Do you follow some rules for Casual relationships?

Living alone in a city, is never really easy. One is always looking for that one person to talk to, maybe sleep with, or just cuddle with. And being a women, it just becomes all the more tough. It is like people already  a moral code around have how to live alone in a city.

I was born on October 2nd. Woah! What a great day to step into this beautiful world!

Birthday of the Father of our Nation and I got holidays on my birthday during my schooling and even when I started working- Privileges of being born on a public holiday.

And  now , tell me how someone can forget this date and do not wish me on my birthday- any excuses.? Ohh maybe you are not good at remembering dates – but I am not very convinced with that – in this world of social media- you can never forget an important date.

So here goes the conclusion: That simply shows your place in his/her life.

This year, on my birthday, as usual  I got my public holiday off from work but still  I was feeling sad. A guy that I have been sleeping with, had not wished me and in the afternoon I was simply laying on my bed ignoring every other calls and wishes.

I felt so stupid.

I don’t want any commitments. honestly!

But I see a birthday wish as a sign of respect . I would like to be acknowledged on my birthday especially when I have very few people to show up with love. And about love, Yeah.. a birthday wish is a fair amount of love to carry all over the year. I choose to have sex with him because sex is phenomenal. And before him I was not very much aware of the ecstatic feelings our bodies can give us. And when we are together we are actually genuinely laugh and have pretty good conversations and he is one of the nicest human I have ever came in contact with.

I act like I don’t care about not receiving a well wish from him .
Like Damn. I thought at least we were friends—but I guess I am not even a ‘Friend’
But  wait.. Am I being over dramatic?

 

He may had no idea that him not wishing me birthday would become a matter of life and death for me. We are not exactly in an ideal relationship and as far as I know, he is really really bad with dates . If he can nearly miss his international flight due to his forgetfulness, this is nothing.

So here I implemented a key aspect : Stop Counting.

I wanted to hear from him but he did not call or text and in this I forgot the people who took their time out to wish me. I should appreciate the friends and family who wished and forget this specific guy I wanted to hear from.

When I say forget, It’s just about forgetting this incident- not forgetting him.

Living alone in this big city, I have very few people to rely on and he is one.

He is the solace , we are having great sex, he makes me laugh- and moreover, no strings of attachment so far.

It’s great,Isn’t it ?

It is!

So stop counting and start living.

 

Why did my termination of pregnancy have to be this painful?

Hello. I just wanted to share the story of the most traumatic event of my life in the beginning of 2017. I feel like other people could benefit from this and not make the mistakes I made. So, I was just beginning to be sexually active and ended up having unprotected sex on multiple occasions because I wasn’t aware of the absolute necessity of condoms.

However, on the times that there was ejaculation in me, I took an emergency contraceptive pill, thus thinking I had successfully avoided at least pregnancy.

 

However around New year’s I started feeling a dull pain around my abdomen and the area between my vagina and anus (perineum) but ignored it for about a week. A friend advised me to test myself for pregnancy and I tested positive. I was aware or hopeful that an abortion is a relatively easy procedure, so I went to a gynaecologist to get it. It was fortunate that the gynaecologist was an experienced, non judgemental personAnd she asked me to get an ultrasound and a HcG done. I paid her one thousand rupees but in retrospect I’m thankful I spent that money instead of procuring abortion pills from somewhere as I had also considered at a point. Anyway I got a total of four different tests for HCG done, in three different places. And only the third time, at a super speciality hospital were they able to fully confirm that it was an ectopic pregnancy.

I was 18 and had no way I could tell my parents about it. I used up all the money (around 20k) getting various tests and ultrasounds done and due to the incompetence of the earlier two clinics and the pricey third hospital.

The last hospital  wanted to admit me asap as an ectopic pregnancy at the stage I was in (6-8 weeks) could be life threatening. However I didn’t have the money that they were demanding, and there was no way I could ask for it, without telling my parents, and that proved to be the hardest part. Finally in a very difficult call I told my  father about it and he asked me to come home and said that he would get me admitted in AIIMS. He sounded calm, maybe because he was at work. I went home and my parents had a difficult time wrapping their head around what my diagnoses was, the fetus had attached itself in my right fallopian tube and because of the pressure the tube has burst and I had severe bleeding in my uterus. After the internal ultrasounds were done, it would be difficult for me to walk even.

My mother delayed taking me to the hospital because she wanted me to suffer and once I came back home my father’s calmness went away and he just became apathetic.

They didn’t take me to a hospital for another two days in which my friends kept persuading them, and finally when the pain because too unbearable, my mother took me to another hospital, where I waited for several hours as there were I think very few beds/ very few doctors. There was a lady waiting with me whose child had stopped moving and was probably dead, at the end of her third trimester, but her husband and mother in law were extremely casual and apathetic about it. Of course, the milieu was traumatic and added to my overall mental state, and at various points I kept thinking about killing myself, but it was heightened the most that day. Ultimately that hospital did not have the infrastructure to deal with a case like mine so they sent me to big hospital There I was admitted in the emergency ward. The hospital treated me with very little empathy and my mental state was severely deteriorating, but at least they were quick and efficient unlike the other private clinics. They decided to operate on me, to perform a selpingectomy via a laproscopy. It was done on the 20th of January.

The medical emergency/problem was taken care of, but the lasting impact it had on my mental state hasn’t been taken care of till now.

My parents still remember that and are cold towards me, not understanding the excruciating pain I had to suffer through all this. My mother once blamed my ‘character’ for my sister getting home late and tried to stab me in the stomach and I injured my hand trying to defend myself. There was blood everywhere. Even after the surgery, I have what are probably adhesions that are quite painful on some days.

For a very long time, I didnt want to go to college or anywhere at all, even now I have terrible anxiety and I have fucked up my graduation because I wasn’t ablet to concentrate on my studies at all..

And the lack of support from my parents didn’t help. I have become a different person now, sometimes I remember how alone I felt going from clinic to clinic trying to know what was wrong with me, and just not having the energy to do anything but still having to go out to put an end to the pain. I didn’t know how dangerous an ectopic pregnancy could be, and I have realised that there is very little awareness generally amongst people still.This is cathartic for me, and even after close to two years of the incident, even though my mental health has started to improve, I feel phantom pains in my abdomen and am terrified of anything going wrong with my reproductive parts, even something as simple as a UTI sent me into the same spiral of depression. I break down very often in frustration, I recently had a yeast infection and it immobilized me, especially because I feel afraid to discuss these problems with my mother, even though our relationship too has improved. I cannot stand the thought of needles and I’m afraid of blood from my vagina.Of course I understand that an ectopic pregnancy is just a medical condition.

