Friday, December 23, 2005

'Invisibility is such a strain'

By Anita Talpade, 23/lesbian and clerk in a private sector organisation
(As told to Shevlin Sebastian)

I was eighteen when I realised I was attracted to women. Well, coincidentally, just then I had a sexual encounter with a classmate. I enjoyed it. I cannot compare it to anything. It was a unique experience. The next morning when I awoke I realised the experience cleared the confusions I was harbouring within me for a long time. I knew I was a lesbian. But it was a one-off relationship. She was not sure she wanted to continue with the relationship. So we decided not to carry on. This was around one and a half years ago. I met my current partner at a mutual friend’s place. We danced with each other and later, we met regularly and realised we had fallen in love. We have been living together for about a year. Like any relationship, we have our ups and downs. If two people live together, there can be differences and we do get on each other’s nerves. But we are happy together. I like the way she looks. She has a good energy about her. We connect intellectually. We talk about everything, from A to Z. Our landlord has no suspicion, yet. If he comes to know, I am sure he would not like us to stay. But we will be so angry about the homophobia that will come up. We feel it is irrational. Why can’t people be allowed to be the way they are? So far, he does not have a problem with my partner and me. So what kind of a problem will we create if he comes to know we are lesbians? If you are in a same-sex relationship in India, you don’t have any support, in terms of friends, family or society. It becomes difficult to sustain relationships.
In Mumbai, there are spaces for people to be themselves. There is a burgeoning community where we can meet and have a social interaction. But, apart from that, there is invisibility. Because there is invisibility, there is no acknowledgement. It is like leading a secret life. Invisibility can be advantageous to a certain degree in India because lesbians will not have to face homophobia, but it can be a huge strain. I have seen so many relationships breaking up because there is so social sanction. Nobody will recognise you as a couple. You have to answer questions like, “Do you have a boyfriend?” “What is your boyfriend doing?” and stuff like that. That is so painful. And if somebody asks, “Are you in a relationship?” and the person would want to say, “Yes, I am in a happy, fulfilling relationship with a woman,” but you can’t say that. If you say, “I have a great relationship,” you would have to add, “with him,” not her. But you know you are lying and that is so painful. Everybody wants to celebrate their lives. We want to celebrate who we are, and walk on the street hand in hand.

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