Last night in a horrific incident, a 42 year old man went on a shooting spree at a local #LGBT+ club (London Pub) in Oslo, Norway. This left two people dead and 21 injured. My heart goes out to the victims and families of this mindless evil act.
The Pride march scheduled for Saturday was cancelled.
The community’s safety has been compromised again; and in Norway, which is considered a very safe place for the gay community!
I am personally deeply saddened and angry!!
Why, I ask? Why would anyone want to terrorise people who simply live their lives. Why would someone be this evil?
The police have cancelled the ‘gay pride’ in Oslo. The community will get together and fight back, no doubt, with the hope that things change, and that we are all made to feel safe again.
Waking up to this news today was a reminder of how things are for us in this world.
Today, I am on a panel ( Blue Orchid London Indian Film Festival) discussing the life and story of Riyad Wadia, a renowned Indian filmmaker from Bombay, who made his first film BomGay, moderated by Nasreen Munni Kabir along with fellow panelists Neeraj Churi (of Lotus Productions) and Ash Kotak, at the Barbican Centre. Riyad passed away at a very young age of 36. Not before he had left a significant impact.
>> However, will this incident stay alive in my mind during the screening and post screening discussion? Yes, absolutely.
>>Does it make me fearful of being targeted? Yes, of course.
London is celebrating 50 years of Pride on Saturday, 2nd July. I will be marching this year with my head held high alongside my partner, for the first time since my coming out at 50.
>>Does it make me nearly of being targeted? Yes, Yes!
>>Am I afraid anymore? No. No.
No one can stop us from living our lives with the freedom and dignity we deserve. Our fight to stay visible will continue. Our fight to pave the way for a safer, inclusive world for our younger generation and generations to come, will continue.
I am fighting this with the only weapon I have and know. LOVE.
I wish for a safer world! I work hard to create a safer world through my own voice.
But, who will keep us safe?
Photo source: Internet
Hospital visits are something that have become a part of our life now – and that will remain. I feel a lot of anxiety visiting hospitals to be honest, depending upon the reason for the visit in the first place. I find hospitals intimidating!
However, I am also comforted by the fact that we will be in safe hands and looked after by Specialists and Experts.
Each hospital is different, each specialist is different. I find myself always stressed and not just because of the health issues. I stress at a deep personal level inside me. Let me share some of the reasons for such stress:
- I have to often ‘come out’ – Every step of the way from the introduction at the entrance to the Specialist we are meeting.
- I am not sure if MY voice will be heard: I am not married to my #same-sex partner, which has its own issues that we have to deal with
- How will it be in case of a medical emergency : I do not know if I would be allowed to give my permission as a partner, should we need to make medical decisions.
- I am often discriminated basis my sexual orientation – this is a constant.
Yesterday was a special day in this regard. We had an appointment at the #NationalHospital #ForNeurology&NeuroSurgery #QueensSquareLondon. There are strict guidelines to follow when one visits hospitals these days due to #covid-19 restrictions. Typically, we are greeted by someone at the hospital entrance, who checks the paper work, you then confirm that you are visiting along with the patient (in my case, my partner) and then they take you to the respective area for the appointment.
The Specialist asked me to leave my partner for assessment and return in two hours. I left the building, did a bit of book shopping (nothing like a book retail therapy – I bought 3 fab books from an iconic book store called ‘#Gay’sTheWord), had a coffee and made my way back, very nervously working out all kinds of scenarios in my head on what to say to gain entry (because I was not the patient) and then how to ensure I navigate through all this.
When I reached the hospital, a young man who was checking the paper work greeted me. I said, ‘I am here to fetch my partner who is upstairs getting assessed‘, He said, ‘hmm, I see‘. This made me a bit nervous. I was thinking of worse case scenarios in my head. I am now so used to the prejudice, the passive homophobia, that it lives in me.
He quickly took me to the reception and repeated what I had said, ‘She is here to pick up her partner‘.
The lady at the reception, without batting an eyelid, smiled at me and said, ‘Oh yes, I remember you and your partner. She is upstairs on the 2nd floor right? Please go upstairs and do what you need to do. It’s absolutely fine”.
Just like that. It was so simple. I stood there waiting for her to add a ‘but..’.
She added nothing but a smile.
See, how simple it is to accept? This is what I mean – if only we can mainstream US (#LGBT) and if only everyone can be this accepting, ‘normal’ towards us, life would indeed be magic!
People have no idea what we go through on a day to day basis. We are constantly on alert. We are always expecting someone to openly or subtly demonstrate homophobia. We have constant anxiety of having to ‘come out’ and explain. We face huge amount of mental health issues that are caused by such homophobic actions.
Educating, sensitising and making us ‘mainstream’ and including us without prejudice is so critical for an inclusive and equitable place for all in this world. After all this world that was created for all!
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Yaar, I am EXHAUSTED!!!!!!!!
Why? Because, I am in ‘fashion‘ these days yaar. After all, I am from the #LGBT community na. Every one wants to know me in June!
June is celebrated around the world as #PrideMonth. I love it! I celebrate it as well.
