The growing up years
I have always been an effeminate guy and was often reminded of my trait by all and sundry ever since my childhood. During my school years, some of my classmates made fun of me and called me names. When I hit puberty, my peers had facial hair and talked about using their dad’s shaving creams and razors. But I was teased for the lack of it. I was popular with girls but for all wrong reasons. They would pull my cheeks and call me ‘sweet,’ ‘chikna’, ‘cute’ and other such names. I did not mind it much until that one incident which broke me from within.
The traumatic night
I was 19 when the incident took place during one of the inter-college competitions, which required us to stay overnight at the premise of another college. We were all sitting in a circle. The poetry and debate competition was over. The prize distribution ceremony had also ended by sunset. It was our last night at the host college. So we all were planning to do something fun. There were five girls and six guys in our group.
As we were sitting and relaxing, one of the girls in the group asked, ‘So, are you the sixth girl or are you the seventh guy?’. She pointed her finger towards me. All eyes were suddenly on me. They were searching for an answer on my face. My throat went dry. And before I could say that I was the seventh guy, somebody put a towel over my face and wrapped my head inside it. And thereafter came a shout, ‘let us find out’!
The horror that followed
Despite my pleas and requests, I was forcibly laid down on the floor and was stripped to my shorts. They threw my clothes under the table. The boys were holding my hands and legs while the girls were watching. I could hear some nasty comments every now and then. Everybody was laughing and having fun because they were about to find out my gender!
I cried and begged them to not remove my shorts but nobody listened to my requests. The boys still held me tight. I felt scared, helpless, embarrassed and wanted to do something about it. I had never felt as powerless as I did that day. Girls poked my belly and chuckled my cheeks.
I had come there to have fun but ended up getting humiliated by my so-called ‘friends.’ After a few minutes, they let me go. The room went silent. All the madness came to a halt and I managed to run towards the bathroom after picking up my shirt and my track pants. I left their room and went to sleep in another room occupied by seniors.
The mental trauma
I went home but could not share it with my parents. I felt they will scold me too for being ‘girl-like’. I have been the talk of my family in the past too because of my looks. I could not sleep that night and also on subsequent nights that followed. I faked illness and remained confined to my room for a couple of days. One question that followed me from the incident was – Is there something wrong with me?
I had been called ‘chocolaty’ and ‘sissy’ in the past but it had not bothered me much earlier. However, what happened that night shook my confidence completely. The trauma stayed on with me and it went on to reinforce that my physical appearances and features could get me in trouble in future too.
I went back to college after a few days. My friends asked me why I was so quiet and I finally shared the incident of my sexual abuse with some of my closest friends. They were furious and wanted to beat those responsible, to teach them a lesson. However, I did not consider this a good idea.
Soon, the word spread and what had happened with me became the most talked about topic in the college. The worst part was that the group, which had subjected me to that humiliation, was also in the same college. I could not look them in the eye. People used to point fingers at me as I passed by. However, public memory is short and by the times our exams started, everyone seemed to have forgotten about my ‘scandal’, except me.
Being a poet, I used to love being a part of the literary society of my college. However, since all my ‘tormentors’ were also in that society, I had no choice but to opt out. I felt that no space was safe for a guy who is effeminate, is short and fair and lacks facial hair.
The after effects
It’s been two years since the incident but the horror of that night has still not left me. Every time a girl now pulls my cheeks or someone calls me ‘sweet’, my eyes turn moist and a shiver runs through my spine. Whenever I overhear a guy with a loud voice, I feel threatened. Also, I am beginning to develop a sensitivity to touch. I hate it if someone pats my back. I also avoid urinating when another man is close by in the urinal.
I do not know if and when I will get over these fears. I am 22 and still do not have any facial hair. But I do not want this to be a permanent scar and so I am working hard to fight it. Sharing my story is perhaps the first step to tell everyone out there how victims of abuse and harassment feel, men and women alike.
The name of the person has been changed to his protect identity.
Person in the picture is a model.
Like women, men also face gender-based violence. Many such behaviours are promoted by our social and cultural norms (boys are tall and dark, not fair and cute). Love Matter India is helping people of all genders raise their voice against abusive behaviour. Love Matters India also calls on all our readers to take a stand against abusive behaviour. Lend your support to us on our Facebook page. If you have a specific question, please visit our discussion forum - Let’s Talk