However the way I was treated and because of lack of support of any kind, as well as the desperation and pain I had to be in in the days when I going clinic to clinic have probably traumatized me forever. Added to that was the hopelessness, I didn’t know what to do at all, and until my friends intervened with my parents, I didnt know if I could even survive.

Thank you for reading this. I’m much better now, though the slightest of problems sets me on the same path. Abortion and pregnancy termination of any kind shouldn’t be this traumatic, and I really hope people like you ( Hidden Pockets) will be able to bring about a change (:

 

Editor’s note : We are extremely grateful to this person who shared her story with us and wanted to ensure that nobody should feel lonely and should go through what she went through alone.

We want to again emphasise the fact that Hidden Pockets is just a WhatsApp away : 08861713567. Trust Hidden Pockets. We Care.

Ex-orcism?- How Did I Finally Leave a Miserable Love Life?

We answer your doubts around sexual and reproductive health.

WhatsApp us at : 8861713567

Yes it is about an exorcism ! It’s about how I chased a demon out of my life.

I met this amazing man in Goa. Handsome, educated, from an affluent family and I fell on my knees the very first time I met him and soon he asked me out. Eventually we became the most celebrated couple in our circle. Things were all well and good for the first 7 months and then boom, we decided to take it to the next level,

We both Virgins; decided to have sex one fine morning.

Stress was circling around us but we did it… YES- we did it and miserably failed – anxiety and fear over ruled our hormones. But we never quit, tried over and over again, and we did it.

Wow the feelings.

Pain and pleasure of passion, mourns and murmurs.

I touched him, kissed him and circled around him like he is the sacred gift sent from up. I spent every breathing moment consumed by his presence around me.

But then things started changing, our happiness started fading each day.

He wanted more.

But what more? I was confused! I was giving my all- Love , Sex, Money and what not.?

Doing his laundry , his assignments, work excels and everything I can. And I believed it’s the duty of a good girlfriend. Still I was lacking something.

He replied to my Love texts in a rough way saying “it’s your problem that you love me so much, did I ask you.?” And he started comparing me with his endless list of ex girlfriends. I was heartbroken but still did all my so called duties.

Our days were filled with arguments and I sobbed all nights wondering where I went wrong. Our changes were noticeable and my near and dear ones started questioning my dark circles.

I was unable to listen to those who watched me struggle and spent 3 years doing everything I could to try to force a man to love me, and in the process I forgot how to love myself.

For 3 years I chased. I begged. I cried. Nothing seemed to work. He would come around when he wanted sex but would push me away when he got his fix. It was a never ending cycle of depression and humiliation.

I became insomniac- Never touched my pen to write my heart out, never said a word to my parents.

The sex once we enjoyed become a nightmare for me. He was so addicted to porn and wanted to experiment everything he saw on the screen- I pray to almighty that he should climax soon- I wasn’t able to take the tight slaps anymore and he wasn’t ready to stop it as my tears is what helped him to reach an orgasm- He wanted me to tell endless imaginary stories about how I made out with my boss, brother, his friends etc in order to get pleasure .

Still, I couldn’t stop loving him. I was afraid that if I did he would forget me. For 3 years I lived in fear of losing someone I deeply loved but never really had in the first place.

I slaughtered my dignity with my crazy behaviour, and I still couldn’t understand why he would treat me with such little care. But how could he not? I treated myself with so little love and respect, why would he treat me any different?

I tried to kill myself, tried to run away from the place – My friends were there to save me.

And slowly, I was able to move on. Then months later he told me he loved me. He wanted a second chance, he wanted to be a better man- he wanted me back.

But I already read the book- I knew how the story ends!

I chased a man who never really loved me because I was emotionally sick.

I think the hardest part of this three-year ordeal was accepting that my perspective of reality was just a fantasy I had created in my mind. It was hard to come to terms with the reality that he is less than perfect.

Part of me hates myself for holding on for so long. I could have saved myself years of heartache and gallons of tears if I had just accepted that I couldn’t make him love me. Instead, I spent years questioning over and over why he couldn’t.

Loving someone who doesn’t love us back, or even worse, someone who loves someone else, is the most painful thing in the world. But the most important thing we can do for ourselves is accept that certain things are beyond our control and take responsibility for the things that are.

We need to listen to that inner voice that tells us we deserve to be loved. And we need to accept that some people will never love us, no matter what we do.

 

Writer :

Aadhira : Just a small town girl trapped in a big town. Amature at everything. I live for the moments you can’t put into words, and few things transcend a cup of coffee and someone to share it with.
Hotelier by profession. Still living the quarter life crisis.

 

 

Why every Indian man should watch (Stree) movie?

 

It is a rarity that we have feminist and sexist jokes in the same movie and everybody in the hall is laughing at it, with the same intensity. Stree is a movie made on a village that can be anywhere in india, using the language which is very familiar and colloquial to the big part of the country, and is trying to be feminist without using a single jargon of it. and that is what makes this movie such a winner. 

a) O Stree kal Aana

A beautiful writing on every wall written with red colour. 

This seems like a perfect joke in a country where women fear to walk in the streets. But this movie is about to turn this joke and make the other half, the men; fear for their lives for the next 2 hours.

A movie which talks about fears of men and yet slightly and very innocently talks about all the atrocities done on women in the name of righteousness. It is not just men who fear her, but even women of the village who fear that she will pick their men. 

A very simple plot; where every year, for 4 days a ghost comes to the village and takes away the men of the village. And men are willing to wear sarees and bangles just to ensure that the ghost does not pick them. The gender roles are happily reversed just to protect themselves.

 

b) O Stree aana. 

Even though the hero keeps thinking he is meant for higher calling, he is aware of the fact that he is an excellent tailor and is really good at making women’s clothes. His work becomes even though important when they realises his work is equated to art in the secret to destroying the ghost. 

The men are not so masculine, they are kind and willing to be part of women’s lives as long as they are happy. 

There are instances in the movie, where the male protagonists themselves justify the act of the ghost and feel that the village needs to pay for their sins. As a prostitute the ghost had made everyone happy and when she decided to stay with her lover, they killed them. How unfair? and men in the movie feel for the prostate/ghost.

And this point is repeated throughout the movie, that people of the village are the ones to be blamed for their attitude towards women.

c) O stree who can read and is intelligent.

There is a strong emphasis on strong women, even though most of these women were either dead or were ghost. 

As they say the ghost ( who is the ghost of a prostitute who used  to live in the village) is somebody who is well read cos she can read the writing on the wall, very patient as she patiently comes back the next day.

