!” . . . I felt awkward and sat elsewhere until my acquaintance ended up coming.
I ended up attending these weekly meetings for several months, never feeling entirely comfortable but it was the only space I had to meet other queer women. This came to an end when the same woman basically told me one night not to come back as I “made people uncomfortable.” She then had the nerve to say that “it’s not about your gender” even though that was clearly a factor, if not the only one.
I didn’t have a space to meet people like me, especially not of my own age - that, I think is the important thing to take away from these experiences which left me floating around to various queer spaces where I didn’t entirely fit in. I found these to be mostly dominated by queer men, and even events like Pride are not entirely different.
Like most women, my sexuality is somewhat fluid and my identity has changed over the years: as a teenager and early on in my transition I defined myself as bisexual, then as a lesbian. After finding myself interested in boys as an adolescent, my sexuality started to shift after I started transitioning at the age of 18. I was simply able to let go of preconceived notions about my sexuality. What I will say here is that this should rubbish any of those claims about “masculine” women and hormones and lesbianism, for if hormones had any effect in this sense then it was oestrogen that made me into a lesbian (kindly forward this to the next delusional professor who gripes about female students wearing jeans). When I came to India, I felt more strongly attracted to women than before. It took me a long time to be okay with my sexuality, though I’m not going to assume that it’s a completely fixed identity. What I will say is that I’ve not really been romantically or sexually drawn to a man in years (and am not currently), but I’m not going to assume things will always be the same (nor will they necessarily change much either). I simply don’t want to be with a man, though I won’t go so far to say that I never find any of them attractive.
My hangups on gender and sexuality were actually pretty straightforward: how could I, as a woman, be attracted to other women? Why bother transitioning at all when I’m more interested in being with a woman than a man? Is this a “hangover” of masculinity? That took years to get over, and it certainly wasn’t helped by the fact that my limited interactions with the hijra community really brought out these questions. While I don’t fit into the hijra culture for a number of reasons, one of the main ones is that as a queer woman and a feminist I’m automatically an outsider to such spaces. I’ve actually found an even stricter form of heteronormativity within many trans spaces than outside of it. I don’t need a man to validate my identity as a woman, and moreover I don’t bloody want one right now anyway. Maybe I never will. Whatever the case may be, this must be respected.
This is not something that’s understood amongst everyone in the trans community. I was told by a trans sex worker in Chennai that I “wasn’t ‘a transgender’” because I’m attracted to women (she seriously couldn’t wrap her head around the idea and went on and on about that), I was asked by an older hijra in Bangalore whether I had a husband and then asked “don’t you like fucking?” when I told I didn’t. This is not an issue of class or education, though. A rather vocal trans activist from Hyderabad even told me that she’d “never heard of such a thing as a trans lesbian” when told that I was one. To be fair, this was a bit more ignorant before her transition, a few years back and had also once commented on my breast size in public. Another, more prominent, trans activist unfriended me on Facebook around the time she found out I was a lesbian. It’s disappointing to learn how oblivious people can be, especially when the people in question should know better. Why is my sexuality such a problem to these people, and how does it matter anyway when I was unaware of it when I transitioned?
One could talk all day of femme invisibility and still miss the point that this also affects trans women, though of course more butch trans women are also erased. Just because I’m a woman who presents in a feminine manner (or am I really nonbinary, since ultimately gender is a construct and one’s presentation a manipulation of certain cues?) does not mean that I want or desire a man. This is obviously not an issue limited to trans women, as any cis femme will tell you. “I never thought you were into women?” and “you don’t look like a lesbian” are two examples of what myself and umpteen other women have had to put up with hearing even from people who ought to know better. Even a few gay men have stared blankly in disbelief when I’ve told them this. Sometimes it doesn’t register, and they say illogical things anyway. “HIV infection rates are high, play it safe and use a condom” . . . as someone that doesn’t do penetrative sex at all, then what the fuck am I supposed to do with a condom?!
There’s really not much in the way of spaces for queer trans women in India , and even then it’s hard to say that there would be a coherent community as such. Most spaces for queer women also specifically exclude trans women, making it difficult to meet other queer women. There are exceptions (like ASQ in Bengaluru), but the general rule is that most LBT organisations do not welcome trans women - not Sappho, not many of the others. Why? Because (a) I don’t exist and (b) I apparently benefit from male privilege (despite never having lived any of my adult life as a man). It’s not like I get much out of trans spaces either, given the focus on hetero-patriarchal conceptions of femininity and indeed the focus on performing such for the male gaze. Though to be more to the point about this, there’s just not a lot of commonality between us.
This isn’t to say I have a lot in common with queer women generally, because indeed there have been spaces that I didn’t fit into: when everyone’s ten years older than you and has a corporate job, then conversations can be a bit awkward if they even come at all. Even aside from the hostility that I faced at one point, I’m not sure how much I really fit into a group like WHaQ anyway.
