Monday, 1 December 2014

1st Dec, 2014: Its Back

There is no God. There is no Providence. Everything happens for a reason, but the reason not necessarily be something conclusive. It might just exist to balance the scales. All those concepts of hope, faith and promise are a giant farce. Maybe this is what it is. You have just been dealt with some really awful cards in this lifetime. Some of the cards are really good, like your talents, politics, skills, knowledge, profession. But they are not enough as there are some bad cards too, like depression, gender, love (or lack thereof), loneliness, emotional instability and so on. The cards aren't enough to make a complete hand and win the game. I guess this is what it is. Its just a bad hand with a losing set of cards.

My depression is back, I think. It's different this year. None of the previous patterns have materialized. I don't have any man in my life whom I have gotten obsessively attached to. I am not having breakdowns. There is this perpetual sense of numbness. It feels like I am from a parallel universe. I am present here and yet not present at all. Work is the only thing that seems to be floating me along. Because you know, you need to work. Depression and poverty don't really go well together. I am not happy. I am not sure if I am sad. You know after being sad for too long you reach a point where your emotions develop a resilient skin to prevent itself from being vulnerable anymore. I am in that zone. Sadness has become a part of me. So it doesn't make me sad anymore. It makes me cynical, pessimistic, selfish, insensitive and so on. But at least it doesn't make me sad anymore.

I know I should have continued my therapy. I was impatient. And also my money situation was uncertain. I need 25-30k a month to survive paying rent, bills, etc. Another 3-4k a month for food. Then if there's some extra money left some good things, like movies, or eating out, drinks etc. Therapy costs anything between 4-5k a month. And if you don't regularly take it for at least 6months to a year, if not more, all the money paid for it is wasted. It costs 4-5k for 3 months of Aerobics classes which is also crucial considering my health situation. Somehow when it comes to prioritizing therapy, it always comes to the bottom most of the list just because of the idea of the long term investment it requires, when I am living in a way where I can't even be sure what my next month looks like.

I have been freelancing since last year. I can't do 9 to 5. I just cant. It's not in me anymore to be a cog in another machinery. Plus, its during days like this when it takes me hours to drag myself out of bed; freelance with no fixed timings do somewhat help. But the downside to freelancing is that your money is always uncertain. I live month by month making sure I earn at least 25k a month just to make sure that there is a roof over my head. I don't know what's happening with my career. Logistically I know it's going in the right direction and the future looks promising. But I don't know if I have it in me to hold on until that future arrives.

It was Delhi Queer Pride yesterday. I am still wondering if I should have gone for it. It has been awfully hard to get myself out of bed lately. I have to reinforce myself saying things like, "If you don't go for this, you will sink even further. So get up!" Sometimes I chant that to myself loud muffled under the quilt. I was so zoned out, I didn't have the vaguest energy in me to put on a smile. So I smoked up. That's always a handy excuse. People leave you alone and let you be on your own trip. At least you don't have to answer questions like, Why do you look so down and out? Why so sad?

But still you can't evade the endless comments and queries regarding why aren't you dressed up. Apparently, if you go out in public making proclamations about your gender nonconformity then that is the image you have to uphold. No one really paid attention when I said I am gender queer, which means I don't endorse any particular gender. I never endorsed putting on a mini skirt and high heels as a staple gender performance. If I am wearing a kurta and jeans and converse shoes, that too is a part of my genderqueerness. I will not perform a certain gender stereotype just because you are expecting that from me. And that is my understanding of nonconformity. But still I was plagued by inanely dismissive comments about my attire as to why wasn't I looking fabulous. अरे भई, कोई ठेका ले रखा है क्या fabulous लगने का? Why can't a person simply dress what they feel like without being judged over it? Someone even went on to say that "You are in drag today" I was like wow. When did I ever proclaim that femininity was my official gender that dressing up in a kurta and jeans becomes drag? Although too many women wear kurta and jeans. So if the only element that makes it masculine is my physical body itself, then I'm sorry, you're playing into the same old heteronormative gender binaries without even realizing. But irrespective of whether you realize it or not, its still fucking offensive.