The only person who could save the village had to be a son of a tawaif ( courtesan) ( or tawaif zada). and this scene is dealt so gracefully. Even though the hero breaks down on realising his mother was a courtesan, he comes to term the next day and goes back and defends his mother and her profession. 

There are two things that the ghost needs, love and respect. Something that the hero realises and utters in the end of the movie, to convince his friends that they need to better prepared to face her and indeed have to give her what she rightly deserves. 

Even when the dance number happens, there are body guards who ensure that she is treated well, and she finishes on time. When the call girl comes to entertain one of the guys, nobody misbehaves with her. 

d) Yes Means Yes

A beautiful point justified and reiterated through the movie, by the act of a ghost. How does a man resist the stree? Simple. Just don’t look back. She will come and try to lure you and all you have to do is to resist her. She will ask you consensually to join her. 

Her kidnapping style is odd and simple, as rightly pointed, she asks consent first, calls you three times and only when the man turns around, she attacks them. 

How very different from the style of men, who generally just kidnap the women and there is never consent or for that matter any requesting. 

She could not kill the hero as he had love in is eyes but somehow the other men did not have that, and she easily dragged them with her. 

All the ghost sought was for some love and respect. 

 

E) Stree is a satire on what Indian women feel on a daily basis and how could men actually make this situation a bit better. 

The only fact that I could laugh throughout the movie was that this only happens in movies. I knew no where people to be precise men were scared of being kidnapped or taken away, this is indeed cinema, but for women in my country ( India) this was a reality. and even though it was sheer for 2 hours, I was glad the other sex or the second sex ( men) would be forced to live it through a cinema. 

In the end the hero urges not to kill the ghost as he claims that he is different and he does not want to be like of the rest of the tribe who unjustly punished a women. He calls on a higher duty where he seeks his friends and village to be more courteous towards a woman who indeed took care of her. 

Images : from the internet.

 

 

 

Trans Vision set to transcend transgender discrimination using YouTube Videos

A key point in the National Law Services Authority versus the Union of India (2014) (popularly known as the NALSA judgement) was its definition of gender identity.

“Gender Identity refers to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of body which may involve a freely chosen, modification of body appearance or functions by medical, surgical or other means and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms. Gender identity, therefore, refers to an individual’s self- identification as a man, woman, transgender or other identified category.”

Two years later, The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 failed to protect this right to self-identification and instead, defines a transgender as follows: A transgender person means a person who is— (A) neither wholly female nor wholly male; or (B) a combination of female or male; or (C) neither female nor male; and whose sense of gender does not match with the gender assigned to that person at the time of birth, and includes trans-men and trans-women, persons with intersex variations and gender-queers.

It is in this backdrop that Rachana Mudraboyina, a transgender activist herself, founded Trans Vision, a YouTube channel that aims to correct misunderstandings about the Transgender community and make their needs and rights part of mainstream discourse. According to Rachana, judgements and rules can make a difference only when perceptions are challenged. As she jokes in this interview with Hidden Pockets, “It is only when perceptions are challenged that chemical reactions take place in the brain and there will be some change.”

Trans Vision is a Hyderabad-based channel that wants to counter perceptions about the Transgender community by putting accurate and scientific information online, beginning with: Who is a transgender?

Trans Vision and its journey

What has been the thinking behind creating a YouTube channel such as Trans Vision?

Every week, in Telangana and the Hyderabad region, we hear of at least 2-3 incidents of violence against transgender people- from assault to acid attacks. In the background of this, Swabhimana Sabha [Pride March] and the NALSA judgement, we formed a collective to try and address the issue. Most violence stems from discrimination and stigma and we believe that the best way to stop this is by removing misconceptions about the community. We wanted to cultivate a valid and healthy environment to discuss and remove these prejudices. When I surfed on the internet, I realised that there were so many misconceptions about the trans-community. A lot of them were in Hindi and spoke about how trans-people were born because of a hormonal imbalance in the parent’s biology, astrological reasons like being conceived on an inauspicious day and so on. These misconceptions were spread among millions of subscribers. We thought that if wrongful information can be uploaded and spread so easily, why not try to put things right using the same media. By creating dialogue and changing perceptions, maybe we could change the situation of crime and violence against the community.

Which are areas where you felt that discrimination is still rampant despite the progress made by society in terms of LGBTQ rights?

Discrimination in terms of the identity of a trans-person, in the education and employment sectors are three areas that hurts the community most. Even though we are citizens of India, many transgender people do not have ID cards recognising them in gender they identify with. Without a general name-change policy, the government eliminates and excludes them from various social schemes allowing for a livelihood, housing, etc. It is a big crisis. Many people talk about why so many of us are either involved in sex work or begging. They look at the end product without understanding the systemic failure that led us here. We have been systematically excluded from traditional education and employment systems and this is what the end product looks like. Employment is a third area of extreme discrimination. While policies like NALSA exist, unless the ground reality- the negative perception towards the trans-community changes, nothing will change on the ground. While policies try to help us get jobs or an education, stereotypes are thrust upon us. Where is the space for a trans-child in the image of a family? We have a continuing lack of gender information and gender sensitivity with only two visible genders whereas, it is universally accepted that gender is a spectrum that varies, and often, along with cultural identities. Unless these variations are brought out in dialogue, perceptions are not challenged. It is only when perceptions are challenged that chemical reactions take place in the brain and there will be some change.

What has the journey been like from the time the idea was initiated to today- when the first few videos have already been put up on the YouTube channel?

Initially, we though that we would do something using mobile cameras. But when we discussed it, Moses Tulasi, producer and director of the movie Walking the Walk suggested we create our own media and he would provide technical assistance. It took us about six months to get here. Right now, a few episodes in Telugu, Kannada and Urdu are on Youtube. The videos in Telugu have got good response.

When we began shooting, we realised that each episode costs about INR 11,000-12,000 including studio costs, travel, and equipment and to accommodate for the fact that each of us lost our day’s income. Whatever we produced so far is out of our savings. And we are unemployed, doing either sex work or begging.

What kind of problems did you face in bringing out this channel? Do they reflect the problems or discrimination you faced as a transwoman?

Money was our biggest challenge and now that we have reached the halfway mark, we are a little more confident about getting the full money. [Trans Vision successfully reached the target amount of its crowd funding campaign.]

Another challenge was that most donors wanted to remain anonymous mainly because it was for a trans-cause. This, we felt beat the objective of the channel, that people be open about being a transgender or about supporting transgenders.

