remember it was in the last year of my graduation, it was in 1993, I
the exact date. It was a few months before Siddharth Gautam died. He
came to Kolkata,
some invitation from Counsel Club, if I am not mistaken, and he was
giving a lecture. So
I went. I reached late, and the room was very packed and I could not
enter the door. I was
standing outside the door and I was half peeping in and there was this
guy standing at
the other end, he was standing and talking.
he said things like, 'I am a lawyer and I am gay' and these are the
problem areas... And that was the first time
I heard (Sec) 377 being mentioned.
that was the time when I was actually thinking, 'ok I've passed my 12th
standard, I wanted to have fun and
basically faff around for sometime and not do work and study and all
of that which I am doing and I have done, but
I also need to seriously think about what I need to do with my life'.
And then I heard that lawyer and gay and all of
that. So I thought that, 'I am gay and this is something which is interesting
not boring like medicine or engineering
or chartered accountancy, this is something where you can actually do
things and make a difference' and things
it was like this is what I should do.
Ashok Row Kavi
I think identity was empowered by reading about it. Like you read about
experience it at a certain level in the gay sub culture. In those days
we used to go to
Maheshwari Garden and there used to be parties of men who used to consider
themselves like us. Hum aise hain (we are like that). Still the
question of gay didn't
come. With the English group, we would say 'Oh we are the gay groups'.
most of the Indian speaking groups there was no such word as the word
what they started doing first of all (is), if you were very affectionate
with someone you changed gender,
'Kashius ga bai, kaisee ho? (how are you, my sister?)'
You know that sort of thing. Secondly you started
heavily borrowing from Hijra cultures that was the only openly identified
queer culture. So firstly it was separating
you from heterosexual cultures by inverting gender. You would call each
is a very good example in England during the time of Oscar Wilde, which
started growing there
culture, where you change gender like "how are you Oscarina?".
Something like that. So I became from Ashok
Asha Bai. Nobody had a problem about it.
suddenly these gay guys get very upset when you change their gender
as if it becomes reality. It doesn't,
it is a very affectionate way of looking at it.
was into security
I was into security for the Prime Minister because
I was a Black
Belt in Judo and Karate and from an army background. My father took
great care that
we learn horse riding, music, judo, karate
He always wanted that
his children should
know everything, and we learnt everything.
I did duty for thirteen hours every day and earned money. I started
with a pay of Rs.850 there. Then I called my girl
friend there. She had her family friends at Daryaganj. They gave us
a room at the top floor where there was no
electricity, while at work I would be sitting in an air-conditioned
space. Now my girl friend came over, I did not have
much money. She would just eat a plate of vada sambar and wait for me
the whole day. I would reach early
morning at 2.00 and leave again at 6.00am. This was the only time when
we could speak to each other and
make love to each other.
she was sitting at home
as I said earlier she was living on one
vada sambar daily. Then gradually I made
more contacts. I got her a job at Hyatt Residency as telephone operator
and then even I shifted there. Then we
were working together.
she got a job and now we had two salaries. In a nearby colony, we rented
a room. We lived there for many
I came to India
you know, the typical NRI marriage, coming here
married and running back again
and the marriage did not last
at all. I got my divorce
in a year's time. My parents were intensely depressed about what happened.
traumatic for everyone concerned and I was in severe depression.
is true that I did not want to sleep with her so I did not have sex
with her and, somehow the whole thing was,
I started wondering whether
yes I agree that I was cheating on
my wife and I had cheated her and no one knew
about that neither my parents nor my wife. But there seemed to be a
certain way of looking at it and that once
we would go to the US, things would be all right and that kind of thing
and I knew that would not be right
I was the only one who knew that I was cheating on my wife. I had started
realizing that I am making a big mistake.
I was in the US alone, depressed and feeling guilty
the mistake that I had done
so it is in this desperate situation that I approached
Trikone. If my marriage had worked I don't
think I would have approached Trikone.
