Tag Archives: Labels: What Am I?

So I am gainfully employed.

Something Is Wrong With This Picture.

Something Is Wrong With This Picture.

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Proud; Also Exhausted, Bewildered, OUT (somewhat)!

Not necessarily in that order.

What with Pride, Good As You and other things, I’ve been meeting loads of people lately – it’s an active social life, with the disconcerting realisation that there are people here (not all of them, obviously, but an unexpectedly large number) whom I actively like. Friends!

It’s shocking.

Every so often one of them would say, You’re coming to the Pride Eval(uation) meeting, right? And after a point (when I figured out when and where it was) I’d say Maybe, Why Not and finally: Sure! Because, what the hell, it’s not like I have anything else to do.

Leave aside the issue of finding the goddamn ALF, which resides quietly and busily on Infantry road; I made my way there merrily enough, and then woke up to the realisation that most of the people there were, in fact, organisers, either officially or unofficially, and what the hell was I doing there?

Either because they remembered they’d invited me, or because they were too polite to throw me out, or because I’M SO AWESOME, they didn’t throw me out.

It was interesting – in fact, fascinating. I’ve known some of these people a while now, but always in a more social, non–meeting-with-agenda setting. The general air was pleased, but also somewhat brisk. Let’s wrap up this thing, it’s been going on for months now, and we’ve done well but we’re done.

The 2010 Bengaluru Pride was funded entirely through donations, with no corporate or institutional sponsorship. I’m not going into numbers, but they did well, especially considering how thankless a process collecting donations can be. Suffice it to say that Pride 2010 is safely in the black. Hooray for budgeting!

They went over the initial planning meetings. Was decision-making inclusive, egalitarian and inclusive? Apparently, (and with some surprise from unnamed people) yes. Were we to worry that the hijra presence seemed less obvious than the last two year’s? Yes, but also no: they’re currently in the middle of negotiation certain issues amongst themselves (not entirely sure, but it involves identity and identification); they’ve had some grief recently and needed to heal and deal; hey, they were there, whole-heartedly, for the things they wanted to be part of. But also yes, just because.

S (there were so many S’s, so this is S1) noted that there were more women and transgender persons in this Pride, making this the least patriarchal event so far. (Hah!)

Media coverage was another thing. The media coverage for 2010’s Pride was pretty shit. The discussion that went on here was long and rambling, but the final consensus seemed to be that

  • there needed to be an official media team, with members who had no (or very few) other duties
  • the Media Team need to chase/harass/be in constant touch with the actual media, reporters, reps etc. to make sure that whatever else, we’ve done our bit to keep them in the loop
  • next time, we should find the LGBT-friendly journalists (especially the older, established names) and get them to help!
  • the reporters who showed but didn’t write anything? we should contact them, do a little follow-up to see if they will now

S2 noted that while Pride may not have received the coverage we wanted, we weren’t sensationalised either, which is all to the good. R noted that sensationalism and coverage are the only ways we reach the people who’re still at home, closeted, hiding, or just feeling alone. On which stalemated note,  we moved on!

(I’ve shifted pronouns from “them” to “us”. I shall continue, because I’m self-involved enough to feel like it’s correct, but in all honesty I did feel a fraud to be there at all.)

Of overlapping concern was the website. It seemed obvious that the Media Team would have to be in close contact with the Website Team (and there needed to be a Website Team!). Whoever worked on the website would need to put things there in Kannada as well as English, right from the start. (Apparently uploading stuff in Kannada is a real hassle on the current site design, I dunno how that works.)

Every report needs to be in both English and Kannada – which lead on a tangent to the issue of translation. S2 spoke about the need to generate our own discourse in Kannada, lifting from English for terminology where convenient, or whatever. (There was talk of compiling a glossary of terms, which is geeky and adorable.) If necessary, the next time around we shall hunt up professional translators to do the job.

Next year’s Pride is likely to be in July, coinciding with the Naz judgement anniversary. July is a nicer time of year, if overly warm. (Planning would start in, like, April or so. That’s barely any time!)

G suggested that a week of concentrated events was silly. Why not stretch it out, with breaks, over a month? D added that this would be useful in making it a larger event, with some focus on Karnatakan queer persons (blanket-terming here, sorry) and not just the urban set.

(I’m not sure whether that’s a GREAT FUCKING AWESOME IDEA or a tiresome waste of an entire month where our lives will revolve around our statements of our sexualities whether we’re out or not. Or both at once, which is what most of my life feels like at the moment.)

S3 (3?) noted that the next Pride needs to be at least big as this event, and if possible, bigger. I am so fucking sorry for the poor sods who volunteer for the next Pride, really I am. Good luck, you, whoever you are!

