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I Dream Of A Future Where Being Different Is Celebrated And Everyone Has The Freedom To Love…

( words)
*For representational purpose only.

Growing up in Kaniha, a small town in Odisha, felt like living in a peaceful bubble. The close-knit community gave me a strong sense of belonging, and I often reminisce about how "everyone knew everyone" in Kaniha.

However, life there had its limitations, with very little exposure to diverse perspectives and opportunities.

Everything changed when we moved to Noida, a bustling city near Delhi. The contrast was striking. Noida was alive with activity, offering a cosmopolitan lifestyle. Stepping into Noida felt like stepping into a different world. Suddenly, I had access to better education, cultural events, and people who accepted me for who I was. The move from Kaniha to Noida was a significant step that broadened my worldview and helped me accept my true self more openly.

One of the most pivotal moments in my life was coming out to my sister when I was 16. I remember the day vividly. “I have something important to tell you,” I said, my voice trembling.

Her immediate acceptance and support were overwhelming, and her reassurance gave me the courage to be myself. Sisters truly are like second mothers.

Coming out to my parents proved to be more challenging. I decided to write an article for Pink Pages, an LGBTQ+ magazine, to express my feelings and experiences. When my parents read the article, it was an emotional experience. It took time, but their eventual acceptance marked a turning point in our relationship and my journey towards self-acceptance.

Creating "The Effeminare" blog was another crucial step. Born from my need to express my thoughts and experiences as a gay man in India, the blog aimed to challenge stereotypes and address homophobia. It became a platform to raise awareness about LGBTQ+ issues and foster sense of community, and provide support to others facing similar challenges. Named after the Latin term "effeminare," which means "to become feminine," the blog celebrates femininity in all its forms and challenges rigid gender norms.

Receiving the Troy Perry Award for compassionate activism was a humbling experience. For me, compassionate activism means advocating for change with empathy and understanding. The award recognised my efforts to create a more inclusive and accepting society through kindness and compassion, reminding me that activism can be as simple as living your true self and celebrating who you are.

During my time at IIT Delhi, I achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first openly gay man to be elected to the student council, securing a majority of 70% of the votes. In this role, I dedicated myself to advocating for queer representation and addressing related issues within the campus community. 

My primary focus was on changing the prevailing perspectives towards queer individuals, which were often problematic and discriminatory. 

I made concerted efforts to create a safe and inclusive environment for queer individuals, fostering a sense of acceptance and support. This commitment resulted in many queer students feeling comfortable enough to confide in me and seek support. It became a kind of secret sanctuary during a time when being openly queer was still taboo and, in some cases, illegal. 

As part of our advocacy efforts, we established a symbolic gesture of support with a "rainbow tree" prominently displayed in the campus centre.

This served as a platform for discussions on queer rights as fundamental human rights, further amplifying our message of inclusivity and acceptance.

Winning Mr. Gay India at a young age amplified my voice and provided a platform for advocating for LGBTQ+ rights on a larger scale. This title came with the responsibility to represent the community and work towards creating positive change. It was exciting and overwhelming, boosting my confidence and motivating me to continue my activism with greater zeal.

Despite facing criticism and bullying, especially in school, and after winning Mr. Gay India, I persevered by focusing on self-acceptance and surrounding myself with supportive friends and family. Advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and raising awareness about the harms of bullying, became an integral part of my journey, turning negative experiences into positive ones.

My proudest achievement is the impact I've made through my advocacy and activism. Whether through "The Effeminare," participating in pride events, or winning Mr. Gay India, each milestone has contributed to creating a more inclusive society. The most difficult challenges, including overcoming societal prejudices and personal doubts, have shaped my resilience and commitment to the cause.

Looking forward, my hopes for the future of the LGBTQ+ community in India are rooted in equality, acceptance, and love. I envision a society where LGBTQ+ individuals can live authentically without fear of discrimination or prejudice. This vision includes more inclusive policies, better representation in media and politics, and increased awareness and education about LGBTQ+ issues. Ultimately, I dream of a future where being different is celebrated and everyone has the freedom to love and be loved.

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