I was born and raised in a town in North-East India, a town pretentiously known for its western cultural aspiration, especially in terms of music and fashion. In school, friends and I would talk about the advantages of being here, this comfortable and limited space which we called home. Being a hill station, Shillong is exotically imagined as a small town with kind-hearted and polite people, where everything is tranquil and the weather is pleasant. However, I soon learnt as a young boy that all of this was a façade of niceties; my friends and I never felt any of the over-glorified atmosphere of friendliness and care that people would talk about. Places, even homes can be difficult and people are censorious. I found that out very soon as my own bildungsroman is being written- some part of it by me but most of it by other people and their judgments.This place perceived my idiosyncrasies as abominable, my image, my manners and my being as “corrupt.” It was not acceptable for a young fellow like me to be timid, to weep and to have a crazy obsession over “chick flicks.”
During my final year in high school I was already au courant with the stereotypes, the derogatory remarks and insults people with alternative sexual orientations received. However we were not allowed to question these stereotypes, they existed in society like an infernal backseat of a driver. In this conurbation, I would and still dream of a world far more different from the reality of my life; I dream of a place that thrives on the ability of everyone to accept, respect the whole spectrum of people’s existence; I dream of an environment that is nurturing and allows for my difference to thrive.
As a child I was very subtle and shy. I spent most of my days indoors and had very few friends because I didn’t venture out. Kids my age would make fun of me for displaying interest in “feminine” games like dressing up dolls. Soon my parents started hiding the dolls and bought me a football in the hope of making me become an ideal boy. I grew up to be the teenager who got attracted to my science teacher and going to school became more awkward, not be mention difficult. How could one put up with the double sins of falling for a teacher and that too, a male teacher? Anger for myself surged through my veins and my heart for a long time until I finally accepted myself after an excruciating and hard struggle. The ‘self’ within me could reconcile itself with this new found identity but there were other things about being gay that were just as important in this part of the world. How would my society react? What kind of glances would I be showered with if people knew? How many words of denigration and adoration will I be laden with? And most importantly, how will I confess this to the people that matter the most- my family?
Coming out is seldom a cup of tea for anyone but I finally did to my mother when I turned eighteen this year. She was supportive but also terribly afraid of my future and my existence in the world altogether. I felt guilty and responsible when mother told me not to be vocal and admitted that her friends may laugh at us. I wondered why my actions as an adult have any bearing on my family; that is a part of societal ethos that I will never understand. When I was not allowed to be vocal about my experience and who I am in my immediate physical reality, I found a let out through the platforms that social media had to offer. However, pretty quickly, I started getting rape threats, death threats, beating threats online, as if I’m not already dead by the asphyxiation of trying to cope with the brutal enforcement of masculinity in my everyday life.
Recently, I found myself one evening walking down the streets in a frenetic pace with my niece; we were on our way to purchase some comestibles from our favorite department store. It was a brisk evening and I was rather cheerful to spend time and bond with her; she told me how she wanted to spent her leisure time with her playmates and how she enjoys unrestricted access to cartoon shows. It was an exhilarating walk which quickly ended in a trauma. As we were walking, I started noticing the distressing and probing gaze of many folks around me. This made my niece feel deeply uneasy and she told me that she heard them mumble about the way I was dressed. She asked me why I wore my pink sweatshirt when the color pink was “naturally” for girls. I told her that I was comfortable wearing what I did and being how I was. I felt she was more ashamed of people looking and it was devastating when she tried covering my pink sweatshirt and asked me to change. I was vulnerable and I felt so helpless that we ended up taking a cab home to avoid the embarrassment. I then realized the vulnerability of children and how easily they adopt the prejudices of the society they grow up into. I realized how in a small town like Shillong, it is so easy to teach kids to be hateful and silent toward people who are different, whether in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation and religion. I really wonder, don’t they deserve more than our tainted lenses to see the world with?
I graduated from high school very recently and have to move out of this place into a metropolitan world. I’m very anxious and scared of what it has to offer. I don’t know what would survival be like in a big city. Metropolitan cities are more accepting towards those who are different, or so I hear. Perhaps the anonymity would give be some semblance of hope. But no, I should not romanticise that which I know nothing of; after all, it is still a heterosexual and heteronormative world out there. Nonetheless, whatever happens, whatever reality awaits, I know that this eighteen year old boy will not hide anymore under family names and the hetero image of a Christian tribal community. I will come out to find others and find myself, and colour the worlds I will occupy with thousands of unerasable rainbows.