If I Was The “Other”

Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

If I was the “other” is a piece I am supposed to write. But what is the other, what is it that makes them the “other”, why is there a need for there to be an “us versus the other”? Why can’t we all be just us, just humans?

This world is a place where everything is expected to be perfect, i.e., perfectly feminine, perfectly masculine, the perfect mother, the perfect student, the perfect child and last but not the least, “perfectly normal”. But what does anyone actually know or have the ability to decide what is perfect or what is even “normal”? Here, everything is ruled by what is acceptable. It’s not about being “perfectly normal” but about what is the “most acceptable”.

This struggle for acceptance is what every human strives to achieve as this is what a social being like a human is supposed to aim for. But what if this starting point is where we all went wrong because it is not our goal to be normal and be accepted but to truly be what we actually are, be the truest form of oneself. And yes, there are a lot of IFs and “double quotation marks” but that is just to signify how and where we are going wrong.

If I was “the other”, this need and struggle to be accepted will be my blessing and my sin as soon it will lead to a realization of how this fictional society which shuns me is just “fictional” as “we” also make this society and are as much its part as everyone else.

I have always felt uncomfortable in my own skin like this is my body but it’s not. I think I have a soul like everyone else but not a similar body. We are supposed to be our fullest form but what if this form/body is the thing that hampers my growth to reach that fulfilment. I have always wondered whether I am not normal as I have never wanted to fit in one box since these boxes were made by humans only. Maybe as an old saying goes “we are humans, we are bound to make mistakes” can be true here and maybe those humans made a mistake while making these boxes of male and female or yet another possibility can be there that they made a mistake by making these boxes at all. I always try to imagine what it will be like to have a world where there are no boxes. Just being you and not defining yourself as nothing but human should be enough to live peacefully.

I understand the reasoning behind this urge to fit everyone into boxes is to simplify things and make them easier to understand. But in this process, they forget that they should think less about themselves and more about those who they are trying to fit. They forget that there may be people who do not want to fit in anywhere. “Dangerous” people like these do exist; those who dare to go beyond society’s level of understanding and remain in an abyss where it will be very difficult to judge them and to predetermine their fate the second they open their eyes in this world.

I was born into a body which was neither male nor female. This always made me feel detached from my body and myself. In the beginning, I thought my normal was “the normal” but as I observed other children growing up, I realized how different I was. But my mother always said it’s all about perspective. What one person perceives to be abnormal or weird can be special and unique to another. So, I always used to wonder whether God made me like this because he wanted me to not be bound by one thing and to have the best of both worlds. It made me appreciate both extremities of gender i.e. male and female. It was really tough for my parents to support me while growing up when everyone in our society used to laugh at them for having an intersex child. Our relatives tried so hard to convince my parents to surrender me to the Hijra society in order to atone for their sin of giving birth to me.

At first, I used to seek the approval of others by behaving in the way they expected me to. The most difficult time was my teenage years when I was trying to understand my own identity along with trying to be someone socially acceptable to my friends and family. But this made me feel shallow from inside like I was lying to myself because that wasn’t me.

School was a “special” place of discrimination for me where we learnt to be empathic, to accept all and there I was, surrounded by such “liberal, literate” people who didn’t even let me sit around them. Even my teachers treated me as if I was invisible when I raised my hand to put forth my opinion but was never chosen to speak up. Maybe they were scared that my words would pierce through their veil of ignorance and make them realize that these “literate” people are hypocrites and the ones reinforcing ignorant ideas. It’s rightly said that “there’s a difference between being literate and being educated”.

My parents never saw me as a curse and used to tell me how people like me are so important and unique that during auspicious times, people invite us to take our blessing as we have the hand of God on us. But how can the same person be a blessing as well as a curse to the same society? How can people invite us to their homes for blessings and reprimand us the next moment for going too close to them?

Society mistakenly believes the Hijra community comprises crooks who by threats and violence try to use their powers of blessing as a weapon to use against innocent people to give them money. But have the “innocent people” ever stopped and thought of the motivation behind such actions? They never wonder why those people who are shunned from society for being naturally born a way different from the normal is not their fault, for which they have been sentenced to the eternal punishment of begging to just live by as no one is willing to give them jobs or shelter. People don’t even want to drink the same water we do.

This was just a glimpse into my “simple” life. This is an appeal, an emotional one, from one human to another, to break away from our tendencies of having a predetermined notion of anything that comes within our sight and to just stop and talk for a minute with those people before deciding their fate, only on the basis of their association to a certain identity. It’s not just me identifying as a certain gender that needs to be seen with an open mind but it’s a plea to not bind anyone, be it a girl, boy, wife, husband, etc. to a certain box and let everyone be free to be whatever we feel like and express ourselves however we want without any fear of punishment for exercising such freedom.

Now, I have reached a stage where I like who I am and I don’t feel ashamed of being my fullest form no matter how unacceptable it might be to some. But I would like to end on a note of caution that this degree of awareness and acceptance that I have, might not be the same for my fellow human beings as this awareness comes with a certain type of background by belonging from a certain class, caste, region for which I will be forever grateful of my parents’ support. But this support is a result of multiple identities coming into play to provide me with resources to not just be aware but also to be able to convey my opinions. Lastly, I would like to present a quote that deeply moved me: “Be you. And the world will adjust.” Alas, if ever it was that simple. But what is life if not a haven of hope and possibilities?

This article was contributed by Archita Mahlawat, Jindal Global Law School, Sonepat.

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