Unfortunately, I was too down and out and my sass quotient was on zero. I really wish I had given it off to all of them, but I didn't have any energy or desire for confrontations. Plus its Pride. Its like bubblegum land. Everyone is happy. And you don't blame them. So I went along. By the end of the march my saturation levels had been peaked. My chronic lower back pain (because I haven't been eating properly for last one month) was shooting up and down my spine. Everyone was up on the stage and everyone else was paying attention to them. So I had my moments of seclusion but I started dreading that once it would be over and everyone would get together, I would have to stand in groups and socialize and talk and plan for the post pride party. I couldn't bear the idea. Just wanted get home, also to lay down and relieve my back. So I left without any goodbyes.

Woke up on a Monday. There's a massive work backlog and I can't get myself out of bed. Thank Heavens the calls haven't started pouring in yet. Its 2pm, I should have gotten up at 8am considering the amount of work that is pending. My maid left the job a week ago without any notice. The house is a mess. I don't know how long it will take to find another maid. Until then I would have to do all the chores. If I can manage to get myself out of bed somehow and deal with my privileged first world problems.

Privileged, it might be. But my loneliness does not cease to feel like the only black hole that one day will consume everything in its vicinity. And in the middle of it all, you start wondering. Maybe there is no God. All these concepts of hope, faith, perseverance are probably constructs created to avoid dealing with death and self-destruction of other people. There are no better days. Everything is the same. The same old mundane misery. And you keep calm and carry on. Sometimes you have to play whatever cards you're being dealt, not because you have a particular strategy in mind. But simply because its your turn and you have to play something. So here's my play. Another day. Another card. Because you just can't catch a break.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

15 June, 2014: Bridget and Talulah (Part 2)

It hasn't been five days and as you can guess, I am back on PR. Its that weird gravitational pull towards something which is like an essential part of your life. Including its previous version G4M, it has been such an integral part of my life. Like the one and only portal that sort of lets you disassociate yourself from the straight, normative world and drown yourself in a world full of people who you can instinctively relate to. And oh yeah, also have sex with them. Gay "Dating" Sites: Maintaining Sex Lives since the 90s. Sex becomes so easy in the gay world. All you need to do is just chat with someone. And there you go. You got your fill for next week or so. It's like a recharge coupon. There's no chase. There's no efforts. There's no anticipation. Sex is just there. In a giant buffet platter. Help yourself whenever you like.

When sex becomes like food, then everything related to it becomes very objective. Like I have no real motivation or drive to actually log on to the site. It's just a habit. A routine. Whenever the comp is on I just have to click on the bookmark without even giving it any thought. Like it's a given. So to break that habit is far more difficult than breaking away from something you're passionate about. I am in fact, trying to break away from the intense emotional attachment I fell into with someone. And I find myself to be far more efficient at that than to break away from PR. I guess its just not about sex after all. Its a strange kind of addiction. To just escape away to a world where you feel like you finally belong to. Although this sense of belongingness is questionable, but just for a few moments it feels like you're surrounded by people who you are strangely closer to than anybody else. Even though they don't see you. And even if they see you and choose to look away. There's a strange inherent feeling of comfort and relief in this world. It just feels like home. A very dysfunctional home, but your home.

I am very biased about PR. Since G4M was taken over by PR four years ago, I have seen it evolve into what stands today. And what it is today is so entirely contradictory to what G4M was. It was a community back then. People used to talk and interact and make friends. People had the decency to at least put up a conversation even if all they were looking for was sex. Now it just feels so plastic. There is absolutely no effort, Its all straight to the point and so mechanical. They can just make a movie about robots with artificial intelligence who discover sexual pleasures. Hi. Hi. Where in Delhi? South. You? West. What are your likings? I like ABC. What about you? I like XYZ. Cool, When are you free? Right now. Let's meet? Alright, here's my number...

