In India, we always assume that our metropolitan cities are far, far ahead of their not so modern counterparts in the sense that it is easier to live and be yourself here. Speaking to Ajay Siroya, a 19-year old media student from Mumbai challenged this notion in my head.
At the age of 14, when Ajay first encountered the word “gay”, he thought he’d finally understood why he’d felt so different from everyone around him all those years. Feminine and mistaken for a girl since the age of 4, he’d spent a part of his adolescence fantasising about guys, and even getting molested and blackmailed by a friend, until he finally learned to say no. He realised soon after that he was wrong about his sexuality. Although he was born a boy, he’d spent all his life being highly uncomfortable in his body and liking it when people mistook him for a girl. Ajay thus began to identify as a transsexual and prefers to be addressed as ‘she’. It took time for her to come to terms with the fact that although she was born in the body of a male, she’s always felt like a female from the inside.
Her family was confronted with the truth when her brother’s friend, having accidentally come to know, outed her to her brother who in turn went and told her mother. Having never shared a close bond, things with her brother became even tenser when he beat Ajay up. It has been a year and a half and Ajay’s mother is still struggling to come to terms with her gender identity. In the absence of an official system that works to spread awareness about LGBTQIA issues, Ajay tries to acquaint her family about her community and life by showing them documentaries and other videos that talk about the subject.
“I wanted to come out and be open with my family, and the friends who matter not just because that’s the way it should be, but also so I wouldn’t be forced into marrying a girl later, ruining both our lives.”
Her issue with the system is that not only does it refrain from making things easier for the community, it contributes towards strengthening the stereotypes by implementing regressive laws such as Section 377.
According to Ajay, the biggest challenge that the LGBTQIA community faces in India today is the stigma against the community.
“As soon as people see you, they want to run away and not interact with you. They dehumanise us in a way that we are seen as hypersexual maniacs, when in reality we are like any other person. We also want love like everyone else. I too want a husband someday, a family and just to be able to be myself”
She believes it is very important for straight people to come up in support of the community as “they are the majority and a lot of straight women are forced to marry gay men unknowingly, which is an issue that needs to be spoken about”
Although the things Ajay talks about are shocking to hear and make you think, when asked about LGBTQIA-friendly spaces around, she says that the situation may not be entirely terrible.
“Every Sunday evening, I visit Maheshwari Garden (popularly known as MG) in Matunga, which is practically gay paradise. It is an amazing place to meet like-minded people and just to hang out and be yourself without inhibition”
Although life till now has been hard on Ajay, she has high hopes for the future.
“My mother, although struggling with the truth, supports me and so do my cousins and close friends. My father does not acknowledge it but I’m sure he knows. I love them and will never leave them until and unless they decide to. Following in the footsteps of Sushant Digvikar and Laxminarayan Tripathi, two people who inspire me, I’m going to live life to the fullest and let nothing hold me back. Once I’m done with my bachelor degree, I am looking to transition into a female and live life the way I am supposed to. I hope my family and friends continue to support me throughout the journey”
Well, we hope the same.