Sanchita Sharan, a dreamer, writer, artist and a full time unicorn; shares her experience of being a bisexual woman in India with FSOG.
FSOG: When did you realize you were Bisexual and how did you accept your sexuality?
Sanchita: To be honest, more than realizing I was bisexual, it was realizing that others were not that shocked me more. Girls, in general, admire attractive women and comment on how good they look and the like, so, as a young teenager, I thought all my friends were attracted to both sexes like I was.
It was during twelfth grade that I finally figured out I was “bisexual” while my friends were “straight”.
It was when I realized this that I had sort of a culture shock, for lack of a better word, and felt very isolated. They would comment on how attractive a girl was but were never attracted to them the same they were with guys or the same way I was with both. Even when they spoke about “girl crushes” it wasn’t the same thing, and this took me a while to process and understand. I then researched a lot about bisexuality and homosexuality and took a lot of sexuality tests and the like, and for a very long time I felt like the way I felt towards other girls was ‘wrong’ or ‘forbidden’, especially since, back then, my friends and I didn’t discuss such stuff as openly as we do now.
It took me a long time to accept that I was different and the way I felt and the people I was attracted to was different and that was OK. It was quite a struggle to be able to accept myself and my sexuality, and since I was very shy and introverted before, it really took a lot of effort for me to be comfortable in my own skin and be proud and happy of who I am, just the way I was, as well as talk about it with others.
FSOG: Do you think there is enough visibility for Bisexual people in the world and specifically in India? How are Bisexual people treated within LGBT community?
Sanchita: Over the years, I’ve read up a lot about bisexuality and the LGBTQ+ community, and, from what I’ve seen, homosexuality and transgenderism are spoken about more than bisexuality. I’ve seen videos of “biphobia”, even amongst gay people, and this is always very disconcerting to me. Sexuality falls on a spectrum, and people, whether straight or gay or anything else, are somehow hell-bent on categorizing it and segregating it, which is impossible to do since sexuality is fluid.
It’s especially disheartening to see the LGBTQ+ community quarreling amongst ourselves about accepting people of different sexualities when we should be the ones opening our arms and hearts without prejudice or hypocrisy (I’ve had nasty experiences of intolerance with people from the community itself, which is saddening).
I can’t really comment on the world’s perspective of bisexuality beyond what I’ve seen or read about, but from various interviews I’ve conducted in India and articles/videos I’ve read/watched myself, I feel like a lot of Indians don’t really understand the concept of sexuality or its fluidity.
The moment you say “sexuality” it’s almost always directly or indirectly associated with the “act of sex”, which then distorts the meaning of homosexuality or bisexuality and causes an even bigger problem of acceptance. I love that Indians are slowly becoming more open to accepting homosexuality and transgenderism, to whatever small extent, but I think the concept of bisexuality is still new and is associated with a lot of misunderstood stereotypes and misinformation (like “all bisexuals are open to having threesomes” or “being bi means you’re equally attracted [50-50] to both men and women” or “if you’ve been with more women than men doesn’t that make you gay?” or “saying you’re bi just because you’re not ready to come out as gay yet”).
FSOG: What is it like being a queer person in India, a place where the laws about LGBTQIA community is still regressive?
Sanchita: Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is still a topic of great controversy. Homosexuality is still a very taboo topic in India and the problems of the LGBTQ+ community are very rarely or never considered actual “problems” that the nation needs to deal with.
It’s just another one of those things nobody can be bothered to do much about because there are other, more “pressing issues” to tackle–which may be true to a certain extent, but trivialising legitimate problems doesn’t make them any less important.
Although there are a lot of activists and supporters fighting for the LGBTQ+ community’s cause, few of whom I know personally, the level of impact is very low, and the extent to which people’s ignorance is changing is hardly a dime to a dozen. I’ve spoken to so many educated people, younger and older, about the LGBTQ+ community, and hardly any of them even knows properly what it’s about or what LGBTQ+ stands for or what they mean.
On the same note, I also know quite a few bisexual, homosexual and transgender people, most of whom I’m good friends with, and from what I’ve seen, they always hold their heads high and are proud of their sexuality and who they are. While they attempt to educate people regarding sexuality on one hand, they also advocate treating it like “It’s Not A Big Deal” (a short film about the daily life of a transgender woman made by yours truly) on the other, which is how it should be. Discrimination based on one’s sexuality or preference is just as bad as discriminating based on one’s sex or caste or religion. Right now, it’s still a pipe dream that everyone be treated equally regardless of their gender or sex or caste or sexuality, etc., but one can hope.
FSOG: How was your sexuality perceived by your friends and family?
Sanchita: More than the LGBTQ+ community, it’s how my close friends and family have accepted my sexuality that has had an enormous impact on my confidence levels, self-esteem and self-respect. I don’t remember when it started, but I used to joke a lot with my friends about how I wanted girlfriends and talk about how I found actresses very attractive and stuff, so when I finally did come out as bisexual to my friends, while they were surprised, they took it very well and didn’t treat me any less different than before or judge me.
It was the greatest relief because the fear of isolation and being “different” and being looked down upon or ostracised for that is very real and can affect you greatly. The fact that my friends can joke about it with me, ask me questions if they’re unsure, or just be very open about it in normal conversation is something that I will be eternally grateful for. It may not seem that big a deal to others, but for someone struggling with themselves and their identity for being “different” or “not normal” or not fitting into the fabric of society, just being treated like a “person” and being scolded or praised for who you are as a person and what you do and not because of your sexuality or sexual preference is something that is just so overwhelmingly moving.
It’s just that sense of acceptance that I feel among-st my friends and the fact that I know I needn’t hide my sexuality or how I feel and can both laugh and joke about it as well as have serious conversations about it with them that I will always be grateful for. That’s something that you can’t take for granted, and having such supportive and accepting people around me makes me feel truly blessed.
FSOG: Advice for anyone who is still in the closet.
Sanchita: When it comes to coming out, it really is up to the person themselves. Every person has their own circumstances and problems, and nobody has the right to tell them whether it’s “right” or “wrong” to come out. For some, coming out is a process of self-acceptance and independence. For some, not coming out lets them retain the fragile balance between them and others. For me, personally, coming out was a terrifying process. It goes back to the fear of acceptance and isolation. “Will they shun me?” “Will they treat me like an outsider?” “Will they still remain by my side?” “Will they understand me?”
It’s terrifying and can have a huge effect on your emotional and mental health. What I will say, however, is that it gets easier every time you do it, whether you get a positive or negative response, because you know what to expect. And the more people who accept you readily, the easier it becomes to come out and talk about it. There are also people whom you can choose to come out to.
Like, if you think your mum or sibling would be more understanding than your dad or aunt, then coming out to your mum and not to your dad works.
Some may wonder if not coming out means you’re “lying” or “hiding”, and let me tell you, if that’s how you look at it, then sure. I’ve come out to all of my friends but a select few members of my family. Why? Sometimes because of choice, sometimes because of circumstance, and one time it was by accident and I had to make a call on whether to lie or to come out, so I chose the latter. For the ones I haven’t come out to–it’s not that I’m hiding it from them; it’s just that I don’t see the necessity of coming out to them at present. If there comes a time when I feel like I want to, then I will. So my advice is just this: come out if and when you want to. It’s nobody’s decision but yours. It’s scary, but you’ll live, and if you’re lucky like I was, you may find great relief and comfort in.