Even if I found other queer trans women, I’m not sure that we’d have a lot in common anyway. Most of them that I have met were/are married, having lived at least some of their lives as a heterosexual man. I really cannot relate to that experience, or indeed to the experience of having a “normal” or stable career professionally. Nor can I really relate to these stories of family acceptance or the desire to change to their opinions, as someone who didn’t care about their denouncements and hasn’t spoken to her mother since 2010. All trans experiences are different though, and I really don’t see the point in creating such dichotomies or distinctions except when addressing specific issues or past traumas. I also don’t get along with people well anyway, so it’s exceptionally difficult to not find myself in isolation. I’m not going to suggest that this is only the result of my being a lesbian trans woman.
I don’t wish to make this only about myself, as I’m kind of an anomaly in the sense that I transitioned socially as a teenager and ended up in India only a few years after that - I had/have my reasons for being here (which include passing, family drama, a friend circle in India but not really the US, and several personal reasons which may not be appropriate to elaborate on here). Furthermore, I seem to have a certain set of mental health issues to deal with as well, which are mostly unrelated to being a trans woman (but maybe they aren’t). My experience is solely my own and I do not wish to pretend that my experiences are universal. Indeed, there are many elements of privilege and the resulting social status which I have been afforded.
The post The Loneliness And Intricacies Of Being A Trans Lesbian Woman In India: Community And Life appeared first on Gaysi.
This is a cautionary tale for all my queer folks out here, though can it be considered cautionary if it is inevitable, that dreaded phenomenon of falling for the straight friend. It is predestined to happen at some point in your life and even more so when you are closeted and cannot date openly. Now I don’t think the male race faces this particular brand of torture but if you are a girl chances are you have had at least one of those (questionably) straight friends with absolutely zero idea of the concept of personal space, who are just so touchy and cuddly and high on hugging and hand holding. This normally wouldn’t be an issue until you go ahead and catch feelings that should not be caught.
I am 26 and I am a raging lesbian who has only had the courage to come out to herself only a couple of months back, and by coming out to myself I mean finally accepting my attraction towards women in its emotional and physical entirety and not hiding behind excuses of being bi-curious or who wouldn’t like women have you looked at a woman or all woman are some degree of bisexual, and finally looking at myself in the bathroom mirror and saying out loud I am so so gay, I am a lesbian. Coming out to myself has made it less surreal and more tangible and since then I have been subtly coming out to few trusted friends here and there. Some were shocked, some were neutral and some came out as bisexual and asexual themselves. Advice ranging from moving to Mumbai or even out of India to how to avoid the imminent arranged marriage parental trap without coming out was generously given.
The most validating coming out happened recently, it can mildly be blamed on the spliff we were smoking when I told my distant cousin who was also my classmate from school about how I had a one night stand with a man because I was doubting my orientation and to my utter delight/horror he says “Thank God, you finally said it” and all I could do was gape at him in my semi high state. I finally got to know that half my class in high school thought I was gay. Which brings me back to touchy feely platonic girlfriends. One that I was so enamoured with in school with blinding obliviousness to the underlying cause. She, joining my school in class 11th and I, who am the personification of anti-social became thick as thieves. And boy what is it with convent girls and touchiness. I am tall, she barely reached my shoulders and that made for her arm perfectly circling my waist with my arms draped around her shoulders. She would cling to my arm while walking and would hold my hand under the desk in class. And was it magical, the best feeling ever, thinking back to it makes me facepalm about the obliviousness.
But she isn’t the girl I fell for. One of the most troubling memories of my childhood is of seeing my mother cry silent tears when she thought we were asleep. Tears that were brought on by testing time financially and socially, given that she was single handedly bringing up my sister and me (no my father isn’t dead, neither are they divorced, we just lived separated because my father is a strange alien and I need to write another post on how he is a big part of the reason I have ended up being indifferent towards or distrusting (almost hating) men, yes I am quite the stereotypical man hating lesbian, and how my orientation is not the only issue I need to figure out). My entire childhood was driven by the desire to never let those tears fall again and I had absolutely zero time to waste over silly oblivious school crushes, my sole focus on excelling academically and becoming financially strong.
Undergrad came and went with its fair share of strong crushes on girls and even supposedly experimental make-out sessions. Postgrad happened right after, at one of the top MBA colleges in the country and I finally felt within reach of that goal I had set for myself when I met her, the Scarlett O’ Hara to my Rhett Butler, the Lotte to my young Werther. She was a drama nerd, I was a drama nerd, we ended up in the same play. She would hold hands, threading our fingers, lean her head on my shoulders and I was swooning inwardly soon enough. It wasn’t just the touching, she is one of the most incredible woman I know, brilliant, gorgeous, hot as hell, driven, wouldn’t take shit from anyone. I was an absolute goner the day she kissed me drunkenly on her birthday. Despite being messy and rough and so not how I had imagined it a thousand times in my head, it was so hot and I saw stars. The euphoria lasted one whole day before I gathered up the courage to bring it up only for her to shoot it down as a drunken incident she could barely recollect. If heartbreaks can be literal, I had one that day. The bodily pain I felt is witness to it.
