#CelebrateingtheRainbow at the workplace – share your stories of Pride!
Photo by add-new-article on Unsplash
On a summer afternoon, Aditya was idly sitting in his room, mindlessly scrolling through his phone; what else could he do? The scorching heat of June has forced everyone to retreat into their homes leaving the streets empty. Aditya never liked summers as it meant whatever public spaces, he has become inaccessible due to rising temperatures. However, today is not like any other summer day, though it seems that he is calmly sitting in his room, but he is flooded with waves of emotions. “What am I doing? Is it the right way forward?” Aditya asked himself. Looking at faceless profiles on his phone Aditya wondered “is this what my life would look like going forward?” After a long and tedious period of building networks of support, searching and creating safe spaces in his hometown, he had found that everything is hallowed from the inside and he is all alone, invisible in the discord of social harmony.
Aditya always knew his life would be different from others, it would not have the same moments or turns as his friends or family. While Aditya was on a journey of self-reflection, a notification popped into his phone, for a moment he forgot about his gloom as he recognised the familiar sound of this notification. In excitement, he looked at his phone just to find out the message was from another faceless profile. Aditya was exhausted from continuously looking in the void of nameless dating profiles and thought of deleting the dating apps. For a minute he paused and looked through all the chats he had in the past couple of days. All chats followed the same trajectory of a pre-set questionnaire users have developed to inquire about each other sexual roles, size of genitals, and when they could have sex or ‘fun’. “What else I was expecting after all people use grinder just to fuck” he said to himself.
Aditya has already explored whatever avenues were available to him or the social structures of his city allowed him to. Aditya belongs to the small town of Kishanpur in the northern state of India. Living a mundane life, the people of his town religiously adhered to their customs and traditions leaving no room for transgression. Aditya always mocked and criticised the doublespeak of his people, who according to him are leading a bogus life, especially the men who masquerade as pious and devoted individuals in public but engage in all kinds of ‘vice’, inflicting violence on their children and wife behind closed doors. Aditya was aware of the fact that his sexuality could never find a safe haven in his town, so he decided to move out to a cosmopolitan city after getting financially independent.
Aditya had an unanticipated childhood, his parents never stopped him from applying make-up, dressing in ‘girls’ clothes or playing with them. During his school years, Aditya always felt attracted towards boys, imagining holding their hands or hugging them; however, he didn’t understand what it meant to be gay and how he was different from others. This fact hit him the very first time when he came out to his friend Faiz; though Faiz reacted in a supportive way his questions made Aditya realise how his friend sees him. For Faiz, Aditya was a source of mystery, amusement and ridicule, similar to a hedonistic creature he calls his friend.
Another notification popped into his phone; similar to the previous one, it was from a faceless profile, however, this time Aditya thought of replying. He looked through the profile and it reads, “26 Top, looking for casual fun”. Aditya’s teenage years were packed with an amalgamation of confusion, loneliness and fantasies propelled by American movies and TV shows which convinced him of the possibility of tender and intimate gay relationships in his life. Soon this bubble of the ‘American dream’ burst out and the reality of his circumstances grasped him. Moving from TV to books Aditya recognized how his country was still stuck in the colonial past, carrying the legacy of colonial understandings and meanings given to multiple forms of sexuality, intimacy and gender. A couple of years ago India decriminalised same-sex relationships between consenting adults. However, it made little to no impact on Aditya’s life, like millions of queer Indians who are bound in the shackles of customs and religion.
