Fitting in is overrated. It’s time to embrace your uniqueness

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Priyam Ghosh identifies herself as a lesbian feminist, a queer scholar, and has been working as an Assistant Professor in IP University affiliated college teaching media to undergraduate students. She chose academics as she believes that it is quite uninhibited and a place to thrive for queer individuals.

We have interviewed three persons like her as part of our series on International Non-Binary People’s Day. This is the third and last interview in the series.

Edited excerpts from Priyam’s interview.

When and how did you realize that you are different from what others perceive you to be? How did you feel about it and what thoughts went through your mind?

Priyam Ghosh: I had a large friend circle primarily of girls, both in my residential colony as well as in my school. By the time I attained puberty, I saw most of them dating boys in our class, while I was trying to be the tomboy of my section. For any event or play, I would be cast as the man since I was quite tall, well-built and had short hair.  By the time, I was 16, I realised my attraction towards women and the fact that it was more than a phase. Being a woman in India is hard enough but trying to fit in a heteronormative society as a young queer kid was one of the biggest hurdles. One really wonders if they are afflicted with illness and whether it has a cure.

I did discuss my attraction towards women with my mother at the age of 17, but she dismissed it as a phase. The initial years in my twenties were hard too but with the advent of social networking sites, I found many others who shared similar narratives as mine.

Have you experienced social stigma? Would you like to share a few incidents?

Priyam Ghosh: I think one of the biggest hurdles I faced was within my family. Since I am a single child, it was and still quite difficult for my parents to accept me as a queer woman. There have been several instances in the past where I lost a good number of friends upon coming out to them. Ignorance runs rampant within the society and female desire is not recognized in general. I have experienced stigma within the queer as well as the straight community from ‘straight men’ hitting on me across social media platforms and dating platforms, claiming they will ‘cure’ me to my ‘ignoramus’ relatives attempting to set me up with their straight male relatives.

But one of the biggest issues, as well as social stigmas that I have faced so far, is while attempting to gain ‘recognition’ for the queer relationship that I am in. It’s difficult to find housing, access healthcare, file for insurance, nominee etc. as a queer woman since your partner is not ‘legally’ recognized by law.

How can family, friends, relatives, colleagues support you and what message do you want to give to them?

Priyam Ghosh: I think it’s crucial to not only recognise queer individuals but attempt to create safe spaces for them. Parents need to create a loving relationship with their children and not promote the intergenerational trauma that many queer kids face. Family members, friends, relatives need to be ‘schooled’ in how to respond when an individual comes out to them and push their ‘heteronormative agenda’ on them. Schools and colleges need to be proactive in creating safe spaces for queer students and need to have firm policies to tackle bullying or ragging that many queer students face. Workspaces need to be more inclusive with queer employees with various HR policies being laid out to prevent workplace harassment and discrimination. But most importantly the need of the hour is ‘acceptance’ and not ‘tolerance’ for the sake of it.

~ Interviewed by: Anurag Paul, Communications Officer, Alliance India

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