We continued as if nothing happened, or rather she did. The “friendly” physical intimacy was still dished out at the same if not stronger intensity. So did her flirting with every other guy in our circle and drunk kissing random dudes at parties. She kissed me a couple of more times, always drunk though, and the pathetic pining needy fool in me never stopped her and never brought it up later either. Finding her one fine day swapping saliva at a party with a particularly obnoxious boy, I dragged her away and told her to not get so drunk that she loses all sense. She looked me in the eye and said she is never out of control and just left. I could only think about the times she had kissed me and if she was in control then. I started distancing myself from her from then on and some time later she confronted me about it seeking an explanation. I told her I am in love with her and her eyes went wide and she said she loves me but only as a friend. I was so numb. I told her I know that and that we can’t be friends anymore and I do not want to talk to her anymore. The only saving grace in all this drama was the timing, which happened to be when we were about to graduate. The few remaining days were spent by me in hiding and awkward avoidance.
To summarize this, it’s been three years since graduation. She is in the US, currently dating a guy. I am stuck here, still not completely over her. We share the occasional texts on birthdays. Once I asked her if she was experimenting all the time she kissed me. She texted that maybe her drunken self was. Maybe I should write a book about how she has plunged a knife in me and then taken it out and then plunged it again and rinse and repeat. So yeah, keep an eye out for that supposedly straight best friend and stop yourself from catching any feels before it’s too late.
At the age of 14, when my friends huddled up to tell each other stories
Of previous nights and coming long drives,
Secretly wishing for the one I liked to like me,
My mother asked me if I liked boys.
I did. And I told her.
She gasped a little
Then let me go.
At the age of 18, I was in a railway station when I saw her
In a sari, decked up.
With flowers in her hair and I felt something.
Attraction? Nothing mild about it.
I was attracted to her, her voice, the calm with which she looked at me.
She moved on, person to person
Doing what she has been doing for so long
I wished she blessed me a little longer.
I wished it lingered over my cheeks.
She was gone before I could ask her anything
But I asked me.
Do I like her?
I did. I told me.
My station was here.
At the age of 22, my heart took me to bed.
In my state of confusion,
Of loving so many people,
I hoped I loved them like I did the others.
They held my heart down along with my body
And I gave in to this ravenous, hungry love.
They asked me if I loved them.
I told them.
In them, I found my every day.
But I'll always know, I'd love everyone else too.
When I was little, I associated June with long summer days, no school, and evenings spent staring at my body in a bathing suit, trying to figure out why I felt like something was wrong. At nineteen, my mind equates June with pride month. A largely western concept to my mind, LGBT Pride month is an annual occurrence in the United States. In commemoration and remembrance of the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969, pride aims to unite and empower queer people. As a result, many pride events are held during this month to recognize the impact LGBT people have had in the world. I find myself roaming the streets of New York City in search of a cup of chai, and am blinded by rainbow flags. Common symbols of pride are the rainbow or pride flag, the lowercase Greek letter lambda (?), the pink triangle and the black triangle (the latter two reclaimed from use as badges of shame in Nazi concentration camps). At first, I am disoriented— a rainbow flag hardly encompasses the complicated relationship I have with queerness. I am stuck between a bright red and a dark violet, trying to find the colors to best describe myself. I have conversations with my mother— she asks me when I will get married, and I don’t tell her about my girlfriend. But this year, I choose to march in June.
Last week, my queer friend asked me if I wanted to go to the NYC Pride march with him. The possibility was exhilarating — all of those masses of people clad in rainbow colors and shirts emblazoned with puns, whooping and hollering, celebrating progress and self-love. Pride felt like the culmination of my 19-year-long journey toward accepting myself, a chance to say to the world, "I'm not going away”. But how much of me will really march on June 24th? Can all the little bits and pieces of my identity ever coexist? I find myself trying to fit several jigsaw pieces together— a patiata salwar, pronouns my parents aren’t aware of, a cup of chai, a rainbow flag. I read of violence against queer people all around the world, and I wonder if it is worth it at all. My friends in the United States wear their pride on their shirts. I wear it in my mind, in unspoken words, in seas and oceans of diaspora.
As flyers and posters flood the streets of New York City, I think to myself: what if I do this? What if, for one day, my queerness, my transness, my identity was out in the streets? Far away from childhood friends and family, I could have the privilege of being public. Being desi in the United States allows me to have two different vocabularies. Here, people in the LGBTQ community have had many gains to celebrate over the last decade. Marriage became legal. Caitlyn Jenner and others pushed open doors for transgender people. Many states elected openly queer leaders. Several companies and institutions dropped their ban on queer employees. But I think again of how my family would react to me coming out, I think of the glares I would get from old ladies at the swimming pool when I choose to wear ‘men’s clothing’ after changing out of my bathing suit.