It was a two paragraph (letter)
introducing myself. But that was,
in a sense
was the first time I was actually telling another person that I am gay
giving myself a
sharing it with another person
even though it was
through a letter and not face
to face. And that moment also, as I remember, when I literary dropped
the letter in the
that time we didn't have internet and e-mail
there was a sense of a heavy
cloud, ok it was a sense of heavy burden, which was removed
that act of dropping
just about 6 to 8 lines sharing that you are gay
that first act of coming out
and this sense of a
cloud, which I realize later was the cloud I had really kept oppressed,
had just lifted
not realizing that there were
many more clouds to be lifted.
had given my P.O. box address
So contacts were made and somehow
this chap from Germany lands up and
connects with three-four of us. We meet for the first time in a cafe
and the Red Rose group event starts
were the founders
and it was the sense of timing
then lets do this again, lets
but how do we advertise? So let's advertise through
Trikone. It was that time span of sending the letter
to them, they then come up with the next publication, the next issue,
they give the ad of this meeting happening in
this cafe in Delhi
and red rose is the symbol.
first meeting, I think, I had several people
and then the second
by then it had grown
spread a little bit plus the first ad had come out I think
really was magical. I think it was really magical -
small circle of 4-5 people
people walk in grows to 8
grows to nearly 20
it just kept growing
it was like this bubble
it was growing
and we ended up being 50 plus
people! This was first coming out in a public space, which was the moment
of revolution so to speak
bringing tears to my eyes, the sense of joy and liberation
it was magic!
day a guy came over from abroad. He was a tall hefty guy of 8 feet and
with a girl called Kimberly. After half an hour, he turned into a girl.
I went and touched his
He looked very cute with a wig and all so we felt that
even we should become
girl. That was the first time I realized that a man can also become
one thing was very clear in my mind that I didn't want to be a hijra
because I cannot
beg, I cannot do prostitution business. I used to do outreach, I used
to go to Cotton Green area and I knew what all
this was. So I was scared and there was this fear in me that I don't
want to do all this. I don't want to be exposed
on the roads
this was very clear within me.
side by side, I was cross dressing, I had started wearing unisex clothes...
the kurta pyjama with the dupatta.
Then I thought I should have sex change. A counselor used to come
to Humsafar, and then we spoke at Sion
hospital. The first thing I did was remove the testes. Till then I had
not told anyone at home. Then I consulted the
then I started taking female hormones for one
year. Then gradually the breasts started forming.
the transition period
Now it was the time that I had to tell this
at my home, also I was evaluated at in the
three years at the psychiatrists. Now the doctors told me that I could
go in for Vaginoplasty. This decision was
. but there was no one at home and nor did I want
to tell anyone about it and then I did it. That was
one dark or black night, and in that night I changed from Ganesh to
started Aanchal with India Center for Human Rights and Law
it for about
2 ½ years or whatever, and I was thinking of moving out and starting
Aanchal on my
because when you are with an NGO, the NGO controls what you
think and how
to do things and everything. So I wanted to start Aanchal on my own
and this was a
we registered it
I didn't have a third person to sign the agreement
not one woman would sign because of
the issue. And then finally I got somebody to do
and all board
members were straight
and not one lesbian
was willing to come on board at that time.
started with the counseling helpline and then we started fighting for
our rights. But like I said, I needed people
around. The Counseling Helpline
I started getting professional
counselors from reputed colleges to come and
do work. I learnt a lot with them, because that is when you really see
whether she is going through depression
or whether she just wants to talk to somebody
And I have actually
seen women who have been terrified of their
and now they are on a completely different level
- with girlfriends, probably thinking of marriage
and all that! It's unbelievable what this small group of ours did.
bought myself a truck, a pickup truck. This was in 1985. I bought a
pickup truck, it was hardly anything
and I said I want to travel
India. I know Europe
better than India and that is ridiculous
when I started traveling around, then I realized this whole view that
I have been given
of older Indian
and again I am saying Indian as an umbrella term
because there are
anekta main ekta (unity in diversity),
that's how I would have described it. Because there are
many many common threads
so I can say it is just the principle
of diversity, but there are many connecting
Because suddenly I was seeing in these temples, you know,
not just duality, homosexuality, everything,
sexuality with animals, auto sexuality, auto erotic, sensuousness
along with very abstract motifs
So it was a
highly worked out visual language.
My mother, she went crazy
You know, I have been six months on
and at time the phones didn't
work. There was hardly any STD . I am in the mountain, somewhere in
that time you needed a pass to
go. There was no tourism to any of these places. There was nobody there,
no hotels, nothing. So I traveled
a traveler. I knew that I am different
and because of this difference,
I had taken an extremely radical choice
and then I just went on that path. I think, in earlier times, the wandering
poets / poetesses, they did it their own
I live in a modern world, I did it in my way.
was pretending to study. I didn't study. Until I was beaten up and left
for dead one
day. Bleeding on the street. Street walking and then I said to my teacher
that I want to
know everything there is to know, because I don't know when I will die.
And he said ok.