When my friends call me and wish me on my birthday, I often say “Yaar, every day is my birthday. We must celebrate each day we wake up”. Philosophical I know – and to be honest, I really love my birthday and the wishes!
Pride Month makes often brings back these words. Why can’t we celebrate this Pride every day as well, I ask? After all, I do?
When I see people celebrating Pride Month, I do feel great. It makes me celebrate the long struggles we have had as a community and it makes me feel wonderful that we now have so many allies around us. But, it also makes me wonder where “these people” go and hide for the next eleven months.
Baba, even I have come out of hiding now. Why do you have to hide for so many months?
June gets super busy for those who are seen as the ‘voice’ for/of the LGBT community. Every known association, club, membership organisation, corporate companies with D&I or DE&I in their portfolio, every person who wants to leverage on the brand #LGBT will invite you to their amazing platform, to share your voice. (oh, mostly they never have a budget – after all we are LGBT, why would we need money? We don’t need to eat or feed our families na. That is only for the heterosexual world!).
I received over 200++ invites from such organisations and individuals from all over the world. It was heartwarming, I swear, because every time we share our words, our voice, I am aware that someone somewhere will get impacted. And that is enough. But…..seriously, if I decline (which I often do) I get some very rude comments. If I accept, I have to mostly put up with very poorly researched moderators, who have NO idea what they are talking about – they often mix “gender” and “sexuality”. They often do not know the difference between a ‘lesbian’ or a ‘trans person’.
June becomes the token month …!! Yes, that’s one month every one wants to be tagged to one of us. For some reason, more so now – LGBT is the latest fad, after all!!
Tomorrow is 1st July – I don’t know what your plans are for the day or the month ahead or the next eleven months; but I know for a fact that it will not include LGBT.
You know why? In June, we become fashionable. In June you can leverage knowing us.
July onwards, something else will become fashionable. We will be forgotten again until the next Pride.
Therefore, I declare 1st July as a holiday for all voices in the LGBT community. Actually, I declare the next 11 months as a holiday.
Tomorrow, I will be sleeping in – finally.
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“But, you don’t look like a lesbian? Are you sure you are a lesbian?” I was asked by a very alpha male friend.
I looked at him, and with a straight face (yeah, the only thing straight about me) asked, ‘So, what do lesbians look like’?
He responded, ‘array, you know. They have short hair, they dress up like men, they also behave like men’. I said, ‘You mean, the butch women‘? He said, ‘okay, perhaps, if that is what they are called’.
I was curious, I asked. ‘So, you think I am not a lesbian, because I don’t fit into your stereotype of what a lesbian should look like?”.
He looked a wee bit uncomfortable as he said, ‘I mean, look at you. I have often seen you in a sari, you wear dresses, you don’t have a typical boy cut, you wear lipstick and make up. That’s why I wondered if you were a lesbian‘. I waited for him to finish.
‘Do you know that being a lesbian is about being attracted to another woman?. How one self expresses is not about our sexual orientation. What we wear, our look is just an expression of ourselves‘.
He said, ‘Oh! But you can be feminine and still love another woman‘?
I had to smile at this, and said gently to him, “Yes, my dear friend. I am attracted to women emotionally and physically, regardless of whether I seem feminine or butch. Does that make sense’?
He said sheepishly, ‘Oh and here I was hoping you got it wrong. I thought perhaps you had not met the right man‘ …..
I looked straight at this man, and said, “And you thought you were THAT man?“.
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Do watch my TEDx talk : 50 and Out
I wake up most mornings to a few dozen messages on my various social handles. Some of them are simply congratulating me on my Tedx Talk enquiries to engage me for talks or to put forward my views/opinion pieces and some are deeply personal messages, often painful to read.
“I don’t know what to do anymore. I think the only option is to kill myself”.
“Sometimes, I feel like my life is over and this is how it will be for me. Darkness”
“There are times, I am tempted to kill my family and end it all. For me and them”.
“I am imprisoned by my own husband. I want out. What do I do?’
I talk, chat, mentor, offer support, find them the appropriate help – but it leaves its mark. Deep marks in fact.
It brings me back to my days when it was painfully, tragically hard when I had come out. I felt alone. I felt this was it, and there would be no light in my life ever again. I felt fear. I felt pain. I felt despair. But mostly I felt, hopelessness.
Today, in 2021 as we all celebrate #PrideMonth and celebrate #ally-ship and celebrate the courageous stories of all our journeys, please do not forget to pray for those who are still struggling or are put through very horrible, inhuman emotional, physical, mental abuse, simply because our loved ones do not understand us and are not willing to educate themselves and accept. There are families who put our community through inhuman #conversiontherapy in the name of ‘curing’ us.
Please hold out a hand to those who reach out to you – by supporting a person from #LGBTQ+ community, you will not become ‘gay’ I promise you.
But, you will make a queer person feel loved and accepted and that would be enough for many of us.
Our ‘Coming Out Stories From India’ series was launched to create positive role models of people with lived experiences. Please do subscribe, watch and share. We need to change this narrative. It is our collective responsibility. One story at a time.