And this time, I choose to live with the dissonance. After all, pride was born out of protest—and this June, I will march as a protest. For me, pride is a chance for me to reclaim my body, my identity, and the intersections between my queerness and my nationality. As a person of color, this country remains unsafe, but for a day, I will wear a rainbow flag on my shoulders and carry with me, my own personal history. And some day, perhaps, I will find myself in New Delhi, marching on the streets I grew up on, with the people I love, with the acceptance that every queer person deserves.
The post Navigating My Desiness At The New York City Pride Parade appeared first on Gaysi.
1/3rd of a person's life is spent at work- making it 'home' for many people.
At home, one must be loved, comfortable and able to grow. Identity and acceptance are a large part of how good and welcome someone feels in their ‘home’. Gaysi asked our family on Instagram what their experiences were with coming out in their professional environment and they responded with stories that made us laugh, made us sad, roll our eyes and warmed our heart.
Artwork by Krupali Patel
Being a semi-closeted Indian gay male (Out to most of my friends but not to family), I have to be a silent witness to a lot of homophobic opinions. In due course of time I have realised that trying to point out the irrationality of their opinions is usually not a wise decision in these situations as reason is rarely the basis of said opinions. Therefore, I have learnt to silently observe, which in turn has provided me with many hilarious instances of inconsistency in their opinions.
My parents (who once lost sleep over my support of “anti-social and unnatural behaviour”, after I informed them that I was going to the Pride Parade) and I, once went to a new year’s family gathering where my parents were rejoicing among other like-minded relatives. The wine was flowing as my usually decorous aunts and uncles started dancing to the music. They were thoroughly enjoying themselves, each member throwing in suggestions for the songs to be played. My mother suggested Elton John. As the song played they knew every word and were noticeably enjoying themselves. This got me wondering about how my homophobic mother was such a fan of Elton John in spite of his very visible ‘gayness’. Singers like Elton John and Boy George were gay icons who publicly experimented with make-up and clothing and created a culture of breaking traditional gender norms. They were fabulous in their over-the-top costumes and were unapologetically themselves, Elton John even had an incredibly public coming out and marriage. But in spite of all this, many conservatives still love and admire him and his music.
On another occasion I was talking to a friend (to whom I haven’t come out yet for reasons that will be apparent) about homosexuality and she proceeded to compare gay people to rapists. She loves music so I thought I should play a little game. I compiled a playlist of all the songs I could find that were by queer artists and gave it to my friend. She loved all the songs, from ‘HIM’ by Sam Smith to ‘Girls like Girls’ by Hayley Kiyoko. One day she excitedly told me about how she recently read an article on Facebook titled "10 celebrities you probably didn’t know were Gay" and found out that Sam Smith was gay. I then proceeded to tell her about how all the songs that she liked are by queer artists. I was rejoicing in my evil genius, waiting for her to throw her phone to the ground and claw her ears and eyes out in true Sophoclean glory. To my utter disappointment, no such thing happened. Instead, she reacted with a shrug of her shoulder and moved on.
Having failed to impose my ‘gay agenda’ on my friend, I was dejected, but also realised the true power of celebrity and how a fan deconstructs and reconstructs the image and identity of a particular celebrity to fit their socio-political beliefs. They construct an ideal image of what they want that celebrity to be, by eliminating all aspects of their personality that clashes with their personal beliefs and by glorifying that part of the celebrity’s personality that is in sync with their belief system. Saturday Night Live brilliantly captured this in a skit titled “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black.” It shows how white people don’t view Beyoncé as black because they have a stereotype of what a black person should be like in their minds and since Beyoncé’s elegance and grace does not fit into that bill they just negate that part of her identity. Similarly, people also tend to negate the ‘gayness’ of queer celebrities like Ellen and Sam Smith.
Later, when I was talking to that friend again, I noticed that although she was listening to the same artists, her favourite songs had shifted from those that were explicitly gay (like Sam Smith’s HIM which uses the male pronoun) to those that didn’t make any direct reference to the artist’s sexuality (songs that used the gender neutral ‘you’ instead of a gendered pronoun). This shift was clearly subconscious and she did not even notice the difference but it did help me understand how my homophobic parents and friend could reconcile their love of queer artists. But that does not mean that LGBTQ+ celebrities don’t contribute to changing people’s opinions at all. When they are explicitly gay in their art, it is harder for homophobic people to reconcile their love for the artist, thereby challenging their belief system. Apart from that, these celebrities act as a role model to young LGBTQ+ children and help in alleviating some of their confusion and internal struggle. They also play an important role in normalising young queer people to non-queer children and since their homophobic parents don’t view these celebrities as queer, they allow their children to watch Ellen and go to Sam Smith concerts. Therefore, coming to the conclusion, that I did successfully impose my ‘gay agenda’ on my friend after all.
Hi there kweens, teens and everyone in-betweens,
If you’re an aspiring drag artist, I assume you’ve already reached that place where you want to do more than just consume the art. You’ve watched lip-sync videos on repeat, gagged over stunning costumes and chosen your favourite drag icons. You’ve found real friends equally obsessed with drag… or just a corner of the internet and some virtual ones. And now you’re thinking to yourself, ‘dammit I could do this, I’d be fieeerce!’
