In my teen years, especially high school, I always hesitated dressing up sexy, or even wearing lipsticks for that matter. This was mainly because of how people in my class would bad mouth the ones who looked better than them. People would brand them ‘attention seekers’. Hence I never dared to try different clothing, since all I wanted was to fit in, to be accepted. What a glorious waste of my wonderful teenage. However, things took a turn when I started my under graduation. I met so many people who never shied away from dressing up the way they love. People who were never the required ‘size 10’, would wear clothes that showed off all their curves and leave a trail of siren magic, wherever they went. After entering college, I learnt the hard way that beauty comes from within us. And true beauty is confidence and self love.
This week, we at Fifty Shades Of Gay did an exclusive interview with Vineet Anand, a twenty five year old gender non-conforming homosexual from Delhi. Although his parents wanted him to become a doctor, he chose to find his footing in the fashion industry. Read on, to know his journey and what fashion truly means to him.
What are the events, from your childhood, that led to the realisation that you’re non-binary?
I was a feminine kid, right from early childhood. My mother still tells me the stories of how I would cry for hours for my sister’s skirts. How I would enjoy wearing sarees and skirts so much. Whenever my dad wasn’t home, my sister and I would dance in saree. I enjoyed that the most, more than any other games children of my age used to play. I was corrected, tried to tame the way I walk, talk and sit as any boy would. For some time of my life, I tried to fit in . I tried to act as I was told but that wasn’t for too long. My parents never put too much pressure, they always gave me my space. I would not say they didn’t want me to be all masculine, but they were patient and kind.
When I was discovering myself in college, my gender expression played a great role in it. That’s when I actually realized that I am a non-binary person.
Coming in terms with your sexuality is a great feeling. How long did it take for you to come out of your closet?
I knew I was gay at the age of 14. It didn’t come as a surprise. What surprised me was, you were not supposed to be gay according to a lot of people. But thanks to the internet, I knew I was normal. I was always inspired from women who fight for their rights. Women who challenge society for a progressive change, who rebel. Always an optimistic person, I believed it’s okay to be who I am and would not change anything about me for others. I’ve always believed that if you are not doing anything wrong, people who love you will always be with you. I decided to keep my sexuality a secret for as long as I do not enter college.
And when I joined college a girl, who also happens to be my best friend, asked me a lot of question and made me come out to whole class within a week. It’s a funny story. I was 19 then. It was wonderful, I didn’t have to hide anything from then and everybody in my batch, in my college, my teachers had been really really supportive. I give full credits to my college to give me strength, confidence, and make me the person I am today.
Vineet Anand, what does the term, ‘gender non-conforming’ really mean to you?
When I was in college, I used to wear maxi dresses, skirts and heels with lot of jewellery. Because it made me feel so powerful and confident. But there were days when I have stepped out of my house in a basic t-shirt and a pair of Jeans. All I wanna say is till now, I feel mostly like a girl but there are times I feel like a boy. Especially when I am with my family and I’m not uncomfortable with that. So I know I don’t fit in being only a boy, girl or even a transgender. My gender is non-conforming. It means I can be a basic boy or flamboyant gay or a sexy woman or neither of them. I’m happy to be identified as gender non-conforming or non-binary.
People often mistake that ‘gender non-conforming’ is related to romantic or sexual attraction. What is your opinion on this?
Gender non-conforming is a gender identity and not to be confused with sexual orientation. A gender non-conforming person can be attracted to same or other gender.
What are the problems you are still facing, since you identified yourself as gender non-conforming?
The problem I face with being non-conforming is that people still want me to describe myself as a boy or a girl. Mostly people don’t understand the concept of gender non-conforming. I’ve tried explaining myself to a lot of people and the conclusion has mostly been that I am a transgender. And the point is I dont define as any gender.
The other issue I face, is with restrooms at public places. There aren’t many gender neutral washrooms anywhere in India. I am not comfortable using men’s room when all the men suddenly stop minding their business once I enter the room fully glammed up. Trust me! It’s not a nice feeling. And I’ve been asked many times to move out from ladies room by the security as I don’t look like a complete woman. I’m sure many non-binary and trans people go through this every day. Its humiliating to be asked to leave from your preferred restroom and to be waiting somewhere you don’t wanna be seen.
Have you had people confuse you, with a person who is undergoing a gender transition?
All the time, even in my college, there were rumors of me being a transgender women. I came to know about this after a long time. I would not blame people to do so as its pretty easy to make such assumptions and I’m not in anyway offended by this. It’s just that I am very happy with my body and would never want to go under any changes of gender transition.
People often don’t know how to address a gender non-conforming person, and end up hurting your feelings. What, according to you, is the best and simplest way to avoid this?
The best way to avoid this is to ask a person about their preferred pronouns and not their gender at first. People often get confused using they/them as pronouns but it’s okay to make mistakes. The important thing is that you respect the person and their identity. That is what matters.
