September 16, 2020
Two years after coming out publicly to the world and her parents, life still continues to be a roller coaster ride for Lavanya Narayan.
One of the very few openly gender fluid persons in India, Lavanya is a force to reckon with in her own right. She has fought many a battle all her life. From being bullied and body shamed while in school to having parents convinced that she was mentally deranged, craving attention, in need of drastic treatment and a test to determine if she was actually what she claimed to sexually be, Lavanya has been through the entire rigmarole.
Her journey inward started sometime in 2011 while in college and the path to self-discovery continued all through out. When she realised that binary gender boundaries did not define her, she relocated all by herself from UAE to India, where she had been brought up and had lived all her life. Since in UAE homosexuality is criminalised and punishable by five years in prison followed by outright deportation, a threat always loomed large over her head suffocating her in such stringent and toxic air that did not allow her to live free or breathe easy.
In India, although slightly freer and a lot more accepting, her sexual identity is most often misunderstood, confused and at worst insulted and gawked upon. India, although a democracy, lacks both the awareness and sensitivity to deal with individual freedom of expression in any manner that’s not generally perceived as “normal”.
A fact, she continually deals with, every single day. While Lavanya was being interviewed for this piece itself, she happened to be in a ‘cab pool’ where on hearing her speak about herself she could feel a fellow commuter’s gaze and demeanour undergo a subtle change. Imagine having to undergo this cringing treatment at all times with everyone around you and explaining yourself to people over and over again in the hope of even a semblance of acceptance but sadly being met with only prejudice and ridicule to say the least; sometimes having to endure a complete severance of the relationship all together.
Lavanya claims to have been fortunate in this respect and has a completely understanding and welcoming friends circle. Lately she found herself solidifying one such friendship with a writer friend into a happy marital bond, one where her spouse and in-laws are open and completely accepting of everything that is ‘she’. Her parents, though still remain on the edge and the relationship has just barely calmed down because, to them, their daughter seems to have outgrown her sexual discovery phase and “settled down” like a good Indian girl “should”.
On the professional front though, life seems to be going great guns for her. From working with a renowned publication as a journalist, Lavanya has now moved on to being a senior sub-editor with global mobile advertising and discovery platform InMobi apart from retaining her roots via freelance journalism; giving expression to her creativity and angst as a theatre actor. She recently acted in the highly successful and renowned ‘The Vagina Monologues’, Bangalore edition, garnering great praise and kudos for her powerful and gut-wrenching performance.
Not in a hurry but eventually, Lavanya and her spouse plan to parent children some day via adoption and in the long run relocate to a preferably more open-minded, unprejudiced and welcoming country. India, she feels, has an extremely long way to go in providing equal rights to even half its population (women); leave alone the sexual minority that exhibit non-binary identities.
Written by:- Delshad Master