Lately, I’ve been approached by a few of you, on social media, and in person, with the question ‘I also want to do drag. How do I begin?!’. So today, I thought I’d respond to that, and give you all little rhinestones of wisdom plucked straight from the craft-bag of my own experience. Be warned, these might not be the glamorous answer you were looking for. But even though my stones aren’t real diamonds, they sparkle more brightly.
1. Just begin – don’t overthink the problems
The important thing is to take that first step. Don’t worry about the problems. Have fun. The first time I did drag, I wasn’t worrying about the difficulties, but just feeling it. I did it for myself. I had a sudden urge to lip-sync to ‘Gods and monsters’ by Jessica Lange – so I dug out this ratty wig from the previous year’s Pride, donned a colourful bed-sheet and lit a cigarette. It felt so good. Every evening after that, for a week, I would just hang out with myself in that poor wig, listening to music and lip-syncing for myself. I wasn’t worrying about how I was looking, but rather how I was feeling.
There are two important points here. First, that bed-sheet night was a start, which meant I overcame my own misgivings. Second, a start is followed by continuity. I continued to fool around because I valued it. So start somewhere, be it just for fun with friends, or to click funny selfies…and recognise it as a start. Meaning don’t stop there. Keep focusing on the positive feeling and shut that negative voice in your head.
2. Experiment- even if you don’t know what you’re doing
When a painter first begins to paint, she most likely won’t create a masterpiece. She’ll start with an idea of what she wants to create, put some paints together on a paper and hopes for the best. If it’s a house she is going for, it might end up looking like a child’s drawing. Still, from that experiment, she will learn what went wrong, what paints suit her canvas and how to straighten her lines.
It’s the same with drag. You have to be prepared to keep trying different techniques with makeup, different outfits; even different styles of entertainment, be it lip-syncing, dancing or whatever. Only by experimenting will you develop your drag persona. And what’s more, it’s fun!
3. Resourcefulness – use what you have
Many of you complained that you don’t have the space to do drag, as you live with family or in shared housing. Some of you were worried about being caught or found out by parents or flatmates. Money and resources were by far the most common problem.
Now, those are the foundational problems, and mean that you’re already half a drag-artist. Herstory is full of stories of drag queens who skipped meals to buy a feather boa so they could prance down the runway at the ballroom. No one’s telling you to starve of course, but you have to make it work. I know 16 year olds who save up to buy one eye-shadow palette and one foundation stick, then lock themselves in their washroom for a few hours and paint their faces. Others wait till their parents go to sleep, and stay up all night just to practice a look and put it on Instagram. When I would visit my parents’ home for the summer, I would sneak my mum’s old shoes and tops from the box she would keep for charity. As a struggling artist who couldn’t afford much, I was the charity!
You’ll just have to be smart, like a mouse. Grab what you can, find your little corner and practice.
Warning: Never, repeat, never use lead-based paints, or cheap makeup. Regular home-brands which your mother or sister or aunt use are a good starting point, and quite inexpensive. Borrow, if you have to.
4. Throw yourself into a learning curve
By this, I mean that you don’t have to do it all on your own. Reach out to artists around you. Check out the tons of online content including tutorials and guidelines from makeup to costuming. More interestingly, there are useful online competitions you could participate in. The prize is often nothing more than your name featured on the page surrounded by illustrated fireworks, but the real prize is the invaluable lessons you get to learn. The artists hosting these competitions have paved the way through grit and hard work, and can guide you well. I learnt a lot from queens who had been doing drag for only one year simply by participating in an online competition and getting valuable feedback that helped me to grow.
As you can see, you don’t need a private boudoir, the most expensive makeup or a childhood full of theatre and ballet classes to be a drag-artist! What you really need is a spoonful of grit, ample amounts of imagination and the drive to push through. The rest will follow. At the end of the day, even if you’re rich with lots of space and resources (congratulations, and call me please), you’ll still need these basic ingredients.
Drag is about reaching in, grabbing your most adventurous self and wearing it on your skin. The feeling of standing there, dressed head to toe in only your own imagination, is indescribable. It makes the struggle worth it.
So, just start somewhere, play around freely, use what you have and keep learning. And I know you’ll slay !
Androgynous. Sounds like something Vogue made up, or a word that you pretended to know when a college student spoke about it while reading a book in a coffee shop. Here’s something: go a computer and go to Google. Type in ‘androgynous’ and pull up Google’s ever-efficient image search. Take a good, long look at the images represented. For some of us, including myself, androgyny represents an ideal, an ideal that we are forever in search of. A quick image search presents one with starting point, but are there things we don’t see represented? I don’t think it’s unfair to say that those images reflect the standard by which we understand androgyny, by which we as a culture accept someone as androgynous, rather than gendered. Who do you see? What do you see?
