When I was in IIT Delhi, I once distanced myself from a close friend because she was a smoker. At the moment, I thought she wasn’t normal, possibly weak or addicted or depressive, and hence found myself weary of her and judged her.
Well what a shocker, turns out lots of people smoke. Sigh.
I’m writing this to everyone who feels normal, but different at times. This is to everyone who feels like they are a bit more than what they are socially accepted for.
In IIT Delhi, I would often see men holding hands while walking and wonder what that meant. I remember feeling that maybe they’re gay, maybe they want to be, but having this strong sense that it must mean something. I only got to hold hands with girls who fancied me, so it had to mean something! I distinctly remember feeling uncomfortable around it.
The hostel “LAN” kept many of us occupied for most of our time there. It was a world full of movies, music, games and porn. Lots and lots and lots of porn. It wasn’t unusual for someone’s routine to include 6 hours on the LAN everyday, and masturbation was a popular hobby. Now that I work on gender and am frequently part of debates around the impact of pornography, I look back and can only remember boys being open about it, talking about it, enjoying it and exploring. I can’t remember any dark or malicious conversation.
The best kept secret on campus was homosexuality. There were constantly rumors and jokes and jibes around people being gay or doing it with another boy (my stories are largely limited to boys) but I never met anyone who talked about it generally or openly. I once walked down the stairs at my hostel, Jwalamukhi, and was greeted excitedly by some friends with news of a couple of drunk boys having done it in the corridor. In about an hour, a friend from Goa had messaged me saying that he heard this in a rumor. There was no more mention of this.
There were a lot of normals on campus, some talked about, some not but often a lot of them explored. IIT’s inability to connect its students with the wider world had the advantage to create a bubble where judgement and discourse was less prevalent. The counter side was that “IITians” were generally seen as abnormal by people outside of IIT.
I’ve recently thought and learnt a lot about how different sexual behaviors and identities came to be; and for the first time I feel like I have a perspective towards all that was happening with me and around me. The perspective unfortunately is just this, A LOT OF THINGS are normal. There is nothing that is “more normal” or “as God intended it to be”. The divisions between what is okay and what is queer have been created at different points in history by very human forces.
Also, different things mean different things to different people. Holding hands may be flirting to me but it can mean friendship or a sense of security to someone else. So I’ve learnt to make lesser assumptions and ask more open questions.
Also, watching porn is okay. Believing that porn is a manifestation of what I’ll experience in the world is naive. Fantasizing can be okay. Masturbation can be okay. Different people do different stuff sexually. That’s just it.
But I don’t just mean to talk about sex – I mean to say that there are very strong notions of normal floating around – “must do MBA abroad”, “must be straight”, “must hate books” – feel free to ignore them and be your own normal.
– Aditya Gupta
Aditya is the founder of People for Parity and a gender facilitator who works with young people to help them challenge gender based violence and discrimination in their lives. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org