And this is a rare occasion when you do find a mutual attraction. Most of the time its just ticking off checklists. Checklists of acceptable qualities in a potential mate. It's not a conversation. Its like an interview. So here is my biased opinion and I know you are going to hate me for saying this. But what the hell. PR is meant for a very specific section of the gay community. Cisgendered, masculine, 'straight acting', conventionally "good" looking gay men. Most of whom, who are so privileged in different ways that all they care about is conforming to the that industrial stereotype of The Gay Man. It's the same stereotype, images of whom are plastered on the home page of PR itself. Its a market demographic. And PR is a product moulded and modified to cater very specifically to them. If you don't fall anywhere within that normative section of the spectrum, you are going to have a very hard time. If you're queer in anyway, even just by the appearance of your body, you are going to need a LOT of patience.

Once I started going through my transition of gender identity, I realized that the perception of me also evolved alongwith it. Its like I was invisible before that as I wasn't conventionally good looking or masculine enough as per the stereotype. But after I started embracing my feminine side and flaunting it as well, I realized I had everyone's attention. People started to actually look at me and not just look through me. Now apart from the general appreciation and admiration, which I am humbly thankful for; there are two main type of perceptions here: Femme-Phobic and Femme-Phillic. The first one is a very apparent and blatant display of disgust and resentment towards men who are feminine. Almost 8 out of 10 profiles on PR mention the ineligibility section on their checklist: No sissies. No aunties. No girlies. No trannies. And so on. Some profiles go as far as being outright sexist with profound words like "I am gay because I am a Man. And I like to have sex with men, not women. So please, be a man before you decide to contact me. Not a woman." It was quite hard to actually suddenly realize on which margin of the gay community you really stand upon. The second type of perception was the intense attraction and attention. Like these men, they will take interest in you just because you are a man who is being feminine. They are mostly straight or bisexual identified men who don't considered having sex with effeminate men as gay because for them the effiminate men are essentially women. So they are straight because being gay is obviously somehow an inferiority than being straight. Because you see, these so called straight men (who are technically termed as MSMs in medical research terminology) never a passive participate in sex with men. They only penetrate and never get penetrated. So that keeps their sense of masculinity intact, because their ass has never been fucked. It's like somehow all the masculine ideologies about concepts of Pride and Honor is stored in an invisible hymen of patriarchy placed a little inside of their anuses, that once breached can never be restored. Its as twisted as the perception about a woman's virginity in our society.

These men are the men who I have sex with. Because I don't want to be in any way involved with that section of the gay man stereotype. Because this section of men, are the men who at least look at me. Whatever their reason, they are in some way attracted to me. They at least make the effort to approach me. And this is where Talulah takes her shades off, shakes her head, folds her arms and starts lecturing: They are not looking at you. They are looking at a mass of flesh with a hole. Two perhaps. A hole for them to fuck. You are just a reduction into an object for them like a blow up doll. So any attention from them doesn't mean it has any real value. Because you will always be a little offended when those men ask you if you will dress up, wear heels, make up, and a thong when they are fucking you. Maybe the whole erotica of someone wanting to fuck you because you look so hot in it, was lost somewhere when I was trying to build up my self-confidence in my genderqueerness brick by brick just a few years ago. But to be honest, everytime I dress up I not only feel like I am in my own skin, but I also feel like a sexual being. Like I can literally feel every part of my body as capable of sexual pleasure. So I do fantasize about experiencing actual sex while I am riding on the high of such sexual realization. So yes. I go back to PR. Everytime. Because I like the idea of being objectified by these men. It's a strange illustration of my inherent weakness for men in general through my desires of submission towards these men. And this is when Talulah transforms into Bridget.

