Shamed For Hating Sports, Ridiculed For Draping Mom’s Saree: I Wouldn’t Stop Being Gay One Day

Shamed For Hating Sports, Ridiculed For Draping Mom’s Saree: I Wouldn’t Stop Being Gay One Day

While watching a FIFA World Cup 2018 match, my friend Karuna yelled at the Brazil team with her profligate energy – ‘wrong side’, and looked at me for validation: ‘Wrong side, no?’ I nodded ambivalently and sipped the free coffee I made in the multi-faith chaplaincy kitchen. 

Karuna got irritated with my coldness. But I didn’t know what to say, I was not sure if that was actually a wrong side; in fact, I do not know what a ‘wrong side’ is; like I didn’t know the difference between ‘forward’ and ‘defense’ until a few days ago when Humaira almost caught my ignorance. I never knew. I never wanted to know. I hated to know how a penalty or an LBW is decided by the referee and umpire; I abhorred my sister’s cricket obsession since childhood. I have always been the butt of jokes – of family, friends, and the town for my zero interest in sports.

“God should have made you a girl and your sister should have been the boy” – was the most hurled statement to shame me for my repugnance towards sports – by my grandmother, aunts, and even my mother. I wondered if the womenfolk hated my affinity towards them more than the men? But I still watched the FIFA 2018 World Cup. I watched some matches during the 2014 World Cup and I remember watching the final of 2002 when Ronaldo Nazario shot the last goal and Oliver Kahn was the German goalkeeper.

In 2002, I remember, we watched the match at our maternal grandparents’ house as we did not have a colour TV or cable network. The only reason I wanted to watch the match was to skip my evening private tuition. True to my fear, my tutor, a neighbour of my grandparents, came to call me after the match was over. 

We didn’t have a ‘colour TV’ and a cable connection for a long time till my eighth standard, as my parents feared that I will skip schools more often and it will hamper my studies, which was in fact the reason my maternal grandmother didn’t allow a colour television at her place – to keep my sister away from the allurement. We got a TV only after my father, failing to stop a feud between me and my sister over a cricket match and a Bengali soap, destroyed our old, small black and white TV with a chopper.

I hated sports. I hated cricket, football, athletics, games, PT classes – as much as I hated Mathematics and the present chief minister of Bengal. I used to shudder at a PT exam, a sports competition in school, or in our town in the winters. I always made excuses to avoid it, prayed for an apocalypse a night before, or draped a bandage to fake a leg injury.

I hated being a cricket-buff or a ‘sportsman’, I hated being muscular or the showoff macho among my classmates – I hated being a ‘man!’ I was petrified of sports and was mocked at for being born to a father who earned his first living as a professional footballer, for belonging to a family where sportsmanship ‘ran in the blood’. Instead, I loved to drape my mother’s saree, used the towel as long hair, put vermilion, imagined having the same conversation my parents had, with a classmate (he was a bit better among the lot who made my childhood and adolescence a nightmare).

Most often browbeats transcended beyond the family and I had been the most available clown of my classmates and of the small town where I grew up. I was bullied and labeled all sorts of humiliating names for being ‘effeminate’ and ‘not so manly’ by my classmates in schools, who stalked girls after tuition. I was also jeered at by the ‘masculine’ young men of my town who grazed around watching TV, playing carrom, using cusses, and building muscles all day long inside the small clubroom next to our house. Whenever I had to spend more than two months at a stretch with my family after I left home in 2007, even before the secondary board results were finally out, I hated it.

I still cannot think of living at home for long, where I never had a friend, a good memory of my childhood to cherish. Even now, when I meet my old classmates at a get-together, bump into them at the local railway station, during

Durga puja pandal hopping, see those local dadas who still come to my father to discuss issues of the club, meet them in the local transport– I get anxious, avoid eye contact and often get astonished by their changed behaviour towards me. Do they remember those humiliations I was hurled with, the names they invented for me and their bullying techniques – my ordeals in front of their manliness? 

But it is difficult for someone to forget those years – for whom humiliation had once became naturalised, who absolutely feared the mundane activities like getting ready for school after his mother left for her office and the fear of everyday bullying tormented him more than failing in mathematics. But who do I blame for what I grew up with? My parents are not responsible for anything. They have always been there for me in the past thirty years, in ways more than they could and more than many parents do –with their unconditional indulgence for my every act – right or wrong! Yes, they were emotionally unavailable, not knowingly but for their innocent ignorance.

Can I blame my classmates who grew up in the same small town, who imbibed the wrongs of the society like I did, who didn’t understand ‘gender’ and ‘sexuality’, like I didn’t until the 2009 Delhi high court judgment on 377? Should I blame the macho men of my town, who were expected to be ‘macho’ by the society, who didn’t have the chance to know that ‘a woman is never born, she becomes one’? How do I teach them Butler – Beauvoir debate on sex and gender, Foucauldian subjugation, Lacanian mirror-stage of subject formation, Marx’s ‘value’ and gender performativity – all the high philosophies I learned only a few years ago and not in family, society, school, not even at one of the best colleges in my country.

In a society that fights every day for basic survival, isn’t ‘sensitivity’ too much to ask for! In a country where basic livelihood is not guaranteed, can its citizens be so radically respectful to the castigated ‘deviants’? Bullying continued even after I left my town and went to a metro city – thousand miles away from home. But I still wonder what metaphysical power came to my rescue. First, dance became my refuge, my shield and I spent more time practising dance and studying beneath the lamppost outside my hostel. I was bullied even in college and by then I was too used to the macho men, whom I desired and disliked at the same time and tried to hide behind good grades. But now, after all these years, I don’t remember how I reacted to those particular moments, as they were meted out.

But destiny kept something much more brutal for me in hiding. What the umpteen amount of profane bullies and humiliation couldn’t do, what the vile jokes failed to do, ‘love’ did it – as it ‘shattered my pride’ – my pride of getting on with life, slowly and steadily, pride of discovering and attempting to understand my true self and the pride of slowly winning my everyday fight to accept myself – all of that was shattered easily when my lover shamed me for loving him in front of the entire college and I was forced to search for a new meaning of everything, all over again! 

But even amidst every mourning and eloping, I had the backing of my parents – who thought being ‘gay’ is too trivial a matter and dealt with it in their own way. I hope they don’t expect that I would stop being ‘gay’ someday. My father told me that ‘I improved from being too effeminate as I grew up’, when I told them about my sexuality at the hospital where my mother went for her diabetes checkup.

My father never took me to the ground for a game, never even tried to convince me to play football like him, never imposed his tastes over me. Rather I got the love and knack for photography from him, while my mother developed my taste for Rabindra Sangeet, bought cassettes and sang with me, and always appreciated my cooking skills. One never knows what life keeps in hiding for tomorrow, but my growing up undoubtedly made me look forward to a peaceful death more than life.

(The views expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Siyahi Columns)

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One thought on “Shamed For Hating Sports, Ridiculed For Draping Mom’s Saree: I Wouldn’t Stop Being Gay One Day

  1. I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both educative and amusing, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The issue is something too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my hunt for something relating to this.

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