I may be different but I am not wrong

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“We are forced to take on to streets, to create a commotion and a drama in hopes that maybe we can have a small breakthrough in reaching out to the masses, catalyse a change in the negative attitude of people towards LGBTQIA+ community”, roared Dimple Mithilesh Chaudhry amidst a big gathering of the community members who had come together to celebrate the pride month in Delhi a few years ago.  Dimple was reciting one of her poems in Hindi as she does in various other platforms where she is invited to speak. She has been reciting poems at various platforms to raise voice for equality and inclusivity of the LGBTQIA+ community, although, she doesn’t like to be boxed or labelled, for the benefit of people she is proud to identify as a gay person mostly preferring to be gender-fluid.

Small Town, Big Dreams

Dimple comes from a small town of Uttar Pradesh where she was raised in a loving and conservative family and where roles were clearly defined for men and women. While her father worked as a truck driver, her mother stayed home looking after the children and taking up domestic responsibilities. She also observed her parents struggle hard to provide for the family which made a deep impression on her young mind to financially support her family and give parents a more comfortable life someday.  However, being born as a female, her family didn’t expect Dimple to provide for the family. The only expectation from Dimple was to be a good girl, learn to work in the kitchen, and be a suitable bride to be given away in marriage someday. Little did her parents know, Dimple will be challenging their notion of how a daughter should be, not just that but also go on breaking many societal stereotypes.

Dimple was at most ease and herself when she was around boys, dressed in her brother’s pant-shirt or doing any work that was labelled as ‘macho’. She didn’t think too much about how different she was from the girls in her class until she heard them talk about their attraction towards boys. Dimple had always felt a bit uneasy and conscious around girls but with boys, she could easily throw arms around them, push and punch in play and fun. That was the first time she had thought, “should I be hiding how I truly feel? Is it wrong to feel the way I am feeling?” However, the thought quickly disappeared in the background as she focused on studying and moving out to the bigger city to pursue a successful career. She was good with studies and that motivated her to dream big, even if that meant begging her father to allow her to go to college. In her town, not many girls were sent to college fearing they could potentially ruin the family reputation.

Some of the relative and neighbours had comments about how Dimple dressed and behaved but her parents never questioned her boyish mannerism or corrected her choice of clothing, they loved him regardless of all this. So Dimple never felt apologetic for who she was. And the family never openly discussed Dimple’s gender identity or sexuality at that time. When Dimple earned Gold Medal in State Level Shooting Championship and her name began to appear on print media as a budding journalist, the unruly comments from relatives gradually stopped.

 Dream Job, Hellish Experience

After completing education, Dimple moved to Delhi to work with an electronic media company as a scriptwriter cum reporter. It was a dream job for a small-town person whose biggest dream was– to support her family. However, the dream job quickly turned into a nightmare as she began to experience social discrimination for the first time. Ironically, the media which is supposed to be a guiding light to society towards a progressive path, was, in reality, the place where he felt most rejected and excluded for being himself. “I was treated harshly, asked to work longer hours without a break, put on night shifts, and avoided at the lunch table. Comments such as, “she might turn you into lesbian, be careful” was passed around casually.

“Why can’t they see me as a human who feels the pain just like them? Okay, I am different from them but I am not wrong”, asked Dimple. “I would be sitting alone at a large table with my lunch and people would just walk by to another crowded table while I sat alone and ate lunch by myself and heard them whisper and giggle. It was the most humiliating and isolating experience of my life”, reminisces Dimple.  The discrimination and workplace harassment almost drove Dimple to depression and suicidal thoughts. She made efforts to stay on the job for a while but when it began to break her confidence and mess up with her mental health she made a decision. “I decided to quit and told myself I will never ever work another nine to five job”.

Rising Above, Reclaiming What’s Lost

From the lowest pit, Dimple then bounced back and emerged as a free, creative, and passionate activist for the LGBTQIA+ community. She found supportive friends belonging to the community, discovered and explored creative passions in writing poetries, photography and bike riding earning recognition in all of these endeavours. Today, Dimple is a multi-talented and multi-faceted person who has made her parents super proud. After years of hard work, Dimple has finally fulfilled the childhood dream of giving a financially secure life to her parents and has moved on to dreaming new dreams and achieving new goals. Her family accepts, supports and encourages her to be just the way she is. When she openly told her mother about being gay, the only question her mother naively asked was, “But YOU WILL get married, no, if you find a girl you love?” They both laughed with tears in their eyes. Dimple is one of the most outspoken and influential youth among the LGBTQIA+ community today who has been raising awareness and emphasizing social quality and inclusivity through her poems, photography and stories shared on several prominent online and print media.

Dimple is one among the very few people from the community who managed to reclaim her freedom, confidence and a life that she was meant for her. Sadly, so many young individuals are met with the far more tragic end because of social discrimination and isolation. “I knew a young bright man named Arpit who was studying in one of the prestigious colleges of Delhi University. Unfortunately, we lost him to hate and discrimination” says Dimple.

Arpit was well known in the community and had briefly worked with Alliance India office. Besides being a gay man, he was extremely bright, creative, kind and full of passion for the community. Society failed to see him for who he truly was. He suffered immense mental harassment that he could no longer take the pressure and fell critically ill and passed away while in the intensive care unit. His life was brutally cut short.

This pride month, we hope more young people from the community will rise above and carve out a positive journey for themselves as did Dimple. We also hope that society, each of us does some soul searching to put kindness and humanity first.

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