Now my Bridget is actually a far more twisted version of Bridget Jones. It all started obviously with the movie after I watched it I used to joke around that I am the essential gay version of Bridget Jones because I used to relate so much to the character. The eternal search for a man and finding love. Being concerned about basic things like losing weight and doing something about her career. And then obviously reaching that fantasy of finding men who are actually interested in her. I used to feel like that. When i was 16. When I was hopeful that, that fantasy would come true some day. It's been ten years now, this Bridget has come a long way and that fantasy never came true for her. She is so weak at heart that she falls for every other man who treats her with some affection. She gets so overtly emotionally involved with men who she is supposed to be friends with that in the end she finds herself in a tangled mess of complications and she realizes she is in love. And obviously she gets her heart broken because of course, those men are unavailable. And she was aware of it since Day 1. But she falls for them anyway. Because she is a rejection junkie. She has lost so many a potential friendships in life that could have only enriched her own life because she would drown in her own conflated emotions and then drive them away as she would realize that she is drowning. And once she has crashed and burned, she tries to heal. Tries to be born like a phoenix from its own ashes. And while she does that, in the meantime she uses sex to suppress that eternal weakness for men that has become the bane of her life. There's a strange comfort in being with these men. Because for once, they are the ones who are attracted to you. For whatever reasons it may be. They want me. And a strange sense of gratitude takes over and makes me want to submit to them. Forgive all the ways they are wrong or problematic. Ignore everything else and just give in to the fact that I am with someone who actually wants me.

And then, next morning I wake up and find Talulah sitting there staring at me with narrowed eyes and shaking her head in absolute judgment. She has decided to give Bridget a silent treatment.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

10th June, 2014: Bridget and Talulah (Part 1)

For the millionth time today, I deactivated my PR profile. For the uninitiated, PR is an online gay dating site, more like a Facebook for gay men. What it mostly trickles down to is an instant hook up web site. Well, what to say, gay men, especially in this part of town are quite progressively (?) forward about sex. There's no beating around the bush. Over the eons we have successfully demystified the nature of sexual desires and separated them from romantic and emotional desires and understood how fleeting and immaterial these desires are. By this point, even I don't know if I am being philosophically meta or just plain sarcastic. Nevertheless, I shut my profile down again. I blocked the URL on my browser. Again. Trying seriously hard to not get back on the site for a long time to come. But that never ends in success. I know after a week, I shall be back on it again. Because you know this jism only knows bhookh. Jism ki Bhookh!*

See, here's the thing. My romantic life may suck. But my sex life is very much in control. I am quite good at it. As far as I remember 2011 was a crazy year when I just started living by myself and some kind of a nymph awakened inside of me. I did accomplish in attaining a more than satisfying sex life that year. Obviously sexual phases are just phases. All that craze and excitement eventually died down and it all came to an average level of frequency and sanity. But even now whenever my jism desires, I can get to it with ease. I have two very contradicting sides to me. One of them is what enables all this sexual prowess in me. Let's call her Talulah. If you ever watched Small Wonder in the nineties as repeatedly as I did, you would remember Harriet used to refer to herself as the Sex Goddess Talulah. And that's where I picked it up from and made it my running joke that I was the essential Talulah. I was 13. Anyway, so Talulah now after 13 more years, is the really evolved and empowered person in me who is free from the shackles of heteronormativity and gender stereotypes. And she perceives sex as a physical release which can also be a political statement embedded in one's own life; and when combined with emotional and romantic desires, it can be absolutely enlightening. Now Talulah is majorly feminist. Talulah is my alter-ego that gives me all the sense of purpose and identity in life. Although her feminism can get annoying some times, she is sort of the truest personification of my actual gender.

Before I started exploring my true gender identity, I was a queeny cisgendered guy who often liked to refer to himself jokingly in the feminine gender (Also before any enlightment about the existence of the vast amount of space between the gender binaries). I came out when I was 18 and I bought my first pair of high heels (sexy gladiators to be specific) when I was 23. During these five years in between, I traversed through some massive body dysmorphia. I was convinced that I was ugly as fuck, an idea that was unperturbed by any contradicting consolations that came from my friends. I have been overweight since a child for which I had always been bullied about. I started losing my hair as early as 17. And being inducted into the gay world (the queer world came much later), it didn't help my body image issues one bit. Instead I plunged even further. I was never the masculine, chiselled and muscled with broad shoulders and prominent cheekbones, with sexy hair. If you go to Google Images and search for the word 'gay', I was none of that. I was never the commodified stereotype of a "Gay Man" that conformist gay cultures and money-minting businesses have so efficiently embedded into the gay identity; something which can never be uprooted. And because of this I was one of the lower level rejects in the Delhi's tiny gay community, the outcast who never even believed that he belonged to that space.

