We all were restricted in our homes during entier Pride Month due to the partial or complete lockdown. I thought of celebrating it by spreading awareness about the LGBTQ community, its needs, and its rights. On the 28th of June, 2021, I had the opportunity to interview Aman Pal, a member of the LGBTQ community. Aman is a professional fashion model who has broken many shackles, stereotypes, and societal expectations throughout his journey to reach where he is right now.
The first question I asked was how and when did he realise that he was not 'straight' and how did he come out of the closet. He replied that it all started when he was in class 8.
He was having mixed feelings about his orientation and questions such as "what am I attracted to?" arose in his mind. During school, he was excessively bullied, called names, and insulted by his classmates. One day he was called 'gay' in a derogatory way by his classmates. It was talked about as a sickness and a disease. He made him feel like an alien. When he went home, he searched the meaning of the word 'gay' on the internet and felt that he was attracted to men. But the circumstances were such 10 years back that he was confused about what to do. There was no one he could relate to or come out to then. He suffered from depression, sleeplessness and used to bunk classes due to all the bullying he faced in school. One day he was crying and his sister came to him and asked why he was crying. So, he told his sister that he felt that he liked guys and wasn't attracted to girls. She was very supportive and explained to him that it was normal and it is okay to be yourself.
"People who look down upon you it's their mentality that is sick. Their worldview was very narrow and limited. Whenever someone looks down upon you instead of feeling bad about yourself you should feel sad for them"
These are the words that opened Aman's mind and over the period, he finally became comfortable with himself and accepted himself. He said that he doesn't ask for acceptance from anybody. He accepts himself and owns himself. He just wants people to treat him as a normal person. He doesn't want people to be proud of him or give him special attention. He just wants to normalise people having a preference. Individuals should not be looked down upon just because they have a preference. He wants people to normalise this concept and break the stigma and mindset of people regarding the LGBTQ community.
Also read : What do Indians think about LGBTQ? How much sensitive are they about LGBTQ?
I asked him that even in 2021 a lot of stigmas persist in society and people are afraid to come out about themselves because they are scared that their families won't accept them or they will get bullies. What advice would you like to give them?
He answered this by saying that firstly people should figure out what they like and not worry about society. Everyone is unique and wants different things from life. This is just a preference and nothing bad. The first key to knowing what you are is to love yourself, accept yourself, and own yourself. It is a choice and one has to follow what they like rather than bowing down to what society wants you to like. If somebody is bullying you, you should speak up. Talk to your parents, friends. Sometimes not all parents are supportive and telling them might implicate more problems. So, you can talk to your teachers. Nobody else is going to speak up for you. If you don't the bullying will affect your mental health. So, he urges people to speak up for themselves and not let anyone define who they are. If one speaks up it inspires others. Gender is just a societal construct and people are just conditioned in a particular way. When he was in school his classmates were so uneducated on LGBTQ that they used to make him feel terrible about himself. His teachers also used to encourage this by saying things like 'boys don't cry', 'man up', 'boys don't behave like this' etc.
Then I asked him how he expresses himself via his art and work and how he empowers others through his work. He said that when he was pursuing his graduation, he got some opportunities to collaborate with photographers for shoots. He used to get opportunities to give his input. Whenever he got such opportunities, he tried to portray various moods such as masculine, feminine and he would include various moods and themes. He has shot a photoshoot with a guy which portrays same-sex love. Via this, he wants to ensure that people who follow him and are afraid to come out, feel comfortable and confident. He wants to empower them so that they accept themselves. This ensures that people are not afraid to be different. He has done various shoots on topics such as body positivity and wants to touch a variety of topics such as women's rights, gay rights, transgender rights, and other topics relevant in today's society.
He wants to break the barriers of toxic masculinity and wants to empower both girls and boys.
Lastly, I asked him what reforms in the law does he want in the future?
He said that firstly there should be counsellors in schools for students. They should be made comfortable in their skin and other students should be counselled so that they do not bully people belonging to the LGBTQ community. There should be stringent rules against bullying. Teachers also have to be educated about LGBTQ rights. Teachers should be counselled so that they can help students.
It's high time that people start talking about gay marriages. It is our human right to marry whoever we want and that should be made legalised in India. If people start talking about it and change their mindset it will create an effect. People who do not belong to the community can also advocate for gay marriages. This will help our society overcome the stigma.
This interview was mind-opening and shows the trauma and rejection people from the LGBTQ community have to face.
Pride Month reminds us that we're all better off when minorities see themselves in society and feel like they belong. But now that it ends, the struggle for the LGBTQ community still continues. We all will have to come together and remind ourselves, this earth belongs to all, and it is our responsibility to make it a better place to live for all minorities.
We at Shimbi Labs respect individuals' sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and political opinion. Everyone must express who they are without disrespecting others. Freedom of speech and individual privacy must be respected and protected. We don't do any gender bias, and we welcome diversity.