Do whatever you want to do. Because he was a clever man. He was in the
Navy and he
knew what homosexuality was in the navy. Those war ships I am told were
brothels because there was no island, no woman and nothing in sight
and San Francisco. (laughs) And now those histories are coming out.
Those histories were not written then.
I started studying because I knew I could be killed any time. And my
teacher, who knew that I was gay, who
knew about gay people, said, 'look Hoshi, you have to study, because
then you can articulate your angst
can't change anything, but you can articulate your angst which animals
and birds can't do and which makes you
so once you get your autonomy as a human being, then the
sky is the limit.'
started off as a joke, a game
and when the
time of actual
preparations and everything started happening, I got edgy
was baraat (wedding
procession) and there was 'vision' side and my side
there was great fun
- I mean exchange of wows, I was feeling married or getting married
types and I think so
was 'vision' and we exchanged rings and
there was mehndi
and there was tana bani
(wedding rituals) and there was sangeet (songs and dance) and
dhol (drums) and
disparate crowd - 'G' who was from my school, the one with the best
butt and the tightest pant, also became one
of my exs much later in life out of school, but then 'G' also came and
'G' actually went to Sheetal and actually
bought an outfit for the event and there was 'L' who was flying for
Air India, and was in tears because it was
typically something he had imagined and it was happening to his friend
There was like a lot of overwhelming,
full drama basically.
never lived together
but we were in each other's homes all the
times. We got along
then we started sharing
and I think that was the (mistake)
as we were apart, you see, 'vision' had his privacy
and over a period of time we had both started extramarital whatever
then when we used to come to know,
there used to be a big drama - that you have stabbed me in the back
and I stabbed you and then again
I think it became a pattern
that's what I want to tell about relationship
- I firmly believe - Man is not monogamous
and neither is woman, for all practical purposes
they are monogamous
because they fear that if they fool around
then they are going to lose whatever they have invested in or what they
have got others to invest in them.
first my parents refused to allow me to go and work for the community
They felt that I would also become like that. I told them that I am
already one of them
and nothing happens after entering the community.
parents were upset a lot. They thought that in the community center
we were treated.
Treated means, that we were taught how to walk, how to talk, how to
stand. No one
learns all this in the community center
this is god gifted and
you learn it naturally. At times I wonder that those
who have 11 fingers, the society accepts them, then why don't they accept
us if we are different. I had to struggle
a lot and when my parents came to know about my working in the community
center they created havoc
said that there is no need for me to work there. There is a shortage
of educated people in the transgender
community, so I thought that since I am one of them, then why should
I not help them.
have never worked for money. If I get money or not, it is important
to work for the community. If women are getting
education today it is because many years ago Ambedkarji, Mahatma Phule,
. they all worked for
it. They all said that women should be educated as she is also a part
of our society
The seeds they had sown
earlier, women are now getting the benefits. Women are getting educated
now. So I think that if I sow the seed
now for my community, then maybe in the coming 10 years or 50 years,
my next generation will benefit from it.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi
went to Toronto, my first exposure to the outer world
and I got
my passport. And
in my passport it says I'm a female, I'm a TG, I'm a eunuch - so three
sexuality on one
passport. But I got it, hello, I had it!
I went there, I saw the outer world, I saw the TGs, I met the people
there - it was a
good exposure. And I was glad when the Asia Pacific Sex Workers Network
seat and they appointed me on their seat
and they voted me to
be on the seat for the Civil Society Task Force
for the UN President's Office, for the high-level meeting. It was a
major exposure for me!
was an Indian TG woman on the Asia Pacific Sex Workers Network
but I talked about the sex workers' issues,
I talked about TGs, I talked about MSM, I talked about every sexual
minority, because this was the first time in the
UN Civil Society Task Force that there was a TG woman
and I was
totally decked up in saree, in my whole
because I thought its not only me, it's my country, I
am representing my whole country. It was an honor.
I still remember when I walked to the UN General Assembly
touched my Indian flag! It was a proud moment
for me, that being a hijra, I could make it till here
never ever thought in my life.
Manvendra Singh Gohil
was not sports-minded as such
But I was fond of music, so at a
very early age, at
the age of 8 years itself, I joined a music school
where I was
learning Indian classical
and even somethings like public speaking
a part and parcel of our
life, as we are involved in public life
I was given training in
was totally against the idea of hunting
because I loved animals
- whether they were
domesticated or in the wild form - and I would go for hunts with my
cousins and other relatives, but somehow I
wasn't mentally prepared to kind of kill an animal.
