In today’s world where every profession comes with its own share of stereotypes, there are some who take them lightly and do not worry about breaking them, as long as they do not start impeding on the way they live their life. 24 year old Deepen Sharma, a fashion illustrator and designer from Thane, Maharashtra who identifies as gay, happens to be one of those people.
When asked about the fashion industry’s affinity towards homosexual designers, he candidly says,
“I have always taken stereotypes lightly, but not when it starts feeding ignorance. Fashion Industry embraces sexualities rather than help hide/suppress them, and has been some sort of safe haven, promoting liberation. Being fashionable whatsoever, depends on a personal approach just like everything else we do. Putting on clothes which make you look and feel your best and help you boost your confidence has nothing to do with sexuality.”
About, most fashion designers being gay or not- “Well it has never really been my concern, like many others I respect the talent and hard work that anybody puts into their work, because it speaks more than anything else about the person.
For Deepen, being gay always came naturally to him. In fact, he realised the truth about his sexuality only when he came to know there was a term for the way he was feeling, at the age of 13.
“Up until then, it had always seemed so natural to me. I was blissfully unaware that it would go on to be something of a fight for survival”
The process of coming out began for him when he came out to a friend at the age of 15, and he realised that the way he felt about his sexuality depended more than anything on how wholeheartedly he accepted himself. While with his brother, it was sudden as the former asked him about it on text, and although taken aback, he had no choice but to reply in the affirmative. Today, it has only proved to be for the better as his brother accepts him and understands him better.
The toughest reaction, however, was that of his mother, who was still ridden by the mind-set that having a gay child was a dishonour. Deepen thus had to take it slow when it came to acquainting her with the truth.
“I have taken it slow with my mother, over the last few years we have bonded even deeper. This process has been very slow; a culturally bound lady, slowly opening up towards our community, and as sensitive as this is for me, I cannot forget, that it’s equally sensitive for her. I have never believed in rushing sensitive topics for an instant conclusion. Now, with time, seeing me evolve as a person, she has learnt to let go of this mind-set of homosexuality is a dishonour, and has slowly started accepting my effeminacy and ideology.”
This mind-set where homosexuality is considered a dishonour, is according to Deepen, the biggest challenge that the LGBTQIA community faces in India today, even bigger than the discrimination and the stigma attached to it.
“We are taught to live/grow up with the guilt of letting someone and yourself down because you cannot change something at other people’s convenience, is heartbreaking. In fact the situation is so bad that at times, the people who should be protecting you, turn out to be a source of fear.”
Deepen recalls a similar incident when he had to deal with the police.
“We were stopped by the Police at a ‘naka-bandi’, asking us for our identity and stuff; and one of the policemen took me aside and said some very rude and disrespectful things, as he tried to get hands-y. At that time, I was petrified of what had happened and the sense of security felt obliterated, because my safety was on stake even after, considering dealing with the police is another task by itself.”
Another issue that saddens him is the regressive section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
“I see it as just a another way of violating human rights, a reminder of how bigoted our system truly is. As proud as I feel to belong to a country with so much history, culture and revolutionary people, it equally sets me aback to witness our rights being played with.”
Having shared with me a piece of his mind, Deepen signs of, but not without a piece of advice that is bound to help anyone facing the same struggles as he did.
“As a kid, a teenager and an adult, it is extremely difficult to grasp on certain things that happen to us, and those are the times, falling down seems much easier than standing up. It is important to know, to not let go of yourself.”
Written by Snigdha Bansal
Click here to see more illustrations by Deepen.