The Gender Closet


Author: Anonymous from India

I was born in 1989. It was my first tryst with gender. I was my parents’ first-born. My father, unhappy with a girl child, refused to take my mother home. He came around eventually when I was about a year old, and never did he make me feel any less because of my gender. But years later, when I came to know of the agony and suffering my mother had to go through because of my father’s initial rejection of me (and of her), I was furious with him. I could never tell him that. My father passed away in 2002. I was thirteen then. As I have realized over the years, that was my second engagement with gender. Overnight, not only had I stopped being a child only concerned over report cards, sports, and being popular with friends, but I had also become the ‘son’ of the family. What that meant was that I had started making my own decisions and had an opinion of my own – qualities which, in an ideal world would be agendered – but in the world I inhabited, made me feel ‘like a man’. The artificiality and constructedness of gender roles would dawn upon me much later, thankfully not too late.

The Crush(es)

My first real crush was the neighbourhood ‘didi’. We had sleepovers, spoke into the night, exchanged stories of our everyday lives. Then there was this ‘best friend’ at school who I couldn’t stop talking to and thinking about. University changed my life in many ways. I fell in love with a friend who was (still is) heterosexual.  Another friend was in love with me as well. But the biggest change happened when a bunch of us opted for the Gender Studies course at University. New ideas were thrown up every day. Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble made a lot of sense. My life started to make sense as well. I could articulate my thoughts on how looking at that heterosexual friend made me feel happiest, even though I knew she had a boyfriend.

Time Flies and How?

I had completed my Masters in 2011, and had been teaching at a college. I had attended a seminar where an acclaimed playwright was there to inaugurate some gallery on Indian English literature and interact with students as well. As the dramatist took the stage, I asked my professor who was sitting next to me, “Is the lady sitting in the front row his wife?” Astonished, said Professor turned to me, “He’s gay!” I was mightily embarrassed. I knew the dramatist’s plays spoke of homosexuality but I had never linked his art to his sexuality. I do not know what had changed but when I reached home that day I called up my professor and came out to him.

What followed was a long process of coming out to myself, coming out to three of my friends, coming out but scrambling back in when it came to telling my mother. We live in different cities now and I want to keep it that way.

I met someone last year, and we’ve been together since. Life is still complicated but I know where I stand. I identify myself as queer.

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