I was growing I was observing that I was attracted towards the male
and not the female and that was happening
in school, it was happening amongst the servants who were raising me
and at the age of 13... I would say I was
kind of looked after, kind of was adopted by him, because he was an
orphan and with him I started discovering my
sexuality and like I was observing that he was getting attracted towards
me and we did kind of an experiment with
each other's body about what it is to be attracted towards the same
would say our relation was more on a physical level, and nobody doubted
because he was meant to satisfy
my personal needs, my domestic needs and then he started fulfilling
my sexual needs as well!!
took me Malad, Malvani. I had come here without telling anyone at home.
in leather shoes, formal pants and a striped-shirt. They took me to
their house at night,
because if I went there in pant-shirt during the day, then it would
be wrong for them also.
They told me not to come in daytime and I had to think about them
though I thought
myself to be a Hijra (transgender). They took me at night and
gave me food to eat and
I still remember the first saree they gave me to wear. It was a fluorescent
I wore it in Asha Guru, my guru's (master's) house. I had short
hair so I used to warp a dupatta around my head
and wear a salvar-suit and be in the house and not go out. They say
that if you remain in a veil, you become more
and I kept waiting to become a woman!! I used to go
for weddings with my guru and play the dholak
(drum) and dance. It used to be different days for different places.
Monday - Ghatkopar, Tuesday - Santacruz,
Wednesday - Malad and so on
used to go shop to shop and ask for money... we used to do mangti
(begging) on Fridays. Those days every
shop used to give 25 paise to one hijra. So to get 1 rupee also
we had to beg in 4 shops. When I had come to
Mumbai with my parents we had eaten food in one hotel in South Mumbai.
When I went to beg I realized that I
had come to this hotel with my parents and sisters and eaten food and
even given Rs.10 tip
and today I am
begging for 25 paise from the same hotel!
in Dahisar East there was a computer institute
and he used to
call us inside and make us sit and talk with
us. If you give me the old computer with DOS operating system to repair,
I can repair it. So if there was any
problem in their service centre I used to tell them from the beep what
to do - change the RAM or have the SMPS
connection right or else it will blow off!! I used to think that they
don't know anything and run a computer institute
and, I who knows so much, why can't I do something.
most of all of my working life, (I have made sure) that I won't be treated
differently than anyone else
because of anything
not because of my
sexuality. So, whether it was the Times, whether it was at Mahindra
, (wherever I have
earlier, when I was at Mahindra, I was in a relationship
desk had a photo of
me and my spouse on it
just like my boss' desk has a photo of
him and his wife on it. My photo wasn't kept face
down, it was kept face up. When people would ask me who is this? I wouldn't
say, 'it's my friend'
I would say,
'this is my partner'
'ummmm what is that?'
I would say,
'Boyfriend, you know'
and then it was like, 'Oh!'
And that was that. I have never really been
I don't know, I am
sure people talk about it, maybe they talk about it
behind my back
but they certainly don't talk about it to my face.
don't think one has to be out. I am far from it
I think people
should have the right to represent themselves in
exactly the way they want to
and nobody should pressurize them
in any way to be anything other than who they
want to be
whether it's with one's sexuality or anything else.
I mean one's own identity, in any sense, is a
but one decides what one wants to, right?
R. Raj Rao
I met this boy who was 19 years old, Dalit (working lower class)
and I met him at
Churchgate loo and
I was a great one for washroom sex, I still
swear by it. I think the
internet is no match!! Washroom sex is extremely sensuous and internet
have half of that sensuality. This is where I met Rakesh and we took
it from there and
the fact that something begins in so sordid a way, blossoms into a serious
it is a quite amazing and should be recorded. I think the book does
men is always my hero. The attraction could come from my early romance
with Marxism, but a younger
working man was better. I didn't have problems finding the kind of people
I want and having sex. I had all my
friends - who are professionals, academics, both gay and straight. But
when it comes to my love life - it is a very
different type of guy that I am looking for.
thing is to shun stereotypes
and if you would detect stereotype,
then one should try to move away from it.
