“I give them time to come to terms with my asexuality.”
The words invoke an apology, when you hear the story that lay heavy beneath these words. Vivek Kishore, a 20-year-old boy from Ahmedabad, mutters them without a slightest hint of contempt for the world that refuses to acknowledge his personal space. He gives the ignorant world a pass, the same one that struggles to grapple with the idea of alternate sexualities. The conversation of asexuality is a distant thought in these repressed times. For that, I apologize.
I wouldn’t be surprised by the large numbers of readers who might be in the dark about asexuality. By the time I was handed this assignment, I admit to being largely unaware about this sexual identity as well. In an effort to make the most of the captured attention with Vivek’s story, let us make this the starting point of a more informed and hence an accepting society.
AVEN (Asexual Visibility and Education Network) defines asexuality as “a sexual orientation, like heterosexuality or homosexuality, etc., but instead of being sexually attracted to men or women, asexual people are sexually attracted to no one.”
AVEN is one of the many online communities that have been started to bring forth a platform for asexuals and to debunk the misconceptions that plague the community. Till the 21st century, asexuality was known but fairly untouched by the scientific world, in terms of its medical research. The ambiguity of asexuality made people consider it as a mental illness for the longest time and often was clubbed with social psychological disorders. Like homosexuality and the persecution of the members of its community in the past centuries, the lack of scientific study on asexuality creates a ground for discrimination against men like Vivek.
For a majority of the masses, it is simply the lack of information that stems such close-minded thinking. It is heartbreaking to hear that these masses of ignorance often include the members of the family. The ‘them’ in Vivek’s words refer to the selected few he chose to open up to, who were unable to accept the idea. Regrettably, beyond close friends it included his parents as well.
Altruistically, he says, “they have accepted that I am different, but not my asexuality. They think it’s a phase.”
From a very young age, Vivek was aware of his alternate sexuality. Only when he had turned 13 could he identify himself as a ‘asexual’. The fear of being misunderstood coupled with his introverted nature, he kept the secret of his sexuality to himself for the largest part of his upbringing. Even as he spoke for this interview, the reasons for him to confide in me seemed unexpected. I was honoured to be from the select few he chose to trust with his story.
He clarified his reasons as he said, “I want you to tell my story for others like me. I was lucky to understand who I am and hence face the world. There are many out there, living with the doubt about their own selves and if my story would help them in any manner, I would be glad.”
Vivek admits that the LGBTQ community has been of a huge help when it comes to understanding and relating to his problems. As a disenfranchised part of the community, he believes the Section 377 of the Indian Penal code is prohibitory in understanding sexual diversities such as his.
“More than the legal angle of it, it is a fight for acknowledgment. Once we gain acknowledgment of our lives in the eyes of the law, we can begin the process of being accepted in the society. Once recognised, no one would be able to question our existence.”
The law has an unforeseen act of repression on men such as Vivek. The simple question of their identity is denied in their daily lives. Vivek identifies himself neither as a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ and chooses to term his sexual orientation as ‘agender’. The repressive ideology of our country is slapped across his face each time he is made to fill a form.
He painfully admits, “I feel violated each time I see the ‘gender’ column in any form.”
Acutely aware of the possibility of discrimination, which mostly stems from the inability to understand and accept something different, Vivek has kept his sexuality under wraps from the people he interacts with in his everyday life. A student pursuing Hotel Management, he lets people speculate about his sexuality and doesn’t pander to their judgment. As the times change and he is reassured in the faith of people, he is increasingly making an effort to bring forth his story to his public life.
The intent of Fifty Shades of Gay is to get rid of the ignorance prevalent in India, against alternative sexualities. These stories reflect the lives of our fellow countrymen, who have been marginalized in the name of an archaic colonial law and the hateful ignorance that it has bred. An intrinsically personal decision of whom to love or how to love has grown to be an unnecessary public debate.
The humanization of the LGBTQ community and of individuals such as Vivek is of utmost importance, to make the heterosexual crowds relate to their pain, their sorrow, and share their happiness.
Through the years of being misunderstood, he admits to the constant companionship of a dear friend who has helped to navigate him through his insecurities. Keeping the name to himself, he believes that every person, irrespective of his/her sexuality, has come across these ‘angels of mercy’ in their lives. As he merits this angel for providing the strength in his tough times, he empathizes with the people who have none. Beyond the story of his struggles, the decision to share his story is Vivek’s initiative to be a helping hand for someone more unfortunate than himself.
The core values of AVEN summaries the entire truth about asexuality and addresses a deeper understanding of our humanity, as it says, “Asexuality is like any other identity – at its core, it’s just a word that people use to help figure themselves out.”