Trans Vision’s content

What are some of the misconceptions, myths and topics that will be discussed about in the coming months? 

There are many misconceptions about how a trans-person is born, that it is a genetic disease and so on. These misconceptions are the first target of our discussions. There are other misconceptions such as there are no celebrity trans-genders- national or international- we want to talk about them, the books and movies made on transgender lives. We will also talk about international policies, judgements and legal issues. Some of our episodes will deal with the historical and cultural aspects of the transgender community- such as Tamil Nadu’s Koovagam festival. We have also planned episodes where we will trace trans-characters in Hindu mythology and talk about their roles in mythological history.

Is there a reason behind choosing Kannada, Telugu and Urdu to spread your message? What is your future vision for the channel?

Our target is the vernacular masses. Hindi has a large audience but there are a large number of Telugu, Kannada and Urdu speaking audience as well. We want to bring our message to the masses and we felt these languages were more suitable. More audience means we can reach a larger number of people. We hope that one day our YouTube channel becomes a TV Channel and we are able to provide employment to a lot more members from our community.

How do you think the videos will be used? 

We hope that it can be used as a subject for gender sensitisation. We hear that in some places in Karnataka, the videos are being used to sensitise people on gender issues.

How do you decide on the kind of content that needs to be created on your channel? Do you engage with your audiences?

In the first season, we will mostly be providing information that dispels perceptions and prejudices against the transgender community. We hope that in season 2, we can bring in a few celebrities, talk to them about the stigmas and misconceptions they have heard and what they think about these prejudices and use it as an opportunity to correct them. We hope that when people listen to their hero’s statements and opinions, they are a little more willing to listen. We do engage with our audience. We invite them to ask questions. So far, there haven’t been many but as more episodes are aired, we believe there will be more questions and comments. The comments so far have been encouraging.

 

Do you think you will face the same discrimination and prejudices from the audience watching your programme?

 

Family is the first unit that excludes trans-people and this is where the message really needs to go. In terms or trolling or negative feedback, we welcome all feedback as long as it helps foster dialogue. If someone says something negative, we hope that others speak against it and that’s how a dialogue happens- by discussing differing opinions.

 

Challenges that continue to persist for the transgender community

What kind of changes are you hoping will come about thanks to Trans Vision, which will eventually allow people who identify as transgender to live a life of dignity?

I would like to refer to tangible rather than the intangible [benefits]. With Trans Vision, a few people will also get the option of working in something other than sex work-another livelihood option. Second is the main objective of changing perceptions and motivating people to come forward.

Are judgements [such as NALSA] and other government initiatives enough to see actual change on the ground? What else needs to be done? 

 

Judgements like NALSA give hope to the community. As I said earlier, they make us more visible. But judgements, orders and rules alone will not make the situation better. Despite the NALSA, judgement, the government is now bringing out a Transgender Protection Bill, but there are many issues with it. For instance, IDs will be given only after a screening process, in which persons have to stand nude before a screening community. The point is that judgements and government orders alone will not change anything unless we change the perception of people. It is the people who run governments and implement orders and bias and prejudice always seeps in.

Is the situation changing today? Are we seeing more acceptance, although discrimination persists?

We need to break the silence and not treat it [violation of human rights] as a ‘trans’ issue but as a gender issue. Even feminist spaces were not very inclusive of the transgender community, even though we are fighting along the same lines as the feminist movement. We are minorities and so if no one speaks up, everyone is silent. However, this silence is slowly being broken. Arundathi Roy is writing a book on a transgender woman. We are a collective ally with feminist and student movements and many a time they have come forward in solidarity. There were occasions when we could not even entire police stations to complain against violence or discrimination, let alone file a FIR, but they have come forward to help us. These are our allies.

Can you tell us how perceptions towards the transgender community have changed over the years and have allowed or not allowed the community to live a life of dignity?

For me, dignity is a relative term. The only community that had some respect was the hijra community. They are a collective community and their respect comes from a hint of religion and culture attached to their identity. But then the power within these communities flow from top to bottom and there are infringements of human rights within the community.

On the other hand when there is discrimination from outside, they ignore it. They have internalised the stigma and violation of human rights, blaming it on fate and simply accepting it. However, because of trans-activists before me who fought for our rights, the newer generation of transgenders have some hope. There is hope for a mainstream education and employment. NALSA has been used as a tool in this regard.

Considering that the general awareness levels even among the transgender community is less, do you intend to also talk to the transgender community to talk about their inclusion in different ways?

Of course. We will be talking about different groups within the transgender community and trying to dispel all myths and misconceptions around everybody in the community. This is not just about empowering different communities but also having a dialogue and saying we exist, they exist.

What has the Telangana government done with respect to transgender inclusion? Have they executed the five centrally sponsored schemes? 

They have done absolutely nothing. They are silent. We have visited the secretariat many times, but every time it is the same question: how many are you? We are not an important vote bank for them. However, we are trying and we are optimistic. I think the ground reality now is of a silent, peaceful and growing resistance.

About the writer: Merlin Francis is a journalist currently working as Editor at the Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy. She writes on issues of social justice, climate change and women empowerment. 

Re-Defining ‘Indianness’: Mitigating hate crimes and discrimination of ‘outsiders’

“Strangers have become migrants. Migrants have become Neighbours.

But have they crossed the Rubicon to become friends?”

                                                                                    ~ Sanjoy Hazarika

When a former BJP MP, Mr. Tarun Vijay proclaimed in April 2017, “If we were racist, why would we have all the entire south…Tamil, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra…why do we live with them? We have black people around us,” his comments were rather unsurprising. They were drenched in age old biases and ideas of power, prestige, physical appearance and right and wrong. The irony of what he said, was that he was countering claims of rampant inherent xenophobia and racism in Indians, in the wake of the attacks on people of African origin.

Whether it is the mutual discrimination of North Indians and South Indians, or the discrimination of people from the North Eastern states, or the discrimination based on skin colour and physical characteristics, India has a problem with ‘different’. Different here refers to things that are perceived as ‘un-Indian’. This invites the need for defining ‘Indianness’.

In his talk titled ‘Strangers, Migrants, and Neighbours: Defining Discrimination & Indianness’, at the Nehru Memorial Library, on July 18, 2017, Sanjoy Hazarika, the Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, touched upon these issues, drawing upon his decades of experience and knowledge.

Mr. Hazarika presented a very unique argument, one that can’t be seen in most mainstream news outlets. He spoke with resignation initially, on the daunting numbers of Indians forced to partake in ‘distress migration’. This forced migration could be a result of climate change factors (such as flooding), which causes loss of home, livelihood and security of persons. It could also be a result of developmental projects, and conflict (such as border violence or the insurgency in the North Eastern states).

