The Indelible Muck

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To one incredible year of being Mr. Gay World India, 2016. The B/W pictures were shot in Malta, Europe during the pageant by Bradley Secker. You can find more of Bradley’s work here.

 

When I’d started off Effeminare back in 2014, (amidst all the resistance that there was) I believed that if I could reach out to even one individual, then that would be enough. While walking through the stats for my November post, I realized my posts have reached 38 countries ranging from Canada, USA, Netherlands, Germany, Guernsey, Belgium, Italy, France, Qatar, UAE, Seychelles, South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal to Japan. I honestly hadn’t heard the names of a few of those countries, and I’m very sorry that I hadn’t. I made it a point to locate the ones I didn’t on the map, and read about them.  And, if you’ve read my posts, a big THANK YOU! It means the world to me that you made the time to hear my story and I hope that you’ll keep coming back and keep sharing the love. Looking back, I still can’t decipher what had gotten into my 18 year old-self, that made me so headstrong, so I wrote anyway. Back in the day, that it was ‘difficult’ would be an understatement. Nobody around me spoke of homosexuality and I never looked for refuge on the Internet, mostly because I hardly used social media. The only gay man I’d met was a hostel-mate from the same batch. His world was my door to the world of homosexuality- from music, to films, to literary works, it was insane! I’d sit in my room and watch hours of Freddie Mercury on the Internet. I really am obsessed with Mercury, his audacity gave me the power to own my sexuality. It’s been 3 and a half years since, I’ll complete my graduation this summer (that’s also if I don’t fail any of my courses this sem!), and I’m definitely not a naive 18 year old anymore, who’d walked into IIIT knowing nothing about the world. However, I’ll always be very proud of that 18 year-old who simply believed and was persistent. I’ll never and I really hope that I never let go off that 18 year-old within me.

I also want to thank each one of you who has reached out to me through all these months. While I haven’t been able to reply to each one of them, I’m extremely over-whelmed to receive all the love and support I have and I really hope you will continue to keep up with the same. Effeminare also began with a belief that I’ll get to share the positivity and joy that I’d experienced when I came out. I’ll be 22 this July and I still can’t process the fact that I’ll complete six years of coming out. So much has happened in these past six years, and I honestly can’t wait to finish my graduation and finally move into something I truly have always wanted to do. I’m still not giving out what it will be, but I can assure you, it is my happy space and I hope that it turns out well. 🙂 I’ve also had an incredibly busy past year, I’ve had the opportunity of seeing the world a little more and I’ve been my busiest self on the social media. Those who’ve been following me prior to Mr. Gay World India, also know that I’m not a very social media savvy person. To be very honest, I still feel like there’s nothing in the world that I’m best at. I feel a little empty artistically and I have soo much to learn, I would really want to gift myself that time and space for the next two years. While I’m very happy to see how well ‘Fitting Out’ has performed and how well it has reached people, it has also been a financially difficult year for me (despite of all the financial help I had from my family and colleagues). I’d be lying if I say I don’t think over a hundred times before spending my money over anything. I’m still a 21 year old student, and no matter what, I can never take up a well-paying job at this point of time with the strict academic curriculum of IIIT, which not to mention is doubly hard for me since I don’t have a strong aptitude for Electronics. I understand that money isn’t everything, but as Shah Rukh Khan had very rightly said, “There’s nothing romantic about being poor.” The work that I do opt for with the limited time I have, is enough as pocket money, but definitely not enough to pay my bills yet. So yes, I think I’ve found my true calling and I’m surely going to prioritize focusing and building a set of skills in my field of interest so I could also keep up with my campaigning, something that really drives me. I know how deep down within, no matter what work I take up tomorrow, I’ll always spare a part of it to a cause I truly believe in.

So coming to why I’d started writing this post! I’ve often heard people talking about why do I write about acceptance for the LGBTIQ community so much, or that I nag and correct people every time they make a derogatory joke. To add to that, it saddens me to see that four years since I joined IIIT and came out, I still continue to be the only out homosexual in our institute. I’ve seen students around at least make an effort to keep a check on their speech because I was around, I wonder if that’ll happen once I graduate this year. A couple of days back I’d posted on Instagram, a screenshot of some male chauvinism going around in the comments’ section to one of my belly dancing videos. I’m not going to post it here again, because I don’t want any of that filthy conversation on my blog. I was amazed by how the two boys had nothing but random cuss words to throw at people who tried rectifying them, and to add to that they were also verbally abusive and didn’t spare my girlfriends.

I have absolutely no issues dealing with hate on the social media or otherwise. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to deal with hate and homophobia, and unfortunately this won’t be the last either. Then why did I choose to speak out this time, you ask? I’m not on any self-healing journey by posting about the conversation here. The reason why we sometimes need to speak out, is so that we can let such people know that they are wrong, because unfortunately most people don’t. When you don’t speak out, you are actually fostering their thought process. What bothers me, is that these two boys are the face of a larger popular mindset that has grown on patriarchy and don’t have the balls to face the fact that they are in fact wrong. What’s worse than making a mistake, is not accepting the same. That they don’t have an ounce of regret and the audacity to write such filth on the social media is indicative of the venomous generic attitude our society has been fostering. Are we really teaching our boys well enough? Are we really making them sensitive enough towards individuals other than their own kind? Would these boys really grow up to respect the women in their lives? What if tomorrow their children come out to them as LGBTIQ? Will those children have a safe environment to grow up in? Think of these questions when next time you ask me why I chose to speak out, and perhaps why you should too.

