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?“.
Do subscribe to my YouTube Channel for heartwarming #ComingOutStoriesFromIndia
Do watch my TEDx talk : 50 and Out
Let me start with a story …
My partner and I were invited to a party couple of years ago, in India. The party had people from the events industry, mostly. It was one of those parties where booze and food was flowing. Our ‘coming out’ story had been recently shared on Humans of Bombay and Brut India, both platforms with extremely wide reach in India. We had received numerous messages from our industry colleagues and that story. So we were prepared in a way to get some reaction. We decided to dress up a bit that night – and we walked in to the party to many stares. People hugged us and overall there was a sense of celebration.
Then we bumped into someone who we had known for a while, who joined into a conversation we were in the midst of with another colleague. She said to us, ‘Oh,Raga, Nicola!! You ladies look gorgeous today!‘. We thanked her graciously. In that moment, our colleague said, ‘oh all you three ladies look gorgeous’. Someone else came along to chat to us, and she thought I was distracted and not listening. I heard her say, ‘Oh please don’t include me in with these two! I am not one of them‘.
That’s a FAKE ally! And a pathetic human!
There is this one person I know, who will talk constantly about having gay friends. But, quickly behind their back, refer to them as ‘homos’ or ‘that gay person’ in a derogatory manner.
One of the things I do best is ‘observe’. My favourite thing to do is sit with a a cup of coffee in a cafe and ‘people watch’. It is interesting how much people reveal.
These days, due to lockdown, the past few months have been spent in virtual mode, mostly. These days, I have extended my favourite hobby to ‘people watch’ online. I now realise, we reveal much more of ourselves online than offline!! Interesting eh!
Anyway, that is not the point of writing this. The real point is my observation about those we call allies to the #LGBTQ community. Firstly, thank you for being allies. It means a lot to me, personally and to us in the community. But as we know, the world has real people and then it has the fake ones. The fake ones spoil it for the real allies, right?
How do we spot a fake ally? Let me list a few from my personal observation. Perhaps, you have some more to add to this?
- The are the tick-in-the-box allies:They become visible only during #PrideMonth. Rest of the year, they have other boxes to tick!
- Association by Social Media : They will share disparaging comments about the community behind our backs, but will show their support on social media: You do not have to delve too deep and you will find many such folks! I have known many who have passed snide comments about us and now show their allyship online by sharing their expertise on LGBT. Why? To leverage. Such associations bring more likes, more followers. After all, we are the flavour of the month.
- Free talk please: They will send you a personal message ONLY when they want a free talk from you: These allies will write generous, copious amounts of text telling you how inspired they are by you, and will send you a message and then end it with ‘You are the best, and we need you to share your experiences with us, but, we do NOT have the budget for this’. I am only talking about those from the corporate space.
- Budget hai? They will NOT respond the moment you ask for a budget: They love you until you ask for their budget. Then, they disappear without even having the courtesy of responding. Yes, it’s a true story. I get this all the time
- Most Fake ones will promote themselves, more than the cause: Watch them – they will be sharing how much of a great ally they are, instead of promoting the cause. Spot the difference.
- Allies who support homophobic companies and brands: They say they are allies, yet, they will not call out and openly support a brand that is outwardly homophobic.
If you are true ally, you don’t need validation that you are an ally. Just be. Support others without really promoting yourself – we are not a campaign that you have to promote!
Enjoy the joy of being a kind and compassionate human. Being an ally is all about creating a safe place for all through your genuine actions. All else is self promotion!!
Now ask yourself, are you a REAL ALLY or a FAKE ONE!
P.S: I love those who support us, and I thank all of you who do.