Migration due to ‘increased aspirations’, giving various examples of migrants from UP, Bihar, the North East as a whole, to the four metros in India, which meant increased awareness of the culture and heritage of these regions, across India. The influx of such migrants did not happen without problems. The case of Nido Tanya, a boy from Arunachal Pradesh who was beaten to death in New Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar in 2014, was highlighted. There are many examples all around India of such hate crimes and violence against Indians from the North East part of India.

Attempting to racially profile a country like India, is an endeavour that is doomed to failure even before it begins. Think about it. Can anyone define India? Or explain what characteristics – mental and physical – make an Indian? This land with its assortment of cultures, religions, beliefs, languages, skin colours, physical features, lifestyles, clothing and art forms, cannot be boxed in with a one-size-fits-all type of dressing. This is fact that we all accept, but only in theory. Inherently, each of us come with biases and ideas galore about people who are dissimilar to us, in whatever way. There isn’t a single part of this country where people do not judge ‘outsiders’, and berate them for coming and ‘changing the local culture’ or ‘taking away the jobs and seats in colleges’. Every city, village and state is proud of its heritage and culture, where ‘locals’ feel the need to fiercely protect the same from the ‘onslaught’ of migrants. It is as though we were wired to fear both being different from the environment, and accepting those who are different from the environment we are used to.

Irrespective of this, migration still happens all across India. Mr. Hazarika says that this is because of the combination of increased aspirations and the youth of India (who are the ones who migrate in search of better opportunities), engaging with the idea of India, as a land of aspirations. ‘The Indian Dream’, as he referred to it, was that India was one country, and anybody from anywhere could reach their goals if they were prepared to work hard towards them.

Here lies the novelty of his argument (novelty when compared to the general discourse on the subject). He said that in spite of the ‘micro-aggression’ which north easterners (or any migrants for that matter) faced from the locals, only emboldened their resolve to stay and engage, in order to create their own space in the new diverse Indian diaspora. Migrants would assert their right to equality as protected by the Indian Constitution, and find ways to adapt to their new and in some cases hostile environments. The fact that many North Easterners stayed in Bangalore, and that many returned after leaving the city in 2012-2013, during the peak of the tensions, was testament of this resilience and engagement with the ideas of Indian and Indianness. By trying to carve out their role and space in Indian discourse and everyday living, migrants are challenging notions held by local populations, and generating awareness of the true extent of Indian Diversity.

Additionally, these outsiders or migrants, upon returning home would in turn challenge the notions of their elders, creating space for people to come settle in their home towns. This, in the long run, will, according to Mr. Hazarika, change the definitions of what an Indian sounds or looks or lives like.

As it stands today, one segment of the Indian population has gone beyond differences and have integrated. There is another segment, however, that remains stuck in the past, holding onto older notions of Indianness and what India should look and feel like. Mr. Hazarika quoted Bhupen Hazarika’s song, ‘if humans don’t think of humans, who will?’ Systemic changes, such as better representation in police forces across the country, as well as changes in the content of our education were necessary to help this process of integration. In schools, greater emphasis on lands and peoples outside the city in question is needed, as is emphasis on civility and togetherness. The automatic fear of the different and fear to be different needs challenging and overcoming. Anti-racism and hate crime penalising laws were necessary, to facilitate this process of ‘becoming friends’, which will take decades before it reaches a point of stability.

If anything, Mr. Hazarika, can only be accused of making idealistic points (a point that did come up during the Q&A Session), in the manner in which he has simplified the issues and the potential solutions. The same, however, cannot be said for his narrative of the process of integration. His astute observations on the process that is change cannot be disregarded. It’s not merely in poetry that we find light at the end of the tunnel, or that from conflict and chaos, a new order can emerge.

Though India is not a homogenous entity, we see the creation of a new Indian diaspora. It is one that wants to work for their own goals or for the country at large, irrespective of the differences in skin colour, physical traits and any other aspect of diversity that Indians may bear. Migration itself will generate this changed outlook. It can be facilitated by protecting the agents of change, namely the migrants, by enacting and implementing strong anti-discrimination laws that penalise violence or discrimination of migrants on the basis of their physical appearances.

About the writer:

Shambhavi Ravishankar is a human rights lawyer and an ardent lover of writing and reading, who believes in the pen being mightier than the sword!

101 Q dates: A project to talk about LGBTQIA+ lives

The Pride month may have come to an end but the LGBTQIA+ community continues to strive forward with pride. One such endeavour has been initiated by Dolly Koshy, a social activist from Bangalore, who plans to go on 101 dates with different people from the LGBTQIA+ community. All 101 Q dates will be blogged. The aim of these 101 dates is LGBTQIA+ sensitisation more than finding a partner.  “In the process of going on these dates, if Dolly finds a partner, she will be happy. If she doesn’t, she will be ok,” says her blog. Being Bangalore based, Koshy is starting off with people from Bangalore and intends to also go on dates with people in other cities when she visits other cities. For a start, she has put together a list of sixty-one different (rather romantic) activities listed on her blog that she would like to do with her different dates including fishing, snuggle in a hammock, go out for breakfast, go on a trek together, movie marathon at home, go birdwatching, bake together, visit a vineyard, go for a movie, attend a concert, among others. (With such a long happy list of romantic date ideas, who wouldn’t want to go on a date with her?)

That said, it could be useful to know Dolly Koshy’s idea of an ideal partner before knocking on her door for a date. According to Koshy, her ideal partner is someone who is intelligent and compassionate with a great sense of humour. Apart from having physical, emotional and political compatibility, the person should be someone with whom she could have a conversation. As for LGBTQIA+ sensitisation, she says that she would try to go on dates with people with different identity, expression and sexuality. Each blog will talk about a specific issue or topic related to the community depending on the gender and sexual identity of the people that she goes on a date with. Through this initiative, Koshy intends to highlight other topics such as body image, asexuality, disability, polyamory, BDSM etc in addition to the regular LGBTIQ+ topics.

This project also extends the opportunity for different businesses to come out as being LGBTQIA+ friendly by sponsoring the dates that Dolly goes on. An Individual or business sponsoring a date, will be coming out to the world as an ally.

Want to go on a date with Dolly Koshy or wish to sponsor one of her dates? You can contact her here.

