I was 20 years old and at a dinner party when I became the center of attention because someone noted in a loud voice that “this guy looks like a Hijra (a transvestite).” In other words, he is not a man. At the moment, I felt as though my entire wujood (being) had been thrown into a deep dark hole, an abyss of sorts. I did not understand why this was happening? Why did somebody say this to me? What am I? This was an extremely formative experience in my idea of who I m today. It was only later that I realized that several others had experienced similar feelings related to their sexuality and gender identity. I am sharing some of the most powerful stories of imposed masculinity that I was able to gather in my discussions with my friends from the gay community.

Laal Shalwar an art project on masculinity (Photo Credit: Imran Nafees Siddiqui )

Laal Shalwar an art project on masculinity (Photo Credit: Imran Nafees Siddiqui )

I Hate My Mother!

(Aman 22, Educationist)

I really hate my mother. When I was 8 years old, I liked to stay at home and play with my sisters. This is what made me happy. But my mother told me that you should go out, where there are people, and where other little boys play. I really tried to convince my mother to let me sit and play indoors like my sisters but she forced me to go outside. The environment on the outside was a strange world for me. I didn’t know how to behave; I didn’t know how to play those games. I was a complete stranger but I had to spend time outside because I was a boy and there was no place for me inside the house. One day while I was outside, a man approached me and took me with him …and I was completely lost at the time …when he abused me…I have been raped at the age of 8…only, only because I had to be a man like all the other men and go play outside, I was not allowed to feel the way women and girls did when I was young.

The Death of Everything!

(Kabeer 26, Salesman)

I want to be a dancer; I love to dance, I want rhythm in my life. Its okay, if sometimes I dance at home but I wanted to be a dancer. I wanted to use dance as an expression. But the place where I worked, when the people there found out that I studied dance they started staying away from me. They alienated me because they felt that my learning dance was a sign that I m Hijra. And that working environment became unbearable for me. My boss started giving me such a hard time that I could no longer continue in that job. Then pressure from family, from friends saying why do you want to study dance? Don’t do it, don’t do it! So I gave up dancing because I had to exist in this society and, with it, I gave up the joy in my life that resulted from dance. Instead I joined a gym and started bodybuilding so that I could attain the physical standards of masculinity, so that I wouldn’t experience problems at work. But that thing, that life inside me died… all of it died.

A Life Not Lived!

(Raza 70, Bureaucrat)

People have sexual preferences. I had mine as well. Indeed, I have a sexual preference. But I am told that I should live my entire life with a person who I neither know nor do I wish to know. I don’t even wish to live with this person. I wish to live with my friends who are like me. I feel good around them. But no! I have to get married and have kids. But why? Why should I become an auzar (instrument of reproduction)? Today after living my entire life… my age today is 70 years…my sexuality is still 100% homosexual. I am only attracted to males. I can see and experience myself in men only. But because I couldn’t live like this I had to get married and live my life in a mechanical way, in a mechanical marriage. I have kids. My kids are also married. But I never experienced my homosexuality. Despite this my sexuality is still that. First because of my parents and siblings and now I have a wife and kids so I have never been able to experience a sexual life. Perhaps I will die soon and I have never experienced my sexuality. I don’t know who is responsible and who isn’t.

These stories make us wonder if an individual can possess both masculine and feminine traits? And why from an early age are we pressurized to behave more masculine if we are born male and more feminine if born female? Every minute of each day, in some shape or form, we are made aware that we do not meet the standards of masculinity or femininity. For a man if you are not muscular enough, if you are not supporting your family, if you do not use your power, if u do not tease women on the streets, if you are able to feel someone’s pain, if you are saddened by the news of a rape then you are not a man and you are subjected to taunts on the streets and in your home. We need to look at this form of human discrimination in society in a larger light because it is not just men discriminating against women; it is also women against women, men against men, etc. Sometimes religion is used as a crutch and sometimes it is something else. And, this overall oppression of society takes its toll. Gradually, and without us even realizing it, all those beautiful feelings inside us that relate to sexuality, our identity, and our understanding of our self start wilting away and eventually die. But this could be changed if we start viewing gender and sexuality in a more holistic perspective that involves the heart and feelings, that is, the body, mind and spirit.

Imran Nafees Siddiqui
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