Fact is my carried forward body dysmorphia obviously made it worse. (Made even worse by a really bad fashion sense. Well, my pocketmoney was always 1000INR a month. So indulging and exploring fashions was always a luxury for me that would happen once a year during Durga Puja, so you can imagine.) Maybe if I had a good amount of self-confidence and a sense of self-esteem I could have probably turned it around. Nevertheless, as it would later turn out that was never meant to be to begin with. At 23 my Dad passed away and my relationship with my mother was still estranged. So I decided to start living independently and that was the last of any family ties for me. This was the time I started socializing with a lot of people from the queer community. Especially a lot of queer feminist women, some of whom were also gender non-conforming. This really opened my mind over the years to come as I started to question my own normative limitations in my perception of the world and dig deeper into understanding what I really wanted from life. This was the process that made me realize that I never really willingly endorsed to the male gender for myself. It was more out of a social boundation and ignorance. Thus, I slowly started exploring my feminine side which gradually brought me into my own. My true identity.

After my Dad passed away I had shaved my head. Although I didn't need to as we didn't follow Hindu rituals so stringently, for me it was like paying my last respects. I never grew my hair back and kept it shaved as not only that I was losing hair very badly, eventually I recognized how hair is one of the primary gender markers in our society. Every hairstyle is traditionally associated with either of the gender binaries. Even if you try to queer it up, it always leans towards one thing or the other. And I was at a point where I was breaking everything down and building it up back again. And breaking down my gender was the first on the list. I have always daydreamed and obsessed over high heels since I was a kid, but I never imagined that I would actually own a pair. By 25 I had like eight pairs in varying kinds from stilettoes to wedges to boots to platforms. And I carried them off like a pro. Thanks to my art school training, I seemed to be a natural in eye make up. Soon I pierced my ears and started wearing ginormous danglers that looked fabulous with the shaved head. During all this transformation, my body started evolving as well. I started losing weight. I started waxing my legs and based on the compliments I would receive, I realized I had really sexy legs. So I joined aerobics and started to tone up. (I refused to succumb to the gym culture in the gay community which primarily contributed to that 'Gay Man' stereotype, even if I was the only guy in a whole class of women in aerobics) And today even though I haven't exactly attained the body type I desire to have, I am not resentful of the body I have. In fact I like the little imperfections that are such an integral part of me.

Last three years really helped me recuperate from the body dysmorphia that dogged me for years. I liked this new upgraded version of me. I was more comfortable and relaxed in my own skin. I analyzed further and decided I wasn't a crossdresser or transgendered. To be honest, I don't think I have that kind of balls to be able to brave such empowering yet challenging identities. But on the same hand, I realized like masculinity I didn't endorse to pure femininity either. My question was, why choose at all? I have bits of me which are masculine and I have a lot more bits of me that are feminine. But I am not going to refute the existence of either in my life in order to embrace and manifest the other. There was a point where I even questioned myself if I wanted to change the pronouns I am referred by. I realized in my personal opinion, I didn't believe that masculinity was any kind of propriety of only males and femininity any propriety of only females. Why not challenge the gender performance assigned to what is between my legs? Why should men who are referred to as "He" be only masculine? This is when I affirmed to myself that I am neither genders, man or a woman. I am a unique gender which is a specific combination of both. That my gender identity is unique and does not need to conform to anybody else's identity. This was when I started referring to myself as 'Genderqueer'. This was one of the main missing cogs in my life so far. This understanding of my gender sort of completed my sense of identity and who I was in totality. And this was when Talulah was born.

To Be Contiued...