Editor’s Note: It is important to capture human emotions like love, joy, fear, sadness, compassion, happiness with LGBTQIA+ lives and share them with the world because they are as human as the rest of us. They love, ache, experience pain and sense joy like the rest of us. Why differentiate them from the rest of us? Being an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, Hidden Pockets is putting its best foot forward and partnering with 101 Q Dates. We are in solidarity with Koshy in her effort to talk about LGBTQIA+ lives. Are you?

Get ready to follow Dolly Koshy and her 101 Dates on Hidden Pockets every week.

Healthcare challenges faced by LGBT community in India: In conversation with Vinay Chandran

Vinay Chandran, Counselor and Executive Director of Swabhava is studying LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community and its access to healthcare in South India: the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. This study is a part of a study by TATA Institute of Social Sciences in an attempt to understand the discriminations faced by the LGBT community in different domains – education, housing sector, healthcare and public spaces across India.

Started in 1999, Swabhava works to provide access to support services and counselling to members of the LGBT community. Swabhava has a helpline called Sahaya and an in-person counseling service. The organisation provides support information about coming out of the closet about one’s sexuality, family, relationships, and workplace, among others. It also provides referrals to doctors, counselors, access to support groups, be it for LGBT or queer adults. Hidden Pockets caught up with Vinay Chandran to know more about this study on LGBT community and their access to healthcare and share some of the findings of this study with our readers.

About the study

Hidden Pockets: What is the expected outcome of this national study on health related problems faced by the LGBT community?

Vinay Chandran: The overall project on LGBT discrimination is an exploratory study. It is about trying to find out the experiences of discrimination that the community faces in the country. It is important to record these experiences simply because the Supreme Court talked about LGBT community being a miniscule minority during the Supreme Court hearing against Section 377. This was cited as the reason to read down Section 377. This resonates with why we need to collect this data.

Hidden Pockets: What do you think would be the number that will make them (Supreme Court) recognise the LGBT community as an entity?

Chandran: It is not about that. The point is that the affidavits and other reports haven’t used the existing statistics and data properly. So we want to be able (at least in my case), to flood the market with this information about the discriminations faced. The conversation around discrimination right now is heavily focused on the LGBTQ sector and their legal rights. But this can also be seen as a systemic discrimination in the society and its functioning. Therefore there is more to it than just being abused by the law. It is a systemic thing and this adds to that questioning (of the system).

Hidden Pockets: What is this healthcare project focused on?

Chandran: Be it generic healthcare, seeking mental health services for LGBT people in terms of counseling and so on or accessing surgery without having prejudice thrown at them, we are looking at how the different mental health and medical health services interact with LGBT people and how we can improve that interaction and improve the experiences of LGBT people in that context.

Challenges faced by the LGBT community

Hidden Pockets: From your experience, what would you say are some of the challenges that the community faces with respect to accessing healthcare?

Chandran: See healthcare itself is not a priority for LGBT people simply because of the fear of what it might entail. The context where medicine and LGBT meet could be in terms of sex reassignment, gender reassignment surgeries, sexually transmitted infections and mental health.

We have heard enough stories of the issues that transwomen face. I don’t know about transmen experiences but a lot of transwomen refuse to go to medical colleges for treatment. They say we don’t want to go to medical colleges even if they have a chest cold or a cough because the immediate response from the doctor is – ‘Take off your clothes, call the students and say this is what a trans woman looks like.’ They do this to their bodies without even asking their permissions. This is problematic because government medical colleges are the cheaper medical places for them to go to. Most of the people if you’re LGB (Lesbian, Gay and Bisexul) for instance can pass (without being questioned about their sexuality) if it is a cough or cold but not transwomen.

You can be a gay man asking help from a doctor and your sexuality wouldn’t matter but if it is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), which is another contact point, then you’re talking about doctors’ attitudes. One person we spoke to, went to a doctor with a STI and the doctor asked him if he was married and when he said no, the next question was if he had gone to a sex worker. The doctor asked nothing about other sexualities. When the client actually said that he’s gay, the doctor replied, ‘agh that’s why you’ve got it (STI). You stop that you’ll stop getting this.’ The sense is that if you are gay then it is automatic for you to get STIs. It proves whatever prejudice they already have in their minds.

Hidden Pockets: What problems do women face and trans men face with respect to accessing healthcare or sexual health services?

Chandran: I don’t have a lot of data about that. Bina Fernandez has done some work on the issues faced by women. She talks about lesbian and bisexual women accessing mental health and the kind of prejudices that doctors have more so because they are biologically female. Therefore the idea of reproduction and the need to reproduce also comes into the picture. Ketki Ranade has another paper in which she also talks about the same issues that lesbian, bisexual women and some among trans men face. In one particular context, a gynaecologist obstetrician who has otherwise good records of supporting trans women and trans issues refused to do hysterectomy on a biological woman who is trans man because he doesn’t believe in removing the uterus of a woman who has not enjoyed motherhood. The fact is that the transman has no desire for that body. But that is irrelevant to the doctor. He understands removing penis and testicles for a trans woman and recognizes the need to provide that surgery. But with a transman, he refuses to do the same.

LGBT community and access of the healthcare

Hidden Pockets: How does section 377 affect the LGBT community with respect to accessing health care?

Chandran: There are doctors who say that ‘if there is a law, you have to worry about the law’. There are doctors saying that I don’t want to become an abettor to a crime. But by and large doctors understand their ethical duties. Even if they provide fake treatments (to treat homosexuality), they keep quiet about it. If they publish it in a paper, they mention that treatment was provided and the patient successfully got married.

Hidden Pockets: Is it legal for a doctor to refuse treatment because someone is LGBT?

Chandran: There are doctors who can do that to anything, not just LGBT. There is no policy in India that addresses discrimination of LGBTQ people. NALSA judgement in 2014 (on transgender rights) is the first place where they’ve actually spoken about transgender people. They’ve tried to add sexual orientation but I don’t think the government is going to address it. However it’s the first time that kind of discrimination has been spoken about and the HIV AIDS bill addresses it in the context of HIV. There’s no other context where specifically someone says you cannot be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. We can start that conversation because of NALSA judgement.

Hidden Pockets: What is the cost of accessing SRS services for trans women? Which are the states where SRS services are available?

Chandran: Each state is very different. It depends on the kind of services that are available. Some hospitals offer subsidized services and some hospitals offer full services. In terms of government SRS services, it is only available in Tamil Nadu, among the Southern states. There is no recognized service center anywhere else that I have seen (in Southern India). NALSA judgment hasn’t been implemented right across the country so we still struggle with implementation of basic policies for trans men and women.

LGBT community and mental health services

Hidden Pockets: How do you work around the clinical diagnosis of homosexuality as a disease or condition by several mental health practitioners in the country?