Peace out.

 

Ugly Enough to be Mr. Gay World India

I don’t think I would’ve ever thought about writing an article about this, especially months after having been through the sort of Internet bullying I was subjected to, not that it made me feel any less fabulous about myself (mostly because I honestly don’t give a fuck). But I’m very well aware of what the general mentality of the entire gay community in our country is like and you might not know, but you could be affecting someone else’s self-esteem majorly and you really shouldn’t. I was blessed enough to have a childhood where my parents never told either of me or my sister that we had to be fair enough and well-built enough and good-looking enough to achieve our dreams in life. Neither of us were insecure of the way we looked, or wished for our butts to be bigger, for our noses to be longer and sharper, or for our jaw lines to be more well-defined to be successful in our life. However, the only thing we were time and again reminded of was how we had to be more focused, how we must meditate to concentrate better and never stop learning to be better versions of ourselves. But interestingly, not many of us seem to have been taught of any of this through all those years we managed to exist. Minutes after I won Mr. Gay World India in the month of January, the social media was exploding with, “He’s too ugly to represent our country”, “Oh he didn’t even bother to shave his beard before the pageant”, “He’s too dark to represent me!”, “India couldn’t find a hotter representative?” I laughed them all off! And I’m not trying to be my beauty pageant politically correct self here. Not one bit! If you know me, you’d also know how head-strong I am when it comes to sticking to my conscience and standing by what is right. And I’ll tell you why it didn’t affect me. Because I was made to feel so small each day I went to school, that nobody could’ve made me feel any lesser about me and my existence. I never expected people to find me beautiful on the outside, because it is hardly what defines me. But in the last couple of days I’ve come across way too many friends of mine who keep telling me how they don’t think they’re beautiful, and that is a problem. The way you look on the outside is nothing more than simple grooming. And all your face lifts and beefed up chests can never compensate for your inner darkness.

 

 

Nobody saw through how Mr. Gay World India and Mr. Gay World challenged traditional notions of beauty and gave everyone the right to feel beautiful about their selves. And why exactly should I feel any less pretty of the way I look? Because I didn’t fit into your stupid fucked up and limited notions of beauty? Or that you couldn’t come out of your virtual world of Grindr and Instagram filters? Come out of your little shell and let yourself be a part of the world of possibilities. Value yourself with the number of great books you’ve read over your WhatsApp texts, or the number of lives you could change for the better over the number of guys/girls you slept with (do it because you want to, not because you want to tell the world how cool your life is over theirs). You are perfect the way God made you and you don’t have to compare yourself with others (even though we’re all guilty of it). Interestingly, while I was being picked on for being way too ugly to represent India, my good friend Esteban, Mr. Gay Argentina 2016 was being picked on for being his muscular self and not being a representative of the average gay men across his country.

We live in a world today where body-image issues make up a huge part of our life, unfortunately, and that is a very dangerous world to live in. If I don’t judge you for the gazillion surgeries and implants you’ve got to achieve your perfect notion of beauty, please refrain from judging me from the surgeries I chose not to get done on myself. He made me beautiful. He made you beautiful. I am beautiful.

Peace out.

 

 

Why you need to learn to say No!

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Picture from yesterday’s event at IIT Delhi in collaboration with Gaylaxy magazine. It was good to meet some very accepting group of people and spreading some Rainbow Love. ❤

 

 

I have been trying to get this out of my system for long now, but let’s just say it has been pretty difficult. In fact to put it in simple words, I’ve been scared to even talk about it, simply because it involves someone so influential and someone who I truly admired and we unfortunately don’t live in a world where we talk as much about men being sexually abused or touched inappropriately. I have read and heard so much about it from friends and my acquaintances that the possibility of it happening to me seemed next to impossible, since I tend to think a lot before making any decision in my life. We’re never taught to tackle such situations in our lives, and many a times we don’t even realize or understand that it has already happened to us. A couple of days back, a friend of mine mentioned how he was in an abusive relationship for long, never realizing that he himself was in one. He said, “Imagine me? A Yale and Harvard graduate and even I didn’t have the sensibility to understand I was being abused!”

