I didn’t sit with tea or coffee this morning, though it is still quiet. I do have a topic in mind. I have been tiptoeing around a lot of people this new year, you know the people who you find in your life at a certain crossroad where you recognise something similar, something that you both share, a common enemy or a common struggle perhaps, and you see yourself with them. You see them for who you think they might be and given how lonely you are, you say, oh there you are! You are my friend!
But soon, soon you realise, no! that person is not your friend. They might see you in a friendly way but they are not your friend.
Women, as a species, and as a broad gender, have always felt that they needed solidarity. We feel like we need this because if we don’t have this, what do we have left? Men? Sure, there are some men, some decent men, who identify as a feminist, the ones who want to talk about their feelings, the ones who are like, yeah, I’m okay with having period sex, etc. But can they truly offer that friendship that one finds with someone from her own gender?
I have been pondering and observing these facts and my experiences on this ever since I came out as a Transwomxn. I still don’t agree with the ‘coming out’ as a term, but it is the closest I could come to an analogy that would get the message across.
So, I decided to note down a series of my experiences with the cisgender women that I met during my grad school education at a private university. I will list one experience every week, and though they may read like a personal attack, I will do my best to make them soft and pillow-likely to tend to your delicate sensibilities. I understand that you may feel offended, thinking, yaar Maine to nhi bola aisa, or I didn’t mean it like that, or the ever-so-refreshing, it was not my intention to hurt you, but that’s just your own interpretation, not what I said, so I would suggest you be gone; especially if you think you might be in these thought-provoking and mind stimulatingly descriptive pieces, I suggest you don’t read ahead.
And be aware, women, gays and non-binaries (i am pretty sure that is the only demographic reading this) that I shall be using the most ostentatious English names, to maintain these people’s anonymity, and their personalities will be reflected in their respective names, however supple or thorny they might be.
The first person I will be talking about is Karen. Yes, she is named Karen. And yes, she is that Karen- privileged, white (fair nay, milk-skinned in the Indian context) and she likes to gossip. This woman was one of the first people I met in Amity. Back in the first semester, we had a hybrid thing going, where some students were online and some offline. She and I were among the handful of offline students. She was also one of the first people who gave me a hug, like oh my god, you are so pretty, and tall, gerrrl look at those legs. Yup, that’s how she greeted me. Nothing says ‘I am okay with you being gay’ more than the incorporation of the word girl in the first sentence.
Karen, at one time, saw me coming from afar and hid her lunch while she lipped the words, yaar ye lunch dekh lega. Funny, isn’t it? Sure, she had lunch, prepared by a mother who is caring, and alive, but how dare I see or share that? Her actions were probably provoked by my previous enthusiastic affirmatives when she offered me a bite to eat. I wake up at five o’clock in the morning, to do menial chores for my father, as it is considered my rent. I know it sounds degenerative and negative, but that is simply my reality. So, when a person smiles and offers to feed me when I don’t know if and when I’ll be having my next meal, I say yes.
The fact that she said gerrrl not Gworl, told me right then and there that this was the first time she was saying it, and that she probably hadn’t met another alternative person, as she’d like to call me, hitherto. But that’s the thing, Karen always viewed me as ‘a’ gay, which in her definition was a gay male, simply cross-dressing. Somewhere deep down, I think I have been telling myself that at least it is better than her straight-up hating you, or creating havoc of you being in her personal, and female space. So, when she asked me one day during a metro ride together, why can’t a boy just be effeminate or feminine, you know he can behave like a ladki (girl) if he wants, but still be a boy? Why does he have to use she/her pronouns?
In her mind, she was simply asking a question. She did it respectfully, and politely. I understand that. Women are inquisitive, and they shall ask as much as they want to know. But here is the thing: what you say and communicate are two different things. What is mentioned above, is what she said. Now here is what I heard.
Hey, I have a question for you. And I am going to be very polite about this, as I am growing up in a culture where ‘people like you’ can shout homophobia and xenophobia as loud as you can at the first slightly insensitive thing. I would like to know, in my very polite and privileged way, nay I demand to know why a boy, such as yourself, is forcing me to admit, in every sentence I utter in a social setting, that you are a woman. Because, honestly, I simply would like to understand why I should be forced to say something I don’t believe in. But, I can’t say that, so I am going to smile and nod as if I am open to a conversation. Who knows, I might even be open to a conversation, but could you please explain your whole life to me, because, honestly I don’t understand. I get that your mom died, and I know you have a hard life, but like. get over it and put my queries above all that. I deserve to know why I should be calling you a girl. So, answer.
If that seems to you an exaggeration, my dearest reader, I implore you to go back up, and read what she said, and then come back down and read what I heard. If you can bring yourself to understand the difference and yet, the most correct interpretation, I invite you to read further ahead.
Firstly, I understand that in some ways, it is somewhat exaggerated. But what you may not see, is that there is a microscopic sentence behind every word, every smile, every hair tuck, and every nod. And that, that is exactly what my years of repression and chronic self-reflection have taught me to see. I have been non-consensually trained in this sea of anxiety and self-hatred, and I positively don’t expect you to see it when you interact with me. I am very good at hiding it. I am sitting on the floor, as I write this, on my 6-year-old laptop Sophia named after a Disney princess, with a set of cold hands because my blood sugar is probably low as I haven’t had anything to eat or drink after dinner last night, not because I don’t want to, but because it is not available. And it has been more than 12 hours since my last meal. So, bear with me as I complete this.
What followed that question in that conversation, was a simple explanation of the difference between gender and sexuality, and how interconnected and not-connected they are at times. I hope and wish Karen understood it. I explained it to her with the same smiles and nods and hair-tucks, and here is why: I happen to understand what she meant to say- on the surface and below the surface alike- but in order to bring a shift in her attitude, I needed her to see understanding, not hostility.
I could have very easily been like- oh I am so offended right now, like how dare you question my identity, and like I have suffered so much, and can’t I have a moment of peace? I also could have actively or passive-aggressively attacked her- oh what a shameful piece of shit-feminist you are, like don’t you know the difference between gender and sexuality, or like I guess not because that’s the difference between, a B.A. honours degree and B.A. program degree, and yeah bitch I know where you been, you ain’t foolin’ nobody.
Of course, there were other options too, but I chose to take the query part of her question, and I chose to ignore every other aspect of her personality. What I got in return was a Karen who never asked me that same question again. She now never fiddles when addressing me as she, or her, and she is pleasantly more tolerable.
Some of you know who Karen is. Karen, if you are reading this, I would you to know that of all the people in my life that I have had the displeasure of educating, you have been one of the few surprising positive ones. These are not all the events that we share a common memory of, but these incidences are the ones that have marked our relationship in my mind. I hope you won’t be offended, but I do not care anyway. This isn’t about you.
The main reason I started this blog, was to chronicle the series of events that I as womxn am going through. I live in a hostile society, a hostile house, with dangerous, mentally unstable people. There is an absolute uncertainty about life that I have come to accept. It is exactly the reason why I am jotting down these details in a blog, for it to be out there, and not just in my diary. I hope I have earned the privilege of all the 4 minutes you have spent reading this, and I wish you all the good things in life, my dearest reader. Au Revoir!
2 thoughts on “14 January 2023”
This was berry refreshing to read. Looking forward to read more and know you more