Twinkle, 20, is a student in Mumbai.
As a child, I hated wearing frocks, never liked Barbies, and always refused to paint my nails. My mother always called me a tomboy. I grew up in Dubai with my family. As teenage years rolled in, I began to really like Khushi, my closest friend in school.The emotion was really vague but I recall having butterflies in my tummy whenever I saw her.
Sometime during that phase, I saw ‘Summertime’ - a 2015 film on lesbian romance and my feelings towards Khushi became clearer to me. I had a crush on her!
While watching that movie, I kept telling myself, ‘No, no! Twinkle, papa will kill you if he finds out’.
But I couldn’t control how I felt for girls. Every time I was home alone, I searched for sexual orientation and watched more lesbian films. It felt incredibly comforting to know that I was not alone who, being a girl, liked girls. There were more people like me and yes the term ‘lesbian’ was now roaring in my head.
I began to explore how to raise this topic within my family. I once played a lesbian movie in front of my parents, just to see their reactions. But it broke my heart. ‘This sort of thing (being a lesbian) happens to kids whose parents have committed some great sins in their lives,’ my father declared.
For days, I was traumatised by that statement. I was now uncomfortable in my own house and spent several sleepless nights pondering over my situation. I also felt ashamed of myself.
That girl in class
In 2020, our lives were hit by the Coronavirus pandemic and my father made a quick decision to move to India. I was happy because I believed that India was a bit more liberal than Dubai in accepting people from the LGBT community.
Being in Mumbai gave a good start to my new life. I was enjoying my online classes and having my extended family - uncles, aunts, cousins - to talk to.
Everything was going pretty routine, until one day, our teacher began a discussion on the LGBTQ community. I was expecting the same old conversations on how people from the LGBTQ community are neglected etc but then a girl, our classmate, shared something intriguing. She said she was bisexual and had been thrown out of her home. Her parents did not accept her.
I was shook to the core when she asked if there were any other LGBTQ people in the class. I was almost on the edge of saying it out loud, but I did not. It won’t make a big difference to mine or her life, I thought.
Months passed and I couldn't stop thinking about the girl in my class, who was brave enough to accept her sexual orientation and not be ashamed of it. I wished I had the same guts.
I like girls
Meanwhile, I was enjoying living with my cousins in India. My chachi and her daughter Shagun, who was almost my age, were my closest buddies at home. Six months of living together brought us really close. We talked, watched TV and went for our evening walks together.
I often wondered what would happen if I told them my truth. After that incident in class, I was so desperate to share this with someone. It was like an itch. I had to tell someone because the burden of not sharing with anyone was too much.
I knew I could trust my cousin and chachi with my secret. I was also mentally prepared that they wouldn't really understand my feelings. But I still went ahead.
One day, when we went out for our usual evening walk, I stopped midway and asked them to hear me out. ‘Please don’t tell this to my mummy and papa’, were my first words. My chachi and cousin looked confused but they were all ears. Then I just blurted it out, ‘I am a lesbian. I do not like boys, but girls.’
Shagun didn’t know how to react and simply kept gazing at me, which kind of freaked me out, but my chachi said, ‘Aah, koi nahi. It is not such a bad thing at all’, she continued walking like it wasn’t a big deal.
That was it? She really did not mind at all? Was it just a normal thing for her? I kept wondering if I had done the right thing.
Go find some cute guys
I guess my chachi was taking some time to process what I had said. The next day, she told me, ‘You were in a girls school in Dubai. You must have never got many chances to be with or interact with boys’. So that was the case. She was trying to figure out a reason for me declaring myself a lesbian. And there it was - the lack of sufficient opportunity to meet boys! She then advised me to approach ‘cute guys’ and go out on a date with them.
‘Twinkle, it’s simply a phase, and some sort of confusion, which will go away with time’, she added. Chachi’s response to my confession brought all fears to reality. No one would ever understand. I did not try to further reason it out with her and just kept quiet as she continued to advise me on how to go out with boys.
I never brought this topic up again because her brushing aside my feelings irritated me. What further irritated me was her trying to cajole me to ‘be interested in boys’.
A part of me now feels very insecure. What would my future be like? If I share this with my parents, would they also behave in the same manner? Will they make me marry a boy? I guess only time will tell. But I feel I will have to live like this - keeping my true identity to myself.
It has been more than two years since homosexuality was declared legal in India and Section 377 was abolished. However, life is still hard for individuals and couples from the LGBTQIA+ community, as they do not enjoy the same rights and freedoms as heterosexual and cisgender people. For them, the fight is still on. So to mark the International Pride Month 2021, Love Matters India will publish a series of stories to highlight the LGBTQIA+ struggle for equal rights on issues such as marriage, adoption, insurance, inheritance, social acceptance as well as livelihood. #JungJaariHai
To protect the identity, the person in the picture is a model.