Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 22, October 2009

Being Queer in Delhi University:
A Personal Narrative


Interlocutor: Akhil Katyal

When I first went to university, I did so with a very vague sense of my own sexuality, as do, I imagine, most students. I was nursing a broken heart from a boy and I was really in no mood to articulate anything. In any case, it didn't seem strange to me that I was the only one not complaining that I was in an all-women's institution—I really liked the idea of being in a women's space. I thought it would be nice, and different, and it was. I knew I was queer—I had first heard and understood the word 'bisexual' when I was thirteen, and tentatively applied it to myself, though only in my own head. I didn't think about it actively a great deal after that, but when it resurfaced I was completely unsurprised. I spoke to a few people about what I was thinking, and nobody else was surprised either, though I was asked a couple of times if I just wanted to be different (surely there'd be easier ways to achieve that, I thought—I could just get a tattoo) or why I wanted to advertise it. I had no serious issues about being 'out' in college—most people seemed to take it quite well. I felt a little judged sometimes, but not in any way that I could really put my finger on. It was similar to the experience I'd always had of feeling a little 'strange' or different. I couldn't point it out; I'd just end up feeling a bit silly afterwards.

Basically, it was when I started seeing a woman that I actually came out to a lot of people in college. People had seen me talking constantly on the phone in that unmistakable way, and I was asked to spill the beans, in one of those wonderful sessions in which everyone talks about boys and exes and swears each other to secrecy. I was asked, 'It's some guy, right?' and I replied that it wasn't, it was a girl, and she was my girlfriend. Everyone thought I was joking, and when I began to get a bit confrontational ('Yeah? You think I'm joking? Do you? Huh?') I was quickly believed. It was incredibly easy and I didn't have to cry quietly when things finally didn't work out. It gets progressively easier for me to tell people when they assume the term 'he' when talking about lovers, or when casual questions are asked.

Soon after I'd joined university, I joined a queer group outside the university and that, I think, made things a whole lot easier for me. Since it was not meant only for LGBT people, nobody asked me what my sexual orientation was and I was thankful for that, because there would have been no easy way to answer that question at that point. I also had people to talk to about my uncertainties and think aloud with, about sexuality in general, which made a massive difference to me since I needed that kind of conversation to keep me thinking about myself. I needed not to take it so seriously, because in talking about it with people around me, it felt like I'd be prematurely 'coming out' and defining myself, which I was in no state of mind to do. I was eventually able to deal with my own sexuality lightly and in a completely drama-free way, which was a huge relief.

Because sometimes, you have to be able to laugh off the way people see you, if you don't want to feel threatened, or go crazy telling everyone off. More than once, I've had to sit hard on my hands while somebody in class talks about how same-sex relationships don't make sense since they don't produce babies or someone calmly informs everyone that gay people are more likely to contract syphilis, hepatitis, commit suicide and generally die earlier than those darned lucky heteros. I'm forced to grope around for rational arguments or I just don't comment, but sometimes it takes an effort not to scream 'I'm a lesbian!!!' at the top of my lungs, just for the drama, while everyone scrambles for cover, in case it's contagious.

Intersections acknowledges the assistance of the Gender Relations Centre, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University in the hosting of this site.
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