Since I won Mr. Gay World India in January this year, I have been working on my campaign ‘Fitting Out’, and very actively meeting influential and inspiring people from the LGBTIQ community. While it it has been a very fulfilling and enriching experience for me, needless to say, I also very often get approached by men to spend a night with them, which I can only politely refuse to. Only days after I won the title, I very well understood how difficult it is to carry the responsibility of winning a crown and the hard work and constant dedication that goes into living up to your role as the reigning Mr. Gay World India, which is all the more tough since I’m still in college. Every time I meet someone officially, I prefer talking to them at their office with people around or at a busy coffee shop or a market place. A few days back, I went to meet one of these many officials to discuss a possible collaboration and an awareness campaign with respect to the LGBTIQ community. Let’s call this official Mr. X. Mr. X happens to be an influential and wealthy figure in the community, and like I mentioned, happened to be someone I truly admired. I received a text asking me to meet him at his hotel room late at night for a longer conversation. I had met Mr. X prior to this one very briefly, and I was very happy with the idea of a possible collaboration. With sheer respect for him and his time, I agreed to meet him at his mentioned time, which I honestly would’ve never agreed to had it been anyone else. And while all this happened, not even once did it ever strike me that he could ever have any other intentions other than just an official meet. Another reason why it also never struck me was because Mr. X happens to be married and is older than my father (which on a second thought shouldn’t have stopped me from thinking otherwise). He had also mentioned that he was going to reach the city late and therefore had asked me to visit him at that time. So I went up to meet him, where we exchanged ideas related to our respective campaigns. I went to wash my hands and we were still talking while I was in the washroom when I felt his hands fondling my hair and touching me at the back of my neck. I was instantly uncomfortable. Moments later I find his arms around me, with him trying to kiss my ears. I was shocked, so grossed out by his behavior, and honestly so scared that I didn’t even know how I could’ve pushed him away.  A series of questions ran through my mind, “What is he trying to do to me?”,“How can he even think of doing this to me?”, “How can I raise my voice?”, “But he’s simply too powerful!” I finally gathered the courage and said, “I have to leave!” and rushed out of the room. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to talk to. I called an Uber and went back home. I couldn’t get his smell off of me. I kept blaming myself for what had happened. How could have I been so naïve? How could someone of his stature do this to me? How can I speak out being a man? I was appalled by his behavior and with time realized how lucky I was to have walked out of it safe and sound. I’m also very grateful for the friends, my family and my mentors who have supported me through this.

It is only when it happens to you that you understand the trauma and dejection you feel when you undergo such situations in life. I can only imagine the hardships that individuals who’ve been sexually abused for years (by the most unexpected people) go through.  I shared my story with a couple of my friends and realized I wasn’t alone. A friend of mine mentioned how her tuition teacher would try touching her breasts every time she went to his class, another mentioned how this guy she was kissing once, suddenly started forcing himself on her and wouldn’t let her go when she refused. But something else was common to all our stories. We did not know how to refuse. We didn’t know how we could’ve stopped what was happening to us. We, especially the men are never taught to deal with such situations. Perhaps, one of the ways we could stop it is by speaking out? Go to someone who you believe. Be strong and courageous and don’t let anyone else touch you without your consent. While reading more stories online, I came across this incredible quote by a writer named Miri:

“Just like you wouldn’t touch a bag or a purse that belongs to someone else, don’t touch a body that belongs to someone else–which, by definition, is every body except your own.”

 

Peace out.

12 Things 2015 Taught Me about Life

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I did this picture with Savi for her college magazine. So much fun every time we do pictures together. :’)

 

2015 has by far been the most fulfilling and secure year of my life. I happily walked out of a relationship where I wasn’t an equal with my head held high, became fully aware of how I can’t make everyone happy in the world, met complete strangers in life who brightened my day up at once, made friends almost instantly who went on to become my closest set of friends and finally realized how sometimes in life some things can mean so much to you that you’re literally ready to give it all that you have.  Here’s a roundup of the twelve lessons I learned in 2015 about life:

  1. I had a lot of fun, and it isn’t fun.
  2. You can be the sweetest peach in the world, but there’s still going to be someone who doesn’t like peaches.
  3. Grow up, never become an adult. Adults are boring. If you are always trying way too hard to be normal you’ll never know how amazing you can be.
  4. There’s always going to be someone a lot better than you, someone a lot more talented than you are, and someone who has been working a lot harder than you have. And that’s exactly why one should never stop pushing oneself to get better.
  5. Allow me to quote Paulo Coelho here, “And, when you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you achieve it”. ‘nuf said!
  6. Don’t wait for life to be perfect. What you have right now is perfection. If you don’t value what you have today, you’ll never learn to value it tomorrow. Don’t wait for your life to get back on track. Make the best of what you have right now. There’s always something wonderful today, that you might not have tomorrow.  The glass is never half empty. It is always full-half with water and the other half with air.
  7. Life is service. Service is joy. We’re all here to make a difference. You don’t necessarily have to change the world, but you can always do your bit and the universe will take care of itself.
  8. Experiment! Not everything in life has to lead to something. Don’t be scared to take risks in life. Remember, if someone has done it, you can do it too. If someone hasn’t done it yet, then you should definitely do it. Take a chance, follow your instincts. You’re going to walk out of it stronger and wiser than ever.
  9. You’re not going to be always right. Don’t let your pride over-shine you. Make your mistakes, and more importantly accept them. That’s the only way you’ll learn to correct them.
  10. Never stop learning. Like ever!
  11. You deserve all the happiness on earth. Work hard, be good, and let yourself be a good student, your life will be a great teacher.
  12. Life is magic. And don’t you dare stop believing in magic!

 

Love and Light

The Effeminare