I’m skipping over the individual events for the most part, except to make note:

  • panel discussions and open forum stuff is best scheduled to weekends and not weekdays during working hours
  • The Transgender Day of Remembrance is an event independent of Pride, and always will be (which means next year the organising, what’s needed of it, will be handled by someone other than the Pride Committee? Or will they do it too, as a last huzzah?)
  • The Drama Baazi and Film Shorts are likely to be long processes with exposure during Pride, but not limited in labour or time to that month

And the leftover cash? Hand it over to the next Pride group? Invest in merchandise? Fund the Film-maker and theatre enthusiasts? Keep it for themselves? (I still sort of think they should have!) Use it to start a Crisis Fund?

Finally, they decided to fund the follow-up events – such as the film-making etc. – and the rest goes to the next Pride.

There is a fascinating in watching these people – some of whom I am going to get to know very well, I hope – in a working scenario, however informal. In seeing the maneuverings of several trains of persistent thought and the negotiations between them – in three languages no less.

I’ll be in Bangalore still next July, and I hope I’m in contact with the cooks making Pride broth, just to see how they work together, how they make decisions and get things done. It seems so WEIRD, a bunch of random people working towards a common goal from their hearts as opposed to their wallets or need to serve a formal authority.

After which, we ate! And then I went home.

My mum, well, has been suspecting that I was hiding something for a while. And she pushed, a bit. Amongst other gems she asked:

  • were all these people I am hanging out with employed?
  • were the unemployed ones rich people with nothing better to do?
  • who were these people anyway?
  • could I not find people I liked this much in other groups?

So I told her I was “bi”. (It’s a rather limiting term really, especially in these days of fluid genders and sexualities, but it’s also convenient.) It didn’t go badly. Just not well.

In the conversation that followed, my mum decided to tell me that I am immature. In context, it sounded like she meant that with reference to my sexuality. In retrospect, I realise she meant it about all of me. She is perfectly okay with whom I may or may not love, may or may not marry.

Hooray for openness, unyay for self-respect, I guess.

Fortunately, the next day we hugged and made up. My mum is always more sensible in daylight. She hasn’t taken it back, about my immaturity, and of course I still fucking resent that. But it’s better than being thrown out of the house or told that my attractions aren’t valid or – well, whatever else people come up with.

(It turns out: I was invited to the Eval meet because I was there. No more, no less. The world does not revolve around you, Roh!)

(I was supposed to post this last Friday. When all of this actually happened. But I am lazy, and this is my blog so I can do what I like! Mwuhahahahaha, etc.)

Proud and Loud: Out in the Streets (!)

[So I deserve cookies today too, but since I am stuffed with garlic bread and cheese I shall forgo my demands of the universe and just ask for this post to be finished before midnight.

Edited before posting to add: It wasn’t. It’s 12:40 a.m. Next time, I’ll start earlier.]

I’ve never Marched for Pride before – it’s embarrassing to admit it, but I spent two whole years in Bangalore not even knowing they were happening. Where was my head? What was I doing? It’s a mystery. If I hadn’t been accidentally linked to Good As You, I’d never have even really believed there were LGBT people in Bangalore. And let’s not even start on what might have happened if I hadn’t screwed up the courage to go to a meeting – there’d be nothing to start with.

Anyway. I woke up this morning an hour earlier than I intended to because we had visitors. I watched Numb3rs. (Charlie Epps is so cute, etc.) I made careful purchases to ensure I wouldn’t collapse of deprivation while I walked – coke, granola bars, chocolate. (I learned today that granola bars are a dyke thing. Who knew?)

Then I wended my auto’d, expensive way to Majestic, and walked around until I saw a rainbow-coloured umbrella. And then another. Aha, my inner Sherlock said. This might be My People! And they were!

I was a few minutes early, and the actual walking didn’t start for nearly an hour. This was an hour spent socialising and making note of the people I’d met over the past few days and figuring out which ones I absolutely must talk to again because I actively like them. (Yeah, I’m talking about you. Of course I’m talking about you, babe, I love you! and so on.) I find it a little odd, how many people I recognise. It’s not a HUGE community, but I guess certain people show up everywhere  – because they’re active, they’re supportive, they’re gutsy, they’re proud, it’s either be seen or roll over and die – what have you. People were putting on the hats and masks and picking out posters and getting their faces painted.

