From the bylanes of Darjeeling, one of North East India’s most prominent cities, hails 29 year-old Norden Sherpa, winner of reality TV show Video Wars and the first gay Indian to have won a TV show with a heterosexual viewer base. Now based in Mumbai as an actor, dancer and a fashion choreographer, he’s sure come a long way from his school days when he tried to change his mannerisms to fit in with society’s idea of masculinity.
Growing up gay is never easy, especially in an environment where the concept of homosexuality is known to no one. Norden remembers being in on his sexuality from a very young age and being called names like “sissy” and “chakka” by his peers, only because he was more in touch with his feminine side. He cannot recall a definite moment when the truth about his sexuality was revealed to him, and chooses to call it a process.
“It was a slow process. From a very young age, I knew I liked being around girls more, dressing up and wearing high heels. In fact, whenever there was a pair of high heels missing, people would realise I was behind their disappearance”, he says.
Sex was never taboo where he’s from. Parents would joke around with their kids and treat it as a humorous topic. However, the lack of formal sex education was definitely a setback as Norden found himself questioning the visible difference between himself and other boys his age. The absence of sex education and treatment of sex as taboo serve as detriments to the LGBTQ community in India, as kids find it difficult to come to terms with their sexuality, not knowing there exists an alternative to being straight. Interestingly, the North East has a thriving LGBTQ community with pride marches and other events being commonfare.
When asked about his views on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, Norden brands it absolutely ridiculous.
“It’s like giving people another reason to break the rules. Nobody is going to stop having sex because a primitive law decrees it. Straight people don’t understand this, but it is not just the homosexual people that this law affects”, he says.
A strong believer in the power of love, he believes what has helped him most in life is being true to himself and being happy with what he is.
He ends with something we could all learn from,
“There is no beginning or end to discrimination in India. Be it the LGBTQ community, or women or even people from different castes, we should all come together and fight for each other instead of fighting with each other. Only then can we make the country a better place to live in”