By Ishani Khanna

Compiled by Mehak Bahri

On 22nd November 1994, the pilot episode of Friends was released and with that episode, the intricate and delicate relationship between Carol & Susan was explored.

Of course, I watched the show late in my teens when the cast was probably filming the tenth season, but the relationship between Carol and Susan was stuck in my head. Never did I think that the emotions I was feeling on a personal level would be depicted so perfectly on screen.

And it was then that for the first time I believed that women can fall in true, romantic love with each other. It was, for the first time I believed that there was nothing wrong with me, and it was for the first time I had answers to the questions I was holding within me for so long.

I am Ishani Khanna, a political science graduate, currently living and working in Delhi and I love women. Don’t ask me when did I know I was gay, because I would then ask you that when did you know you were straight.

And I’m sure you had no groundbreaking moment when you realized you were straight, so why should I have one, right?

Remember when all the boys in class used to talk about that one gorgeous teacher and all of them were crushing on her? Yeah, I remember because I found her to be just as beautiful, fascinating and gorgeous like the other boys did.

But I was a little worried. All my friends were starting to like other boys and that’s all they would talk about. And while I could absolutely see why my friends liked boys, they are magnificent, what I did not see was how I did not feel the same way. For me, gender was not the sole parameter to fall in love.

I was probably in 7th grade when I told my best friend that I just didn’t like boys, I liked… girls. Funny enough, she literally stopped talking to me. That’s when I realized, maybe there is something wrong with me.

I don’t blame her, the concept of LGBTQ is a relatively new idea in India, and people are still grasping the various gender roles and sexual identities.

For five years, till I was in school, I pretended to be your average teenage girl, crushing on boys and talking about them all day long. I even dated some guys to prove to all my friends that I was normal, and probably to prove it to myself as well.

It was when I finally left the judgemental school grounds and entered college that I realized this was a facade I was living in. Is my sexuality really such a determining factor of who I am as a person?

It was then when I first “came out” to my best friend. I told her that I am attracted to women, I always have been attracted to women, and all the guys I dated, that was just to fit it, to be normal.

But guess what, normal is boring!

Since then, I have been completely open about my sexuality. I am not bisexual, I am not pansexual, I am simply Gay, attracted to women. But my sexuality is not part of my identity. It does not define who I am as a person.

I am Ishani, I love sports, I love reading, I want to move to Australia one day, I am a happy go lucky girl, and I greet everyone. And loving a boy or a girl does not affect any of these traits.

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Section 377 was abolished on 6th September 2018, four years after I was open with my sexuality. I won’t deny the fact that being an “illegal” entity in my own country was terrifying.

People fall in and out of love every day, people choose whom to love and who not to, it’s not a big deal. But when you are criminalized for loving, that is scary, it haunts you. I spoke to my maternal uncle, he knew about my sexuality; after all, he was the one who introduced me to FRIENDS.

He told me not to worry, and that he would do everything in his power to help me move out from India. But when finally, finally the Indian Judicial System unanimously voted to abolish Section 377, I experienced about a hundred different emotions in 10 seconds.

I remember, I was working for an events company at that time, when my phone buzzed and the news had released that you are free to love who you want, I rushed to the bathroom.

I was numb, and then I jumped with happiness and I cried tears of joy. I was no more an illegal entity; I was not a criminal anymore.

Victories come with a price sometimes, and that price for me is that my mother still lives in denial about my sexuality. Just like most adults her age, she has precise gender roles in her mind, so when I came home after I had chopped off my hair to style it as a bob cut, she flipped!

If someone does not like me for not adhering to the gender roles, or being normal, I hope to change their mindset by showing them who I truly am, beneath the inconsequential drape of sexuality.

Just like you, I have my good days and I have my bad days. I have been in a serious relationship with a girl and I am still friends with her after breaking up. I have been dumped by a girl, I have been heartbroken, and boy, was that painful.

I am not part of any formal LGBTQ community and my girlfriend comes up in everyday conversations, just like the weather come up in everyday conversations. I don’t give my sexuality a lot of importance, it’s just who I am.

It would be like a straight person giving too much importance to their sexuality. There have been some people who have been wary to the idea of being friends with a “Gay” person, but through love and trust, I have shown them the true person I am.

You can’t hate someone for not accepting the LGBTQ community, because you can always change their perceptions. It all comes down to what sort of a person you are and how you treat people.

Image Credits: Author

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