In search of brown faces like my own, what I find are white people. Skinny people. And a standard of androgyny that entirely depends upon a binary concept of gender. Although it might sound simplistic to say, androgyny on the internet can be explained by a simple mathematical equation. Take femininity in one hand, and masculinity in the other. Add femininity to masculinity and you get androgyny. Add masculinity to femininity and you get androgyny. Or, if you’re feeling particularly adventures, try subtracting both. The problem with this is that femininity within androgyny is like rain on a June afternoon in Delhi — almost unheard of. Anything more than a bit and… well, you’re not androgynous any more. And being a genderqueer person of color, I can speak personally to some of the hardships that otherwise go unnoticed for brown queer people within the genderqueer community.
This traces itself back to the Google search, and to how we, as a culture conceptualize gender presentation, or the lack thereof. The issue with so many clothing brands and humans alike is the automatic association of androgyny with some degree of perceived masculinity on feminine people. Google defines "androgynous" as "partly male and partly female in appearance; of indeterminate sex." Among other fashion labels, Zara recently launched its first ‘Gender Neutral’ clothing line. To a genderqueer person, this sounds like heaven. In reality, this could just be a reinforcement of patriarchal ideas and a replacement of old binaries (women in dresses or skirts and men in pants) with new binaries (androgyny equals ‘boyfriend jeans’). What we see are exclusively skinny, cis-passing bodies wearing loose clothing. But what about women whose bodies don’t comfortably nestle into men’s blazers? What about transfeminine people? Where are the dresses and the bright colors for them? Why are androgynous clothes all grey? What about people with breasts, love handles and thick thighs who don’t want to be misgendered? This challenge continues in my traditional Indian household, where wearing a sari is coded feminine, where a bandhgala or kurta is coded masculine, and I struggle to find an in-between. Will the stores ever sell clothes I can wear to the Mandir or for my cousin’s wedding that align with my gender?
Of course, it could be said that clothing isn’t gendered at all—what makes a dress ‘feminine’? What makes a grey, loose sweater ‘masculine’? And what, then, makes us believe that the grey, loose sweater is more ‘androgynous’ than the dress? While I’m all for the concept of truly de-gendering clothing, this doesn’t seem like a viable solution. Realistically, we live in a gendered world where passing as cisgender is likely to prevent you from being attacked on the street or ridiculed in public. The survival and comfort of Trans and gender nonconforming people is a priority, as it always should be. Another issue is cost, and genderqueer people often need to be able to pay tailors to modify clothes — and since Trans people are as a demographic substantially less wealthy than the average cis person, that's an expense that they frequently just can't afford. And, of course, when I enter my traditional Indian house, I have no choice but to either perform femininity or receive nothing but backlash.
Bottom line: It is clear that gender neutral clothing lines and stores are crucial for the queer community for a number of reasons. But they need to be done right in order to affect any real change in how we perceive gender and how we treat trans people both in fashion and in public. We need real representation, representation that I can see while I scroll through my phone under the blankets while my parents are asleep and the dysphoria hits. We need feminine clothing that fits masculine bodies and masculine clothing that fits feminine bodies. We need to abolish the stigma of femininity and trans-ness. And, most importantly, we need to help gender nonconforming people feel safe in their homes, in clothing stores, and in their own skin.
Personally, I’ve found myself in an ironic catch-22 situation where I have to adhere to gendered looks and standards in the pursuit of attempting to be genderless. Where I demean and shun my fatness for what it adds to my already perceived ‘femaleness’. And, where all I have is an overwhelming amount of white individuals to look up to as ideals of androgyny and this only discourages from thinking that I can even attain a state by which I am accepted as genderless in this culture. My Google search’s idea of androgyny may be a cis woman with short hair and loose-fitting corduroy pants. And if that's how you're comfortable identifying, all the power to you! But when concerning gender neutral lines, we cannot ignore the fact that the prime audience should be non-binary and Trans individuals, individuals of all sizes and backgrounds, and individuals who should not have to break the bank to wear clothes that help them feel more like themselves.
I AM A PARTY GIRL.
I love my alcohol and I love to let my hair down and let my body surrender to club bangers. Being a trans babe, I use the M.A.D. pill (Music, Alcohol, and Dance) as a quick fix to my dysphoria. It allows me to access my femininity and feel comfortable in my skin. Earlier, I would shut myself in the bedroom and dance in front of the mirror. I grew resilient with time, seeking inspiration from indomitable cis and trans women and the drag and gender non-conforming community, be it my grandma who, at 86, never skips her Zumba sessions or Nicki Minaj and her patriarchy-can-kiss-my-ass twerking. Be it the awe-inspiring acrobatics of the ‘my-body-my-choice’ black and Latina strippers or the fierce drag queens from the RuPaul universe and their go-hard-or-go-home lip-syncs-for-your-lives. I eventually opened up to the idea of dancing in public spaces, no longer shying away from swaying my hips or shaking that ass when I hit the dance floor!
