Samarpan Maiti / India
“I am Samarpan Maiti from India, a land of contradiction. We are the nation which is launching satellites most economically in the world in one hand; on the other hand we are still following a British imposed law of year 1860 which they themselves have trashed way back. In India it’s criminal to have homosexual relationship but declaring oneself homosexual is not.
I come from a rural economically marginalized background which itself gave me a set of struggles to fight since childhood. Since my adolescent days I was trying to understand myself and was a confused soul. But in our social context I could not get any help from anyone to know my identity. I grew up in an environment where my parents were not in a healthy relationship that caused isolation from relatives and society. Back in school days I was bullied for my mannerism by classmates and even by teachers. They used to taunt me as ‘sissy’ ‘Hijra’ and laughed at me. This made me isolated from everyone. I felt the pain of existence. I avoided people. I used to get fear to go to school. Every day felt like yet another obstacle to overcome. I existed rather than lived. At the same time I was sexually abused by neighbors but could not shared it to anyone as I was threatened of consequences that nobody would believe that a boy could be sexually abused and people will hate me. Next phase of discrimination started when I went to a small town for higher studies. I was once again bullied on some pretext or another. Sometimes for femininity, sometimes for not being man enough to play sports. Things became worse in the college hostel. I have never been good in sports. I could not even casually use swear words like other boys in college. I used to sing, dance and write and was majorly judged for this. But I got a friend who was very supportive to me in such dark phases and I used spend most of my time with him. But everyone marked our intimacy as ‘gay relationship’ and we were forced to leave hostel. Rumor spread like fire and we used to bullied colleges and other places just suspecting us as gay (still then I was not open about my orientation). My family was informed that I am gay and out of fear I denied that. I pretended to like girls to showcase myself as straight. In all these chaos denial to my orientation continued internally. This conflict would drive me towards suicide but I survived somehow. That friend of mine kept supporting me and I just focused on my studied tried to find a good position and wanted to leave my country. Finally I qualified a National entrance test and joined as a Research fellow in the field of cancer drug discovery and came to a big city. I thought the days of oppression would be over but the discrimination continued within the LGBTQ community itself as I hailed from a village. I was no rich and had no fancy English accent. So I was not welcomed by the urban LGBTQ community there. In the meanwhile I started writing stories and essays portraying the crisis of LGBT life in rural areas and related issues. This gave me little recognition to the LGBT community. One photographer offered me to work as a model in a LGBT photo series and the concept was based on a story written by me. After the photo series got published more offered came to me to work as a LGBT model. But at my workplace people started avoiding me for that. I always wanted to do work for the betterment of the socioeconomically backward LGBT community who are not literate to know about the crisis, health issues and movements of LGBT community. I started doing some surveys and research work on them. For that purpose I had to visit different cruising spots as they (my study population) don’t have access to Internet and there were no other ways to reach them. Police is also aware of those places and they often visit those places to blackmail people and exhort bribes. One evening I was talking to few people and police came in civil dress and took all of us into the prison van. I asked them the allegations against us but they became angry and detained me in the police station. I continued my talk to the officer in charge about my rights and he threatened me if I do more argue he will charge any non-bailable crime against me and I have to spend in jail years after years until it is proved wrong. Finally with the help my friends from NGOs I was rescued.
But nothing kept me frightened; I decided to participate in Mr. Gay World India pageant as I wanted to get a bigger platform to continue my work for the betterment of underprivileged LGBTQ community. I won the title to represent my country in the World and we were so glad that this time all leading media covered me and supported me. I did not receive any homophobic messages over social media. But my family started suffering from discrimination in society. Even teachers from my school where I studied in my childhood came to my house with the message to my family that they need to change me unless my influence will be bad for the society and other children who live in that area. They told my mother how unethical my life is and I need to send to a mental asylum. How could my family accept such shameful acts. I am going to the wrong direction and they should protest. I am taking the advantages of their simplicity and misguided my family for my own sake. My mom got scared. The discrimination continued with me too at my workplace. People throw abusive words at me. In my research laboratory, I was given options to choose anyone in between my research work or work for the LGBTQ community. They pressurize me (unofficially) to discontinue my research. I decided to quit my research work here with the hope that I would find some good position in future but I can’t stop working for the community. Still, now I am trying to find a job where I will be accepted with my true self without any discrimination. I don’t know how I should pay my daily expenses now yet I am on a high hope that only with such struggles we will get our right to love and to be loved.”