Chandran: This is changing. There are a lot of practitioners who have caught up with the fact that it is no longer right to prescribe treatment for being LGBT. In fact, we’re getting stories where we actually hear people say that the psychiatrists are now catching onto the game because they can actually make more money by supporting the LGBT community as opposed to prescribing treatment. But as expected, the prejudice against the LGBT community remains. However there is a lot of improvement. What we want to do is improve the experiences of the community members. So when we present the study, we are also talking about creating outputs like booklets (for all) with the kind of questions you might encounter and how to respond to them. On the other hand booklets for doctors and counselors would give information about the kind of problems that clients might come to them with, clients responses and what would be the ideal (responses).

Hidden Pockets: The Mental Health Bill of 2017 mentions that no one shall be discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation with respect to access to mental health care. How does this conflict with Section 377?

Chandran: This is not a new problem. Government of India has always had policies on the left and punishments on the right so it is really not a conflict as far as we are concerned. If you consider the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), they have always had MSM (Men who have sex with men) friendly programmes and they also have section 377.

The conflict between the law and the policies

Hidden Pockets: How then can you also have section 377 when you have MSM friendly AIDS programs? How will people come out and say I have AIDS?

Chandran: You’re seeing it as a conflict. The government is not seeing it as a conflict. For them, on one side, the law will continue to do what it wants to do and on the other side, it wants to help. So it will continue to do so until it meets a block. During the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government, the Department of Health, Department of Law and the State Department had no objection to removing Section 377 and that’s how the Delhi High Court passed its judgement in 2009. Despite that, we had a bad response from the Supreme Court because the Supreme Court judges were fairly homophobic. Now in the current argument, it has become a cultural issue with morality and value systems. Now they (government) don’t see having Section 377 and MSM friendly programmes as a conflict. Healthcare can do whatever it wants but the law will do what the law has to do.

Hidden Pockets: How open are MSMs as they call, to actually coming out and accessing these sexual health services? Is there no breach of privacy?

Chandran: There’s been a lot of work over the last 14-16 years with NGOs and all these Community Based Organisations (CBOs) that are especially working around HIV. The conflict is not there. The conflict is when it comes to law. There is no intentional breach of privacy. Let’s put it that way. People are not going out of their way to say I’m serving homosexuals, come and arrest me so the programmes are going on and they maintain confidentiality because its HIV. I’m assuming that most other departments will keep their hands off. I haven’t seen this in any policy so I’m just assuming that that’s how it is.

Hidden Pockets: Does that mean that they will not breach anyone’s privacy or ask for data?

Chandran: We don’t know. There’s not a written policy that says that they will not approach HIV organizations or that they will not touch them or go and infiltrate them.

Hidden Pockets: What kind of changes have you observed over the years with respect to looking at LGBT issues?

Chandran: As far as urban scenarios are concerned, there is a sense that a lot more people are familiar with LGBT rights narratives now and therefore are more cautious of providing that kind of (homosexuality curing) treatment facilities in urban scenarios. We don’t have full knowledge on what it is in rural areas. There are still people who offer treatment for homosexuality but they don’t do it openly. They don’t announce except if there is a religious backing to them. By and large in urban spaces, there is now some sense of awareness about the LGBT communities. So if a client comes to them and is LGBT then they are referred to us. This happens a lot more than it used to 15 or 20 years ago.

Designer explores clothes and gender using Mohiniyattam and drag

“I think that a lot of feel people feel that clothes restrict a person by their gender and the idea is to reject gender conformism,” – Aishwarya Ravi

The Bangalore-based fashion photographer recently released a thought-provoking photo series in collaboration with drag performer, Alex Mathew (and his drag persona, Mayamma). The pictures throw light on the substantiality of the part played by fashion and clothing in the perpetual formation of gender roles in the society. It explores how in most societies, what most people would consider ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’ is largely affected by the kind of clothes the human body is sheathed in. However, once in a while, these gender roles are challenged. This project was one such attempt. Although Aishwarya’s degree is in International Business and International Integrated Studies, she has followed her passion of designing, styling and photography since she was a teenager.

Exploring gender fluidity through the drag lens

Aishwarya’s first experience with drag occurred when she was in Paris at the age of fifteen. Though it initially seemed funny to her, she realized that some of the drag performers were men and some were transgender women. She was tempted to go backstage and take a look at their hair and makeup.

“What you see on the face of it is extremely boisterous, flamboyant performers with heavy costumes, wigs and make up, but when you go backstage, you can see the differences. Some of them might have gone under the knife, they try really hard to be feminine because they are really trying to find themselves and some of them are just men who do it for fun.

There is a stigma around drag in general in India. It is not a concept that one can explore and people are not really open to it. When I met Alex, I was surprised in a really positive way. Keeping in mind the unacceptability of drag in India, I felt it was really brave of him to just put his work out there” – Aishwarya Ravi

 

Alex Mathew has been performing drag since September 2014. Despite all the hitches that he has faced being a drag queen, Alex never really stopped. It was this perseverance that sparked the creative connection between Aishwarya and Alex. When the two met, they realized that their interests were congruent and their convictions matched. As a queer man proud of his identity, Alex was open to the idea of the project. Aishwarya dismisses the idea that a person belonging to any gender should submit to given set of roles and rules defined by the society.

“A lot of people think that blue is a guy’s colour and pink is a girl’s colour. You see that in even hospitals. If it’s a baby girl, everything in the room is pink and everything will be blue and bold if it is a boy. I find this concept so stupid because before the cold war, men actually wore pink and it was associated with masculinity. It was only after the cold war that men started wearing blue and gender roles came to be associated with colours,” she adds.

She points out that in the photos, there is coordination in colours and the background was specifically chosen to go from blue to pink.

Wo(man): Two sides of the same coin

Many labels have been laid down by the society as conformed prescriptions to dress, talk or even just be. In this photoshoot, they (Aishwarya and Alex) have attempted to challenge this notion of confinement of genders by colours, claims Aishwarya.

Though drag is identified more with exaggeration and elaborate costumes, to Aishwarya drag is more about the performance. Reason enough, the duo decided to try something different. Inspired by the costume of Mohiniyattam, a classical dance form from Kerala, Aishwarya designed a gender-agnostic jumpsuit that Alex could wear as not just Maya, but as Alex as well. To her, Alex and ‘Maya, the drag queen’ are actually two sides of the same coin and Maya is just one of Alex’s alter egos. Aishwarya wanted the outfit to be provocative and unconventional, unlike normal jumpsuits. A little head crown was also added to the costume as a finishing touch to bring out the persona of a queen. The message of the project was one of gender neutrality.