I realized expressing oneself freely in the public sphere whether through dance or any other medium for that matter, can be a complicated for gender and sexual minorities. The public sphere in India continues to be dominated by cis and heterosexual men. Their toxic and predatory masculine gaze threatens to control, scrutinize, sexualize, objectify, stereotype, mock, prohibit, and destroy us and our desires. It pervades in most of the existing institutions – religious, academic, political, or corporate. Even recreational spaces like bars and clubs are no different, be it the shady inexpensive pub you’ve always been warned of or the high-end talk-of-the-town nightlife spot you’ve saved up your hard-earned money for.
I was subjected to discrimination and witnessed exploitation first hand when I visited Café Mambo, part of Tito’s chain of popular nightlife spots located by the beachside in Goa. My friend-cum-colleague and I were in town for three days and we decided to explore Goa’s nightlife. Before going the club, we had stopped at a shack where I was pleasantly surprised to find our server recognizing my gender identity without me having to spell it out. My joy was short-lived on reaching Café Mambo though; the security guards at the club seemed confounded by my appearance and referred to me as ‘sir’ throughout the pat down.
Anyway, when we entered the darkened but crowded room, we noticed more women in the crowd compared to men and felt somewhat relieved. However, within ten minutes itself, my companion began feeling uncomfortable by a row of men standing in one corner who seemed to be ogling at the womenfolk. To avoid a confrontation, we rationalized, ‘At least they are not getting physical’, and chose to ignore them.
In the center of the dance floor, there was a narrow podium with a pole which caught my attention. Three to four women were cavorting around it, and they were surrounded by (guess what!) a bunch of evidently thirsty men with lust on their countenance. I’ve always longed to dance on the pole, finding it a mysterious and inviting space that tantalizes my inner femininity like no other. So I edged towards the podium once, twice, thrice... my desire intensifying each time. Each time I would get cold feet thinking how the cis-heterosexual males in that space would react to my presence among the cis-women. So I decided to cheer from the sidelines. My fourth time near the podium, however, one of the girls invited me to join them. That’s it! The M.A.D pill took complete effect and I immediately climbed onstage throwing caution to the wind.
THIS PARTY GIRL WAS ON FIRE.
And then, suddenly, a bouncer rushed to the podium and signaled me to immediately get off stage. ‘No this is MY time’, I argued. He didn’t budge, an extended one hand to pull me down - just me, not the cis-girls. I finally chose to get off before the man could touch me, feeling humiliated by the experience. Both my friend and I stormed out of the club and approached the management. Their response was brief and cutting, ‘Even other men were not permitted’. The M.A.D pill’s effect wore off instantly and my dysphoria kicked in big time.
The club had invalidated my femininity because it did not conform to cis-heteronormative and patriarchal expectations. Worst of all, I WAS CONSIDERED THE THREAT. Not the men who leched after women and made them uncomfortable, who had no real appreciation for femininity and treated woman as mere sex objects. They faced little to no repercussions. The management just couldn’t risk that. After all, it’s a man’s world and its toxic predatory masculine gaze has to control, scrutinize, sexualize, objectify, stereotype, mock, prohibit, and destroy us and our desires.
This incident has fomented the activist and the fighter in me, not just for the trans community, but also for ALL gender and sexual minorities. We need to call out the hypocrisies that exist in our society, particularly within so-called ‘elite’ and ‘urban’ spaces like Café Mambo. Even if it means missing out on ‘one of the best nights of your life’ or avoiding the freebies of ladies’ night.
THIS PARTY GIRL WILL NEVER DANCE TO CIS-HETERONORMATIVITY AND PATRIARCHY.
AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU.
The post Party Girl Problems: Between Patriarchy And The Pole appeared first on Gaysi.
I faced a terrible situation two years back with a relative of mine which left me numb and made me cocoon myself. Which in turn made me lose my friends; it is quite a possibility to lose friends when you form these walls around you. Of course, there are good days in life too. I thought I have someone who will support me and it gave me all the courage to come out to my mother. I didn’t have to come out to my sister - she stereotyped me as one the gays who like shopping. My sister and I were shopping, she just turns to me and says- I am so happy you're not straight. I was taken aback, baffled, bit cynical, and felt a bit invaded too.
However, this is about what transpired when I came out to my mother dearest. My mother’s sister and my cousins were visiting us back in December of 2017. There were talks about me getting married. The mornings of Mumbai winters aren't particularly chilly but that day I felt chills run down my body and it sort of made me shiver but then again. I have this hand tremor thing, where my hands usually tremble if sugar level goes down. I think it was the nervousness that made me shiver a bit. My mother and I were the only people who woke up early that morning of the 11th of December. Mother was doing some chores and asked me, "Your aunt and cousins are asking about your marriage, what do you wish to do? Should I start looking out for proposals for suitable brides? If you have someone in your mind let me know".