The name of the profile was ‘Mr. Hunk’. Aditya replied by asking “How are you Mr. Hunk?” Aditya knew what would follow next, a probe to map his sexual profile. Aditya tried to productively engage with this person, as he has already deduced from his encounters with the gay subculture in his city that the inability of gay people to form stable relationships due to societal pressures has pushed them towards an excessive and overt need to have multiple sexual encounters and fantasies to fill the void of loneliness. Aditya was really enjoying his conversation with Mr. Hunk at one point he asked for his real name and Mr. Hunk replied with Mehul. Though their conversation begins with a sexual overtone it quickly shifted to other aspects like their favourite pass time, hobbies and general information. Mehul was 26 years old, working in a private bank, he was originally from Lucknow the city of Nawabs and the state’s capital. He was recently transferred to Kishanpur. Aditya told Mehul that he is currently pursuing his post-graduation in Math from Maharaja Trilok Nath University located in Kishanpur only. Aditya feels a bond is being developed between them. Aditya asked if Mehul is open to his friends or family about his sexuality. Mehul said, “I have only come out to my close friends”. Aditya replied by saying “I know it is easier to open up to one’s friend, however, very few of them understand what kind of support you expect from them”.
As they were talking and connecting with each other’s feelings, Mehul asked for Aditya’s photos. This is the trickiest part of chatting on Grindr, as users are reluctant to share their original pictures for fear of them getting leaked online. In Aditya’s experience, people either share fake pictures or block the user asking for them. Aditya didn’t know if Mehul would send his pictures if he shared his. After initial hesitation, Aditya sends his pictures and to his surprise, Mehul replies by sharing his ‘Album’ (a feature in Grindr which allows users to share their photos restricting other people from downloading or taking a screenshot of them). Though this feature adds another layer of privacy for users, people still don’t share their photos in the terror of being exposed as a gay person.
Aditya opened Mehul’s Album and his first reaction was sizzling hot. “Your profile name definitely suits you Mr. Hunk”, he replied. “You could enchant anyone with those eyes and that smile is to die for \’\’, Aditya added. Mehul blushingly replied, “stop with this flattery, you must have broken so many starts and have started rivalries between your admirers”. Yes, you have guessed correctly, what could I do if I am a hot-cute twink”, Aditya said in a flirtatious manner. Aditya asked Mehul if they could meet sometime to which Mehul replied “Of course, we could meet tomorrow evening at my place’. Aditya had become well versed in the ‘coded’ language people use on Grindr, meeting at someone’s place means having sex with them. Aditya never went to someone\’s house on the very first date, he had read about incidents of people getting robbed and blackmailed by someone they had met on Grindr. In some extreme cases not one but a group of local goons were waiting to beat, harass or even rapping the individual. There are many LGBTQ+ groups that provide legal protection and emotional support to such victims, however, no such group exists in his hometown. Such groups also list red flags that one should notice when going on a date, one of which is never going to someone’s house alone for the very first date.
Aditya thought for a moment, is it safe to go to Mehul’s house after all they had only talked online that too once. He could be an imposter, laying a trap for Aditya to blackmail or harass him later. However, such thoughts didn’t find much ground in Aditya’s mind, a flower of trust bloomed in his heart for Mehul. Aditya replied by asking if they could meet in a coffee shop or a restaurant. but Mehul dogged the question and said “if you are not comfortable, please don’t come. I don’t want to pressurise you into doing something you are not ready for”. Reading these words Aditya’s trust in Mehul grew even stronger. Aditya replied “It is not that I don’t want to meet you or I don’t trust you, it\’s just that I really never visited someone’s house on a first date.” “There’s always a first time”, Mehul said wittingly. “This would not be my first time; you know what I mean. Right!” Aditya teased him. They both decided to meet the next day.
At night Aditya dreamed up his meeting with Mehul similar to a cheesy rom-com movie. His ‘American Dream’ of a romantic relationship sparked again taking him to lands of queer bliss. The next morning was all about choosing the perfect dress for a first impression. Aditya\’s obsession to look ‘perfect’ made him change his clothes four times raising suspicions in his house, sensing it, he cleverly said that it is for a college function. “Nice save”, he said to himself. He was impatiently looking at the clock, waiting for its hands to move at 5 and 12 indicating that it is 5 p.m. now, the time decided by both to meet. It was 4:30, and Aditya kicked start his motorbike. On his way to Mehul’s, he begins to have second thoughts and tries to return mid-way to his home. However, he pushed these feelings and said to himself, “it is for me to push my boundaries and get out of my comfort zone, otherwise, I am not going to find anyone in this life. To have new experiences and explore new paths one has to take the risks”.