It’s quite difficult to find a partner, especially for the LGBTQIA+ in India. How has your dating experience been, as a gender non-conforming person?
I know it’s very hard for many to find a partner in LGBTQIA+ community. I’ve seen a lot of people from the community who struggle to be in a stable relationship. For me, this area has been a blessing. I found my partner when I was in school and we have been together since then. We completed our 10 years, this February.
As we have been together for a very long time, we have seen each other grow and grown together in every aspect of life. My partner is straight, he doesn’t have any attraction towards men but only women. We fell in love I think miraculously. He has been with me exploring my gender identity and supported me in every decision that I have ever made. I think it’s very important as a gender non-conforming person that your partner loves you as the both(boy or a girl) as he loves you as neither.
Our country has turned a new page in history, when Section 377 was decriminalized in 2018. How much do you think it has helped the LGBTQIA+, in these past two years?
It has helped a lot. We as queer people have always been judged and laughed at. But this has spread a lot of awareness in common people. Now, not only people know that we exist but they know that it’s okay to be like us. I have experienced the change myself. There is no fear of police interrogating why am I dressed the what I am. There is no discomfort booking a holiday for two with your loved one.
People who still think that homosexuality is unnatural, the supreme court decision is there to support us on this. We can clearly see the change in our entertainment industry in showcasing the queer people in mainstream media. Not only queer love is celebrated in the stories showcased on video streaming platforms but on the big screen also with the movies like “shubh mangal jyada savdhan”.
Was getting into the fashion industry your forever dream? Did you always work towards the same?
Yes, I always wanted to be in fashion industry. I think I always had the eye for beautiful things. And fashion has always played an important role in my self expression. I was always good at illustrations and my subject of illustrations were always women wearing nice clothes. I was in class sixth, when my teacher suggested I should be a fashion designer. And that moment stayed in my heart and I worked towards it.
My father wanted me to be a doctor as I was good at science but I had already decided what to do in my life. And as the rebel I was, I convinced my dad in class 11th that I was going to be in NIFT (National Institute Of Fashion Technology). And I can say my father doesn’t regret the career choice I made.
Who is your biggest role model?
Strong powerful women with great taste in art and beauty like Lady gaga, Beyonce, Madonna, Madhuri Dixit , Aishwarya Rai and even Smriti Irani have been my role models in life. I would look up to their life and their work in music and cinema. Their stories have encouraged me to never feel low in life and I always knew – all the things that make me feel bad are not forever.
But the my biggest role model is my mother. I’ve seen her struggles in the family and how she always stood up for herself. She is a very strong woman with a great love for indian fashion. I’m so grateful for her support and the things she has taught me. Needless to say all my Indian looks are inspired by her.
How welcoming is the fashion industry, towards the LGBTQIA+ people?
I feel fashion industry is much more welcoming towards LGBTQIA+ people than any other industry. I became who I am because of the people I was surrounded by in college. Hardly ever you get to see young closeted people in fashion industry, as this industry accepts you the way you are. But things are changing in every work sector and people are coming out to their colleagues as they are given supporting atmosphere. Whatever you do, you can truly give yourself 100 percent once you are true to yourself. And that starts from accepting who you are and letting people know and accept you as you are.
Although it is noticeable that there are so many strong queer personalities from fashion industry than in any other industry. And I’m not trying to say that there are more queer people here. But they are celebrated here and can truly be themselves and work without any fear.
Fascination for being the most beautiful – does this have a positive or a negative influence on the masses?
Fascination of being the most beautiful, in my opinion, puts you through a lot of pressure in looking a specific way. It can affect your self esteem if you are not able to do so. I’ve been in this position where I would live for people’s appreciation and compliments but I dont think its healthy. One should believe that they are beautiful and not let others define beauty for them. If you embrace yourself, I think you will be most beautiful.
The pressure of looking the best at all times – according to you, is this a new trend or something which has always existed in society?
The pressure of looking the best all times is not very new. Coming from a fashion background where some of the biggest icons have said things like “Better late than ugly ” and “you can have anything you want in life if you dress for it” etc. These made me believe that one should always try to look presentable. You never know who you bump into. I know it’s very hard to look the best at all times. Especially after late night parties but one must try.
What are your thoughts on community empowering platforms, such as Fifty Shades Of Gay?
I think platforms like FSOG are doing a great job in bringing the community together and addressing the issues faced by LGBTQIA+ community. Spreading awareness within the community about the many misconceptions is also very important and can be effectively done through these platforms. There are so many young children discovering their sexuality. Platforms like these can help them connect with like minded people and seek help if they need.
For the ones in the community who aspire to work in the fashion industry someday, what is your one piece of advice?
Stay true to you art and do not let anyone tell you that you are not good enough. Challenge yourself and keep creating.
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