“The piece itself is a performance piece but drag to both of us, isn’t just about a person, it’s also about their attitude and personality”, she says.

Shakespeare once said, “Clothes maketh the man”. How true this is in its complete literal sense! This photo series triggers people to ask this very question. Now that LGBTQIA issues are being thrown under the spotlight, it is becoming easier to step outside the threshold of binary gender and explore gender expression in a much more diverse manner. With the emergence of gender labels like ‘gender fluid’, ‘gender non-conforming’, ‘gender non-binary’, ‘gender variant’, it becomes much more complex than a simple question of ‘man’ or ‘woman’. When human beings themselves cannot be put into simple boxes labeled ‘male’ and ‘female’, how can their clothes conform to particular gender roles?

Model: Alex Mathew

Concept, Styling, Designing, Direction, Photography: Aishwarya Ravi

MUA: Ria Khimji

About the writer:

Purnima P.V is pursuing History(Hons) from Miranda House, University of Delhi. Although a huge history buff, sociology is her one true love. She is also a photographer by passion. She describes herself as an ambivert, an amateur traveler, an avid reader with a special interest in the genre of fictional non-fantasy, a politically opinionated feminist, and an ally as well as a member of the LGTBQIA community.

The illusionist: The birth tale of Mayamma, the dragqueen

The Eagle and the Mole

Avoid the reeking herd,

Shun the polluted flock,

Live like that stoic bird,

The eagle of the rock.

 

The huddled warmth of crowds

Begets and fosters hate;

He keeps above the clouds

His cliff inviolate.

 

When flocks are folded warm,

And herds to shelter run,

He sails above the storm,

He stares into the sun.

 

If in the eagle’s track

Your sinews cannot leap,

Avoid the lathered pack,

Turn from the steaming sheep.

 

If you would keep your soul

From spotted sight or sound,

Live like the velvet mole:

Go burrow underground.

 

And there hold intercourse

With roots of trees and stones,

With rivers at their source,

And disembodied bones.

  • Elinor Wylie

 

“If you can’t love yourself, how you gonna love somebody else.” said Mayamma. She took her final bow to the thunderous applaud. As she walked to the green room, she remembered her Class Eight English literature course.

Mrs. Susan was concluding the discussion on ‘The Eagle and the Mole’. “Which of the characters in the poem do you identify with?” asked Mrs. Suzan. At that very moment the thirteen-year-old Alex knew he was born to be the eagle. He hadn’t a clue of how he would get there but he was certain that the magnificent eagle was who he was meant to be. Yet, his journey to discover Mayamma, his drag personality would cause him to embody the velvet mole and burrow into the depth of his soul.

Time passed by and in class twelve, the school announced the upcoming fancy dress competition. Alex felt a strong urge to participate. This would be his first time. “Who will you go as?” asked Jacob, Alex’s best friend. “Nagavalli!” Alex exclaimed without hesitation. Alex had just watched the Malayalam psychological horror film Manichitrathazhu. The performance of actress Shobana, as the protagonist Ganga and her schizophrenic personality Nagavalli had captivated him. Over the next few weeks Alex worked assiduously to design and create his costume, refine his dialogue and perfect his expressions. The character challenged him as a performer but his comfort in female attire puzzled him.

At the performance Alex danced flawlessly to Oru Murai Vanthu, the movie’s soundtrack. His expressions captured the innocence and serenity of Ganga and the wrath of the blood thirsty Nagavalli. In the final climax to the performance a hypnotised Ganga, overcome by her alternate personality – Nagavalli finally extracts her revenge on the cruel Sankaran Thampi and then collapses. As Alex fell to the floor, the audience rose to their feet to applaud the exhilarating performance.

The performance was impeccable and Alex knew it. For the first time he felt electricity flow through his body. The act won him the first place in the competition. As he walked home with his certificate and brimming with excitement, he shouted “I won mother!” “They loved my performance.” His excitement knew no bounds. “You’re happy! Aren’t you?” said mother. But that was it.

In the years to come Alex would continue to pursue theatre, dance and music but as Alex – a regular heterosexual man. In time, he developed his skills as an artist but no performance electrified him the way performing Nagavalli did.

Alex moved away from home to Trivandrum to pursue a Masters in Business Administration. It was here for the first time that he went on a date with another boy. But, his religious upbringing caused him to deny the possibility of being queer. In 2012 Alex moved to Bangalore from Hyderabad for career opportunities. The performing arts continued to remain an essential part of his life.

Independent and fearless in the big city Alex opened himself to the city’s queer community. His experiences and sharing in the community gave him the courage to finally accept his identity as a queer man. In early 2014 Alex finally came out to his friends and family about this sexual orientation. His close and trusted friends were his pillars of support especially when his family took their time to come to terms with the news. This was a difficult time. But it marked the genesis of another journey.

The new found acceptance of his sexuality and an unexpected run of events with the movie Mrs. Doubtfire led to the birth of the gorgeous Mayamma. Mayamma was the missing piece to Alex’s persona as a performer.

In 2015 Alex, took the stage by storm. This time not as Alex but as Mayamma. The acceptance Mayamma received encouraged the already imaginative Alex to work tirelessly on developing and defining Mayamma’s personality. His journey of denial, experiments, discovery and acceptance of his sexuality aided in this creative process. Like the velvet mole, Alex had burrowed inward and outwards to understand the spectrum of gender and his own sexuality. He now better understood patriarchy, social expectations and oppression of women. Alex believed that Mayamma had to stand as an inspiration for those who struggled like him because of their gender or orientation.

Like Nagavalli, Mayamma was flawless. She owned the stage, rocked her saree and wig. She was gorgeous inside and out. She had heart, humility and sophistication. Mayamma inspired her audience to love their bodies and accept their imperfections. Her narratives exposed patriarchy and shed light on the endearing strength and power of women. At every performance Mayamma inspired courage and self-love. Her every dialogue bore the depth of her soul.

Now, back in the greenroom Mayamma smiled to herself as she took off her wig. She had arrived. She was the perfect gender illusionist. Queen of the stage. She was now THE EAGLE OF THE ROCK.

About the writer:

Chryslynn D’Costa is the co-founder of Serein, a consulting firm working on diversity and inclusion in the Indian workplace. We look at all aspects of diversity beyond gender  like class, language, PWD and LGBTQIA. D’Costa wrote Alex’s story during her Masters program where she did extensive research on gender and sexulity education. She compiled a resource on stories that provide a lens to the spectrum of sexuality in India