Aditya reached his destination easily thanks to the location shared by Mehul earlier. He rang the bell and Mehul opened the door. For a moment Aditya couldn’t comprehend what was happening, Mehul told him he lives alone at his place, so who is this person standing right in front of him? The person introduced himself as Mehul. Aditya froze for a moment. This was not the same person he had seen on Grindr. Aditya was petrified he wanted to go back but what possessed him he didn’t understand, and he stepped inside Mehul’s house. Mehul took Aditya to his bedroom and asked him to relax. Aditya did what was asked. After entering the house, he didn’t utter a single word. He didn’t confront Mehul on why he shared fake pictures on Grindr, whose pictures were those that he shared. Aditya had lost all his senses.
Mehul came nearby Aditya and sat next to him, now facing each other they began to kiss. When their lips touched one another, Aditya’s tensed body started relaxing. His fears of Mehul being a fraud vaporised. Mehul slowly moved to Aditya’s neck gently kissing it, and caressing it. Aditya was enjoying Mehul\’s touch for the very first time someone had made him feel in love with his body. Mehul began to remove his shirt, making Aditya flinch and look away. Mehul smiled and kissed Aditya’s forehead asking him to surrender himself. He took Aditya’s hand and placed it on his chest, “don’t be shy I am not going to bite you”, Mehul said. Aditya licked Mehul’s nipples and kissed them, causing Mehul to gently moan. With Mehul, Aditya felt seen for the first time someone was actually considering his feelings and pleasure and not just focused on fucking alone. Mehul asked if he could remove Aditya’s underpants, and Aditya nodded in confirmation. Both of them were sitting wearing nothing except their underwear. Aditya noticed Mehul had a huge bulge inside, he moved his fingers on Mehul’s underwear to feel the contours of his penis. Mehul removed his underwear and stood in front of Aditya completely naked. Without any hesitation Aditya began to gently stroke Mehul’s penis, Mehul was experiencing immense pleasure and to his surprise, Aditya enveloped Mehul’s penis in his mouth. Both of them were shocked by Aditya\’s intrepid nature. Mehul unclothed Aditya and returned the favour.
Aditya noticed how intimacy is different from the sexual act. Earlier for Aditya sex always felt distant and mechanical always devoid of romance and intimacy. Mehul opened a drawer next to his bed and picked out a condom. Aditya got a little nervous, seeing this Mehul said, “don’t worry, I’ll go slow”. Mehul just knew how to calm Aditya’s tensed muscles. At that moment Aditya thought maybe he has found someone with whom he can at least think of building a relationship. However, when Mehul tried to have anal sex with Aditya, Aditya was experiencing a lot of pain and asked him to stop. Mehul ignored Aditya’s concerns and said, “give it sometime pleasure will take the place of pain”. Aditya was bewildered by this sudden change in Mehul’s attitude, he again pleaded that he don’t want to have sex. This time Mehul took both hands of Aditya and pinned him down, making him unable to repel. A chill ran down Aditya’s spine, he was in disbelief at how a person who was gentle and considerate a few moments ago became ruthless and rowdy.