* Jism = Body; Bhookh = Hunger; Ref:

Monday, 9 June 2014

9th June, 2014: The First Post (Literally)

Its been a sweltering summer this year in Delhi. For last two days the thermometer has dwindled around at 46-47 degrees Celsius. Its the start of my third week in the new house I just moved into by myself. I got a little over-ambitious and ended up taking a two bedroom-hall-kitchen apartment as opposed to the one bedroom-hall-kitchen I had originally planned to look for. This one had windows. Lots of windows. And tiny little balconies attached to every room. It was one of those houses that fills you with joy and excitement the moment you enter it. So I upped my budget and just took it. Later on, I realized that it is a top floor house and it basically turns into an oven in the day during the peak Delhi summers. Even my AC is struggling on its extreme efforts to bring the temperature of the bedroom down but now down enough. The genius that I am, I realized if I run the tiny otherwise non-functional desert cooler inside the air conditioned room, then it vomits out really chilled air which I really love. I know I will be super broke once the electricity bills comes in. But what the hell, these months are harsh and I want to retain some bit of the excitement and joy over taking this house and not let it succumb to the heat and transform into utter resentment.

I am a graphic designer. I was working as an Art Director till about last year. I saved up a lot of money, quit the job and took a long break from work. Around 6-8 months. Best months in the recent years as it was a longstanding desire that was fulfilled- I wanted to take a break year after college which my Dad prohibited me from. Now that I am earning my own bread independently, there was no stopping me. I starting freelancing and consulting for a startup company working from home. The money isn't great, most months it is hand to mouth survival. But no more 9 to 5. It's been a year. The first downfall of starting to work from home is you get disillusioned about the line between personal time and work time. It all gets muddled together. And in my last house my bed and my beloved desktop (which is the elixir of my life, especially my profession) were placed in the same room. Consequently work was constantly haunted by laziness and procrastination and inversely sleep was perpetually policed by deadlines 24x7. There is no routine. I have been trying to establish one, but self-discipline is an adamant bitch.

So in the new house I thought, 'Hey! Now that I have an extra room, I'll make it into a separate study. And my bedroom will be just a bedroom.' Seemed like a fine idea and I placed my bed very promisingly right in the centre of the room. You see, I come from a broken family of middle class to upper middle class working parents. I never had a bedroom to myself. I started living independently three years ago and obviously upgrading my lifestyle was out of question. Every room that I ever inhabited, the bed was one of the many other functional elements tucked onto some corner or a side like my study table, computer, bookshelf, a giant almirah and the dressing table. And the rooms weren't huge either. They were just about large enough to fit everything leaving no empty wall space. So having just a single sized bed placed in the centre of the room was some weird kind of experience of a relative luxury for me in this new house. I lay on it making plans to eventually save up some money and buy a queen sized bed to replace this one. I always toyed with the idea of waking up on a morning next to someone cherished sleeping beside me. Huddling up together on a single sized bed doesn't really make up for a comfortable sleep, so the mornings are usually more like "Ok. Go away. I need some space!"

Thanks to the crazy heat, it has been just impossible to use the designated 'study' room. My work has been severely affected as I try to use my desktop for the least possible time. Last night, I gave up. I moved the bed away from the centre and along one of the walls like it always had been. And dragged my whole desktop into the bedroom. I was like fuck it. Alas, functionality trumps luxury. And as I lay there on the bed, suddenly it felt so intimidatingly familiar. Like this was just about right. I don't need a larger bed than this. This one is just sufficient enough. It is not like I am waking up next to someone every other morning. Maybe waking up alone on a queen sized bed would actually feel even more lame than waking up in this one. Immediately my feminist side started revolting at me in my head "What the fuck, Dude? Why are you so pathetic that your enjoyment over something entirely depends on the companionship of another person? Has it even occurred to you that half of your friends own double sized beds because they like to sleep spaciously alone? Jeez! Talk about first world problems, man!" I just rolled my eyes and muttered to myself, "Yeah, yeah. There's no one else in the room. So let's just be honest here, shall we?"

So I woke up next morning and walked into the so-called study and stared at the non-functional emptiness partially broken by all the unpacked boxes and sacks which lay victim to the summer procrastination; and wondered: This room is turning out into a really expensive storage. I hope the summer heat dies down soon so that I can start using the room again. Otherwise it just absolutely sucks to regret being over-ambitious and hopeful enough to actually decide to expand your life one step further for a change..."