I was wide-eyed since I had decided today is the day I come out and she started asking me these questions. I had a toothbrush in my mouth. I gargled like crazy for 10 minutes or more than that. I raise my hand and show her that I am gargling and cannot speak. She rolls her eyes and says she doesn't know where all my manners went. I breathe in, texted one of my favourite individuals- someone I adore with hug emoticons- a self-comforting thought to imagine hugging him. I start telling my mother how I am different, how I am not like the others, how I could never like girls. I go on jadedly. I don't remember half of the conversation to be honest. I was mumbling. She asks me whether I have had sex with a man. I denied (spoke the truth sort of) and re-virginised myself, especially because I haven't had sex in a year and seven months. She says you're not gay if you haven't had sex with a man. I tell her to take your time mother but it is the truth. She was taken aback and was in denial.
There was a big drama but since our voices were hardly audible, it could have very well been a drama for dust specks floating about that I was observing in the winter sunlight. I still felt a chill and I shuddered. She went on and on telling me how I will never find anyone, how I would never be loved, I would despise myself, I would be staying alone my whole life, nobody would love me like my family does, nobody would ever be there for me, I will end up alone and miserable and I will think to myself when I am old and alone, I should have listened to Mamma and married someone.
I don’t care about the family. All I could do is wonder whether mothers curse their children. She went further and told me just because I get attention from people or someone of similar sex doesn’t make me gay. Whoever is giving me attention is just playing with my mind, I thought if playing with my mind meant making me feel good about myself rather than making me feel like some waste of a human being, I was ok with that someone playing with my mind. In that moment of our heated but soft arguments, I thought of my then romantic beau again, how nicely he speaks to me, even if I do make any mistakes. Never did he say I would end up alone. She asked me to stop talking to boys altogether and distance myself from boys because people are changing me. I told her I have someone and I will talk to him.
I was saddened and numbed at my heart, but I was just waiting when I could get ready and leave for work and call my romantic involvement (still one of my favourite humans) and tell him whatever happened. Well even if we were romantically involved, I thought more of him as someone who will care for me and will be there to support me. And that’s exactly what he still does- care for me. It was because of him I felt so strong and liberated. I felt I could do something. When I told him mother asked me not to talk to boys, he texted- ‘Tell her you have me, and you WILL talk to me!’ I was so taken aback because those were my words. I sent a quick selfie. He texts back ‘Someone is glowing’. Beau and I talked and somehow the focus of our conversation shifted to Love Jihad. He then asked me what will happen if my mother knows about his religion. It will be Love Jihad of a whole different kind. I laughed heartily I recall. I thank him again and again, and I know it’s all because of him but he says it’s all my strength, whereas he is the one to endow that strength on me.
Your family may or may not accept you the way you are. After 7 months of my coming out to my mother on 28th of June, I was getting ready for work and complaining about how I don’t have enough clothes to make me look good. Mother says what will you do by looking good, for whom do you wish to look more ‘good’. I joked and said, my boyfriend. After a moment of silence, mother starts speaking, “See whoever you’re seeing bring him home, let me meet him. Nowadays everything is legal in most countries, I will get you married. People will ask questions, I will tell them he is my son and times are changing. The vanity in which you said my boyfriend in contrasting humbleness I am telling you to bring your boy home, start a family, we could get surrogacy done too. Karan Johar and Tushar Kapoor are fathers. Times are changing and I have streaks of modernity too.”
I had thought having support meant someone I could run to and take a refuge at their place but it didn’t happen to me. I don’t have a place to take refuge at when mother decided not to pack my tiffin for 3 days. I didn’t have someone to be there with me and eat with me. I would eat alone. Yes, I talked on the phone and took pictures of my food and shared it with beau, yet I felt alone. I felt terribly unloved, I felt miserable, I felt bad, I felt terrible about surviving in the overall situation. Though it’s been some time since I came out and things have changed- beau is no longer my beau (still remains a friend), things at home still seem unsettled, mother used to ask me persistently to marry a girl (showed me pictures), I was left alone to the mercy of my own thoughts feeling helpless. Because no matter how many phone calls you make or texts you send, at times you need your friend to be there with you physically. You read a text that says - I am here for you. You don't wish to be rude but you wish to say 'You're not here or wherever here is', instead you type I know you're here. That's the only emotional security that you have for now to rely on and you learn to cherish it.
Coming out does free you from an unknown weight that is weighing down on your conscience. You will know if your parents do really care or not, or it’s just a facade that would be easily washed if you are not what they want you to be. I don’t know if this is a coming out experience or a cautionary tale about how to keep your friend(s) closer. What remains is a fact that coming out is liberating but it can be lonely if you are dealing with the situation at hand and you want to run somewhere to someone or anywhere to anyone.
I have few friends, two to be precise. One of them isn’t in the same city as mine, another I didn’t know whether I could rely on her (now I know I can). But I am grateful for my friends who stuck around with me even though I come with a lot of emotional drama. While coming out is important, you also need financial independence and at the same time, you need to have a friend or group of friends that could support you when your family doesn't support you.
"So, tell me about yourself" - and our thoughts have successfully frozen and refuse to create words that make any sense. And that's precisely what ails Nadiya this monsoon, in their journey of writing that ever evading 'perfect bio'. Do bios make the person or does the person make the bio?