For Aditya, his situation was filled with juxtaposition. On one hand, Mehul was calling him baby and sweetheart and was also considering his pleasure, while on the other hand, Mehul was forcing himself over Aditya completely disregarding his bodily autonomy, privacy and self-respect. Mehul asked Aditya to change position so he didn’t have discomfort. Aditya did what was asked to end his agony. Aditya clenched his fists to bear the pain, at one point he was repeatedly saying no to Mehul. But this two-letter word was beyond Mehul’s contemplation, in fact, he said “why are you saying not when earlier you were enjoying everything, don’t spoil my mood now”. A drop of tear rolled down Aditya’s cheek, unnoticed by Mehul. Aditya was continuously praying for Mehul’s early ejaculation as this seems to be the only way to be freed from this agony. During the sex, Mehul’s condom broke and he stopped to check it. Cursing the company, he asked if Aditya had another, and Aditya lied. He was scared of what would happen if Mehul found another condom. Mehul suggested going bareback to which Aditya firmly said no, he thought this was his chance to save himself. He said, “Let me go now, otherwise my parents will question me, don’t be disheartened I’ll come again in a few days”. Aditya hurriedly dressed and took a sigh of relief. At the door Mehul said he really enjoyed today; Aditya nodded in affirmation. He wasn’t lying, at least for the first part he truly enjoyed his time with Mehul.
While driving his motorbike Aditya wondered what happened to him, and why Mehul suddenly changed his attitude, couldn’t he see that Aditya was not just in pain but frightened to his bones. On reaching his home Aditya had to act normal as if nothing had happened, he was not out to his parents because coming out without financial independence would mean forced marriage, disownment or trips to pseudo doctors and religious gurus to ‘cure’ him from his aberration. Aditya went straight to his room and decided to call his best friend Sandhya, but cancelled it. Sandhya was her confidant and companion with whom he would share all ups and downs of his life. However, for some reason they grew apart, moreover, though they were what one might call bosom friends, Aditya refrains from sharing his sexual life with her, growing up in a conservative culture sex was always a hushed topic, a taboo. With no formal sex education teenagers in India relied on each other to answer their sexual queries or they would turn to pornography and unknowingly develops an unrealistic sense of sexual relationships. With no safe spaces to have healthy and mature discussions on sexual autonomy, people especially teenagers would use vulgarity and obscenity as the only way to express their desires. Aditya or other queer Indians would hardly find any opening in this highly heterosexual and marriage-oriented conversations.
Lying on his bed Aditya wondered “am I raped by Mehul?”, “How could it be right, I am not raped, I went there on my own”, he thought. How could Aditya term what happened to him as being raped, after all, he was not alone at night in a deserted street apprehended by a stranger who brutally raped him, mutilated his body and left him to die alone. This was the definition of rape in his mind constructed by corrupt media houses through the hypervisibility of a few such cases in order to rank TRP charts. Moreover, androcentric thinking has created a system where men cannot be perpetrators of sexual violence and not the other way around. Aditya knew whatever happened to him was wrong because he felt that way and for him enough of a reason to act. With no way to turn to Aditya went online and searched for LGBTQ+ support groups. He found one named Dost or a friend. It works in the field of crisis intervention, health care and providing assistance to LGBTQ+ youth. The organisation is situated in Delhi but runs an all-India helpline number. Aditya decided to call the helpline to discuss his situation.
“Hello, are you speaking from the Dost helpline”, Aditya said. A woman named Asan picked up the call and replied by saying “Yes, how may I help you?”. For a few minutes no sound was heard from either side, Aditya was dubious about how to open up to a complete stranger and explain his situation. Asna was well trained in such situations, during her work with the organisation she realised how difficult it is for people to accept and talk about their problems. “It’s okay, you don’t have to tell me anything right now, we can start with a simple introduction or I can just be here for you without any of us talking”. After a few minutes Aditya begin to talk, he told her about his sexuality, how he feels about it and his other concerns regarding gay in his country. Asna patiently listened to his concerns and guided him. She said they can continue their conversion in other sessions and if possible, he could also come for physical counselling in Delhi. Asna further asked if there is anything in particular, he would like to discuss with her. Aditya dialled the number to map out his feelings and understand what exactly happened to him.