I’d located KRI today, learned I could write about him as s/he if I pleased, watched as he got half a green moustache painted on hir face, and finally decided I too must be painted. There were, as far as I could make out, three people doing the painting. Pallavi, the only person I knew, was busy, so a tiny woman (it is very nice to be in Bangalore, where so many people are shorter than I am) called Francesca dabbled away at my left cheek. I couldn’t see the damn thing, though I had asked for Not Pink, and Whatever You Like, so I assumed it was pretty. Staring forbiddingly at my phone, daring her to think I was falling for her technological allure, I managed to take a photo of it. A small triumph for Machine, a Giant Victory over Roh-kind! (Over the course of the day, loads of people took photographs of said cheek. I shall hunt up a few and maybe put them here.)

So. At some point, when the crowd size and assorted noises (people, auto, loudspeaker, various percussion instruments, horn) reached critical mass – We Marched!

I must admit, I was a bit iffy about this whole marching business. I could ramble on and on about why I was ambiguous, but I shall make a tidy list instead.

  • Am I, in fact, all that proud? Dedicated readers might have noticed a certain yen for self-criticism. Does my acceptance of my sexual self indicate the kind of effusiveness the word “Pride” projects?
  • If I suggest that “Pride” is an act of defiance, of self-acceptance, of assertion of my Dignity as a sexual human being, am I steady enough in my Self to walk in public, making this statement?
  • Am I queer? I like women, and I like men; am I comfortable with the label of “bisexuality”, “queer”, granola-eating “dyke”? If I march, am I surrendering to these terms? Am I “committing”, and am I okay with that?
  • Does being not-straight truly make me one with all these people, these massed hordes none of whom seem similar to me, whether they’re L, G, B, T or unlabelled? Or “straight”?
  • Oh my gods, a three-hour walk? Won’t my feet fall off?

To answer some of these questions: I may not be proud of me, but I fucking well am proud of us. I’m not “like” all of these people, but that’s okay, I’m with them anyway. I don’t need the label, but it’s not technically inaccurate, and if it is, I’ll sort it out when I need to, and until then I’ll take a fucking chill pill. I’m not strange, but hey, why not, I’m queer and I’m here. I need to get over it. And oh heavenly gods, a three-hour walk, my feet felt like they’d fall off. (But no worries! They’re still here!)

I moved from the front to the back to the middle and sallied here and there. At one point, I wore a green wig.
I didn’t dance – I did wiggle my hips. Twice. Someone, I forget who, told me I needed to loosen up, but I kept things tight. I took a few photographs. I found most of the people I’ve met over the past few weeks. I held up posters now and again. I hugged. I shared the coke, which was nice of me.

I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time. Don’t ask me why I was so happy. Why I’m still so happy. We were all fucking high on ourselves, and I swear even the policemen making sure we marched in a somewhat orderly manner cracked a smile every so often.

The Pride website tells me we marched from Tulsi Park (near Majestic bus station) through Anand Rao Circle, Freedom Park and Corporation Circle to Banappa Park. I wouldn’t know – that entire side of town is like the past and another country for me. (Also, I travel a lot by bus, which means I don’t always pay attention to how I’m going where I’m going.)

Well. Well. We got there. By now, even the most hardcore jumpy dancers were flagging. Akkai (Padmashali?) welcomed us all there – dudes, if we go by type alone, there were loads of us! Queer Trangendered F-to-M M-to-F Hijra Kothi Jogappa Gay Bi Lesbian Straight and I dunno what all. At that moment it just felt like there were masses and masses of us, and we were one big mushily loving family. (It is now past midnight on the 29th, and I am back to my charming, cynical, pessimistic self. But at that moment…)

Sumathi from Sangama, Ramesh Babu from the Janatha Dal Secular party, someone from the CSI (?) not sure about this last. Topics of interest were, of course, the Naz judgement, the appeal at the Supreme Court, Karnatakan government decisions to provide more assstance to the transgender community (loans, employment, the lot); and of course the stuff we’re still asking for  free Sexual Reassignment Surgery, lower costs for Anti Retroviral Treatments, the right to education and employment, the right to adopt… Sumathi mentioned, and for some reason I remembered this very clearly, more than anything else, that it was imperative that forced marriages be done away with – to force someone to be that miserable is kinda sucky. (She was more heartfelt than this, but I am being briefer than brief.) At some point, Akkai called some of the individual organisers (Tanvi, Siddharth, Amritha, Niruj, Sumathi, the other Siddharth[?])  up on to the stage and garlanded them, which was adorable.

Two friends of mine, J and A, showed up at around this point, not more than mildly shamefaced at having missed the actual walking. But they took me out for food and coffee after, so I forgive them. I was proud enough for all three of us, anyway.

No, really.