Taking Pride In Who I'm
It’s June, and it’s a beautiful month. Summer has passed, and the rain gods shower upon us on the western coast of India. But the most significant event of this month is something else. It’s Pride month. Countries all over are painting their towns rainbow, celebrating one-ness and unity, and people taking pride in who they are. I am blessed to live in a time when I am no longer considered a criminal in the eyes of the law for being myself. I am blessed to have people in my life who love and accept me for who I am. Until now, my life has been a beautiful tale of stories, but it hasn’t always been like that.
I realised I was Gay at a very young age - maybe four or five. At that time, I didn’t know the word gay, but all I knew was that I liked men and the uncle next door was handsome.
When I was in school and hit puberty, there was no room for me to hide my sexuality. I was expressive and being myself. But being surrounded by people whose brain developed into the size of a peanut, thought that male-to-male relationships are never possible. I was named called and humiliated by my peers and teachers. A space that I considered safe was made unsafe for me by my ‘own’ people.
To give a little insight, a peer of mine once jokingly passed a comment that my mother must be feeding me chickens that were injected with oestrogen because I was not man enough or never acted macho like the guys of my age.
I was in grade nine. Our English syllabus had a story on Mirabai and her love for Lord Krishna. Our class, divided into two groups, had to enact the drama for the rest of the folks. I volunteered to do the role of Mirabai’s Dasi and draped a beautiful white saree with a green border for the part. I delivered my dialogues without stuttering, and the play was a success. A few weeks later, I pondered upon my picture taken during the drama, collaged with a transgender person and posted on our school’s confession page. The caption read, “there is no difference between the two.” The comments section flooded with praises for the anonymous person who posted the image and demeaning & discriminatory comments against me. And I was thirteen years old.
My father once sarcastically passed a comment. He said that I was effeminate because I was born on the ninth day of the month and ‘9’ is a derogatory slang used to describe a male-to-female transgender person in Tamil. Maybe it was unintentional, or he never meant to hurt me. But for a nine-year-old boy, who felt lonely most of the time because his peers didn’t consider him to be one among them, this comment was hurtful as it came from his father.
All of these incidents shattered me. There were broken pieces all over that my hands started bleeding as I tried to pick them up. But then again, there were other beautiful, considerate and loving people in my life who told me that they were proud of who I was. That they embraced me just the way I was and that I should too. That’s when I decided to wipe the tears off my cheeks and take control of who I wanted to be. With every step I took, I ensured that I was unapologetically myself. I needed to take care of myself because there were no shoulders to cry on but my own. There were no confidants to talk to but myself. And, there was no space safer for me but myself.
And now, years later, as I groomed myself to be a better person with every passing day, there is no day that I am not proud of who I am or who I have become. Hardships in life teach valuable lessons, and it’s important to inculcate those learnings into practice and strive to be sensitive to people and their emotions.
That said, Happy Pride Month to everyone who is celebrating it. Be proud of who you are and be the fabulous person you are. There is no one out there who is just like you.