Aditya spelt out his entire meeting with Mehul in great detail, he explained to her that though Mehul lied about his identity he still liked him and felt safe with him. He clarified that he had given his consent to every form of sexual activity which happened between them. “I don’t know what happened to him, when I told him to stop, he told me not to create a fuss and that I will enjoy it later, I tried to listen to him but I felt like losing control over my body”, Aditya told Asna. Listening to him Asna said “I am extremely sorry for what happened to you. The first thing you need to understand is that consent is layered, it is not an absolute or irreversible concept. If you give your consent to do something, you still have the right to revoke it in the middle of an act. One-time consent is not a free pass for everything. The second thing for you to note is how to recognise red flags while dating someone, it is dangerous to go to someone\’s house alone. Confirm their identity through video calls. It is also better to inform your friend or anyone you trust where you are going on a date and share your live location with them in case of an emergency. However, don’t even think for a moment that it is your fault, another person sexually assaulted you, you trusted him and he violated your trust”.
After listening to Asna, Aditya felt untangled. He realised that Mehul have not only raped him but he had damaged his sense of security, safety and ability to trust someone. Asna asked if Aditya wanted to take any legal action against Mehul, he denied saying any such action would invite a lot of trouble for him as it would mean, police and judicial trials which would ultimately out him to his parents taking his fundamental right to make decisions of his own life. Asna reiterated his concerns as many people refrain from filing an official complaint and she respects their choice. Aditya thanked her for helping him to understand and untwist his situation.
Yesterday Aditya was excited and jolly, weaving dreams of a life together with Mehul and in less than 24 hours, he was sitting alone in his room with crushed dreams. However, he was confident that his life would change for the better one day. He knew deep in his heart that maybe not today or tomorrow he would be able to live his truth without any fear, discrimination or hate. Neither people like Mehul nor his parents or custodians of morality could stifle his spark. Mehul opened his diary; he did not write daily but occasionally when he was filled with an ocean of emotions. Mehul wrote, “Today I am writing to my elder self; if you are reading this you know that you have travelled miles of treacherous path to come where you are standing today. You have endured immense pain and trauma that no one knew of. Life is always difficult so don’t give up now, you are never alone, your younger self is always with you and together we can chart any journey.”
Harshit Agrawal is a postgraduate in Women’s Studies. He is an independent researcher and Junior Research Fellow who works in the field of gender and sexuality to highlight their intersections in the society. He read more...
This post has published with none or minimal editorial intervention. Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!
Can you believe this bloke compelled me to wear only saris - full time at home- till the eighth month of my pregnancy?! The excessive heat coupled with humidity made my life miserable.
Recently when I browsed an interesting post by a fellow author on this very forum I had a sense of déjà vu. She describes the absolutely unnecessary hullabaloo over ladies donning nighties and /or dupatta –less suits.
I wish to narrate how I was in dire straits so far wearing a ‘nightie’ was concerned.
I lived in my ultra orthodox sasural under constant surveillance of two moral guardians (read Taliban) in the shape of the husband’s mom and dad. The mom was unschooled and dim-witted while the dad was a medical practitioner. But he out-Heroded the Herod in orthodoxy.
My supervisor introduced me as a valuable member of the team, emphasizing my skills and contributions rather than focusing on my gender identity. This simple act set the tone for my experience in the workplace.
As a transwoman navigating the corporate world, I had encountered my fair share of discrimination and challenges. Transitioning without the support of my parents and having limited friendships in my personal life made the journey difficult and lonely. However, when I stepped into the office, something remarkable happened, I left behind the stress and negativity, embracing a space where I could truly be myself.
Joining the marketing team as a graphic designer, I was initially apprehensive about how my colleagues would react to my gender identity. But to my surprise, the atmosphere was welcoming and respectful from day one. My supervisor, Sarah, introduced me as a valuable member of the team, emphasizing my skills and contributions rather than focusing on my gender identity. This simple act set the tone for my experience in the workplace.
As I settled into my role, I discovered that my colleagues went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and included. They consistently used my correct name and pronouns, creating an environment where I could be authentically me. Being an introvert, making friends wasn’t always easy for me, but within this workplace, I found a supportive community that embraced me for who I truly am. The workplace became a haven where I could escape the stresses of my personal life and focus on my professional growth.
Please enter your email address