Having said that, it should be left to the individual... Stereotyping
is the silliest thing to do, as anybody could be a
gay man or a homosexual. That's what the word 'queer' does, it includes
all these people under the ambit of 'queer'.
when you talk about stereotyping, we are talking about certain segment
of society that is affluent, what about
who are outside the affluent society but are also queer?
was a period when I had very very short hair and most of the time I
baggy sweaters and didn't wear any make-up or jewelry or anything like
that. That was
partly because of being a feminist. Now lots of people are teaching
in jeans but that time
and at that time I was so young too
that I couldn't
be distinguished from
first time I cut my hair it wasn't that short, it was shoulder length
but they still were very upset. That was not
anything to do with being lesbian, but it was because they belong to
a particular type of Christianity where women
are supposed to have long hair
So they were not at all happy with
what I did. Over the time they were upset, but
they accepted it.
some point of time in '87-88, I did tell my mother. I didn't tell my
father. She asked me a few questions, she
didn't get terribly upset, but of course, she would have preferred it
not to be the case. She kind of accepted it
and over the time we have talked about it a little
it, they were fine. With all my friends and all
now with my partner also she is fine
She sometimes introduces
her as her daughter-in-law!
parks, I found a little later
and the parks were intimidating.
If you are alone.
I learnt about parks from someone I met. You know, you didn't know anyone
you had one or two bad experiences.
don't want to go into the steamy side, but the stuff. I mean there was
there. I mean the Connaught Place parks for instance, as I was to discover,
you met a
lot of people. All of us were there, you made friends
into larger groups, you run and catch up with news
and all sort
of things happening and there were also hustlers and there were also
blackmailers. And there were
also cops. People robbed you.
mean, you know the New Delhi Railway Station was very close by. So what
would happen, people would pick
and there was always a problem of space and very often people
would walk down there and go into the trains
that were parked in the shed
and go into the empty compartment
and use that for sex
And people were
robbed there. At knife points, even razor blades and horrible stories
but not as if to say that was the only side,
a lot of people were having good sex. But this element was there all
this, I later discovered from someone, that he had been cruising in
the Connaught Place park during the
World War! But that has been
the public places have always been
that. I mean after that, when I was
researching a book and discovered that markets and parks from the 14th-15th
century have been doing that
and even earlier
and anywhere where males collect, this is bound
to happen. It happens today, it is natural,
I suddenly started realizing that there are several issues
is culture -
woman are more pleased, it is very hard to find girl friends and sexual
difficult to find sexual partners. May be now it's easier for certain
Indians, but for certain
who were working, there wasn't... there wasn't this division between
men, between what
they do with their bodies and with whom they do with; whether it is
to do with men or
women. There wasn't an antagonism whether I was doing homosexual sex
heterosexual sex, I am just doing sex. There was the whole concept of
'masti' (fun) that is visible to me
is not sex anyway and so I can have lots of fun, this is not sex anyway,
and the only sex I am going to do is
with my wife.
of this was staring at me
and we started counting in numbers
and we realized that male-to-male sex is
very common in our country for a whole host of reasons compared to western
which meant that the
risk of HIV transmission was higher in our country, compared to other
western countries like UK, America. Unless
we change the construction of the way we see gender, sexualities and
masculinities and feminities, we are never
gonna deal with the issues of HIV. It is easy among gay man because
they confuse these things with the other
but having a gay identity is very much linked to class, income, its
not a generic framework.
advantage of - my education, my multi ethnic background and my anger
at how we have been treated as
human beings - all of these became like a well-cooked soufflé
then I discovered Delhi's buses which were and are still probably quite
So more advanced stuff happened on the bus, and so then I discovered
this was an
exciting way to come home. But there were just very fleeting
there was no
talking, no name, no nothing you know. So then I get off the bus, and
then I had those
white shorts on, and so I had to carry my books in front if I had ejaculated
in my lovely
white shorts to hide the stains, so that was too.
fact my clothes became an issue with my parents when they realized that
I had cum in my shorts. So I was
hauled off to a doctor once to see if I had a problem, something I had
wrong with me. I was never scared. It never
occurred to me that it might be a threatening situation. And luckily
I never had a really serious problem
once I did.
lived next to Humayun's Tomb and so it was a fantastic playground and
it was just open
and it's full of places
to have sex and it was being used like that by all of us
and then one local boy who I knew, by
then I was like 13 may be or something, and so we were having sex of
not penetrative... but we were
explicitly going there to do it
And we arrived at this spot and
we weren't actually doing it, we were standing at
two different levels
with these uniform cops around
I got roughed up and then they demanded
money of me, or something
just thought everybody did it
because everybody seemed to be willing
to do it
and I assumed that everybody
did it. All kinds of people did it, everybody who would come to our
house when my parents weren't there, I would
and actually they would say ok
Whether it was the
taxman or the breadwalah (bread supplier). But then
it didn't have a name
and I didn't think I was different from
and I didn't think it would interfere with
what I thought came later
which is girls.
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