Editor's note: In this series titled 'Letter to the Subalterns' noted rights activist Harish Iyer reaches out to marginalised, oppressed groups and individuals.
Dear Effeminate Boy,
I’m writing to you to show you the true face of the world you live in. I’m also writing to you to show you your own reality. I am not going to butter your ego by muttering sweet nothings. Instead, I am going to tell you that you are just as ugly as the average human. You are just as nasty, just as naughty, just as unusual, just as incredible as the average individual. You are common, yet precious, ordinary and still rare. You are different, yet you are the same. I am also not going to put you up on a pedestal and champion you for being little different because frankly, you are just as special as everyone else.
What I am going to tell you is that it is upto you to take control of your destiny by standing up to bullies. Let the world not tell you that because you look different, that because you twist your wrist and shake your booty — you are gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay. If you are gay, you are gay, because you are gay. You were born that way. But you are not gay because you are girl-like. Some people like girls, some people are like girls, and some people like boys — like how girls like boys. It only means that you have another dimension, another perception, that your life is not monochrome. It means that there are shades of grey and hues of pink hovering over dear life. All our lives have traces of it... your life too, my life too, their life too. Yet it is strange that they fool you into believing that you are a little less of a person because you are effeminate.
Your body language has nothing to do with your gender, sex or sexuality. And just for the record those are three different things. Your sex can be male, female or inter-sex. Your gender can be masculine, feminine, trans-gender, a-gender, gender non-confirming, no gender or pretty much anything you identify with across a very wide spectrum. Your sexuality can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or even asexual (yes, it is possible!)
I’m telling you all this to tell you all these types of people exist and it is perfectly fine to be any of these. Our inherent patriarchy makes it difficult for a majority of the people in our country to accept anyone who does not confirm to well established stereotypes. We like to put people into neat little silos of what we think is normal. But the truth is that even “normal” is a stereotype!
Tell me, how is a hairy cave man with bulging biceps a “normal” man. And why is a “normal” woman a cranky, over-emotional drama-queen desperate to feed her son gajar-ka-halwa? Patriarchy makes us see women as lower than men. It makes us associate lower order attributes and emotions with them. It also sees gentleness and kindness as exclusively “feminine” traits, and frankly that is more than a little unfair to men!
Now let us look at how we selectively notice things that we want to notice. Have you ever noticed how meticulous some women are when it comes to planning and strategising? They think through every possible scenario. Whether it was your childhood playmate Pinky who always led your team to victory in a game of cops and robbers, or your grandma’s carefully structured approach to grocery shopping every month, or your mom’s effortless execution of a day spent balancing domestic chores and social obligations with accounting and banking, one can never ignore how women always have a plan A, plan B and often even a plan C. They are not only master strategists and excellent managers, they also somehow ensure that aesthetic appeal and efficiency go hand in hand. But do we use these qualities to describe the “feminine” stereotype?
Women and everything ‘girly’ is bundled into a stereotype that translates into illogical, impulsive, unreasonable, make-up wearing, pretty creatures whose singular objective is to blow a man’s hard earned money on “silly things” like clothes, jewellery and shoes. Our inherent patriarchy makes us project this terribly inappropriate feminine stereotype on any man who displays creativity, sensitivity, politeness and does not fit the aggressive alpha male stereotype.
This is why, you, the “effeminate” man are probably more despised in our patriarchal society than a woman. Society will often feel duty bound to “correct” your “flaws”. You will be chastised for being in touch with and at peace with your feminine side. You, my dear effeminate boy, will face ridicule and even outright persecution. Words like “dheela”, “chhakka” and “gay” have been and will be flung at you. It wouldn’t even matter if you are neither transgender or actually homosexual.
Sometimes these self appointed defenders of masculinity will resort to sexual violence against an effeminate man, because they presume that every effeminate man is secretly homosexual. It is then that you will need to be strong and call their bluff. Tell them that they are cowards. Tell them that their contempt for “effeminate” men and their homophobia is just their fear that a man can do to them what they, your tormentors, secretly want to do to women. These people loathe you because they secretly fear you as a potential sexual predator. I know it sounds stupid, but that’s exactly what it is. You will need to stand up to your tormentors and tell them you are not afraid of your “feminity” because you don’t see “masculinity” as a weapon.
The best way to deal with them is to be yourself. Don’t hide your love for beauty, your creativity, your gentle demeanour. Don’t play with your sister’s dolls in private. Join her friends and play ghar-ghar together! Don’t wear your mother’s dupatta in secret, instead flaunt it as a fashion statement in full public view. Tell these samaj ke thekedaars that you don’t give a bleepity-bleep-bleep about what they think of you. When a lion roars, the hyenas run away!
Wear every swear-word as a compliment on your sleeve. Not everyone has the privilege to be different. You are blessed with it. Enjoy every moment of it.
The author is an equal rights activist who campaigns for the rights of the LGBT community, children, women and animals. He is a Bollywood buff and an occasional newsmaker.
Updated Date: May 07, 2016 08:55 AM