It was not too long ago that being gay was a crime in India. As a queer person, I was discomforted with this reality. Discomforted by the fact that the law was against me. I felt that I had been wronged. Not to forget that this law was enough for people to believe that I was born wrong.
I was still closeted in 2013, so I couldn’t vocalize my outrage or disappointment at the re-criminalization of homosexuality under Section 377 after the historic and progressive 2009 Delhi High Court verdict. But as a fashion designer and a queer individual, I chose to be a more conscious designer.
Though I wasn’t out yet, I started talking about important issues on my shows. I chose to speak up about issues like marital rape on my runways. I was also the first Indian designer to have transgender models in my show. By starting much-needed conversations, I was strengthening the idea of speaking up.
This created an atmosphere where people began to know me. I had an opinion which was both accepted and questioned. When I came out in 2017, there were people who supported me, people who ghosted me, and people who stood by me.
My immediate family was supportive of me because for them loving the child was important. I lost my father when I was 21 but from the kind of values we were given, I was sure that he would’ve supported me just like my mom and sisters accepted me. Then there were people who had boycotted me. But I was okay with it. After all, I’m celebrated as a designer and a queer individual because I’m out and loud about it: no matter what the response is.
I still remember the tears of joy flowing out of my eyes when the judgement in 2018 was announced. I returned home at 11 p.m. after finishing my last interview. I had a line-up of party invitations but I went home as I was longing to hug my mother. I was longing to hug the people who stood by me and believed me.
The 2018 reading down of Section 377 was a monumental milestone in our struggle for equality. I may not have gone to the courts to get our freedom, but I resisted in my own way. The Pride parade is the place where I feel most comfortable. The feeling at Pride is heart-warming. My idea of Pride is not just about celebrating but it is also about resistance and exercising your voice. For me, going to a Pride is not just about dressing up. For some, it may be the colours of the rainbow, but for me, it is the deep dark shadows which are very monochromatic. The greys and blacks in that shadow is how our lives are.
Since the verdict, we’ve come a long way. We have created platforms, avenues, and conversations. Everyday conversations about queer issues are happening. We are a change in the process. My opinion, my voice, and my right to speak is being identified and I have that right to exercise like never before. People have become more vocal and enthusiastic. People are ready to take back their spaces.
To people who say nothing has changed and to those who say everything has changed: I say the change is in process. And how well the change will happen depends on the community. It’s time to get up and work for our rights.