The first people I dated were girls. I am no alien to the early days of pursuit to win the heart of a woman in order to prove one’s desirability. I always had doubts about whether I could ever truly love a woman, and by that I mean being able to desire a woman sexually as well. But all I can say is that I had the best intentions for them and a strong wishful thinking that maybe, I would change and become like everyone else around me. At that time, peer pressure and the desire to be able to conform made me wish for many things, despite my own doubts. Maybe then, my idea of intimacy and love was more about proving myself to the world. Now, as an out and proud queer person and with the kind of support that I have gathered, intimacy and love are more about determining my own desires and having the world conform to my wishes and desires.
What I can say is that I tried to be the best lover for a woman, and I am much obliged to the girls I dated then for trying with me. We didn’t end up together ‘forever’, and even now I question myself about what they gained. Anyway, I owe them. While many of them discredited my effort, obviously taking into account my ‘effeminacy’, they still, in some ways, assured me that I was as much deserving of love as other people.
Love or intimacy, as I learned from my first girlfriend, is often symbolised by a pursuit, an intention and a wish to love someone till the very end, as well as the effort one puts into it. She was sweet and kind. When I first saw her, I found her utterly cute and I felt an urge to embrace her and become her strength. And as we got to know each other more over exchanges of love letters, I was deeply grateful to her for giving me the chance to prove myself against all odds. I met my second girlfriend in college and this was when I moved out of Manipur for further studies. By then, I was more experienced performing maleness better. I took on the persona of a bohemian rock fan caricature with long hair and t-shirt and jeans. She had a leaning towards the bohemian artistic kind and we shared a kiss. I still remember the sweetness of that kiss and that moment. Maybe it was not sexual in the physical sense but I know that I wished it were. At least I intended it to be so. But talk about the gratitude of being loved and embraced, and then losing yourself to that embrace in which you offer your soul as naked and vulnerable as it can get. I felt it and did my part without any calculations. All in all, maybe I could never feel overwhelmingly sexual about my girlfriends, but I loved them and I wished I could give them the whole package of desire, pleasure, trust and commitment – the best of everything that I wished for them. The courtship was brief in both cases, but it was deep and heartfelt while it lasted, and was like any relationship I have had with my male lovers.
Apart from dating girls I also fell for some of them, classmates and peers. There was a shared chemistry and it still remains. One of them is a very close friend. She reflects my aspiration, passion and spirit. While we became the closest of friends, I remember a growing sense of a wish to make her my girlfriend and possibly my life partner. A story, similar to that with my first girlfriend in high school, of peer pressure to date a desirable woman was in action, but somehow our relationship grew more than that. Surprisingly, she never brought up my queerness directly, but at the back of my mind I knew that she was aware of it and of my efforts to charm her, while also at the same time, our connection has a sisterly bend to it. Maybe I am a lesbian that way. Jokes apart, I am grateful to her that she never made me choose but allowed me to have both elements – that element of me as a man trying to charm her as well as that element of me based on femininity, and feminine aspirations and thinking, which was one of the ways in which we bonded.
I am also reminded of another friend I unsuccessfully proposed a date to on a drunken night when I realised that the friend I was pursuing (the one I have written about in the earlier paragraph) might be dating a common friend. Let me be charged! In the face of both these rejections, a friend set me up with a girl from home whom I dated through correspondence. In all the shame of being reminded by these rejections that I actually am not the best suitor, she brought me relief and soothed my ego. She was young and had similar insecurities. Also, we had the same wishful thinking of breaking out of insecurities and creating a reality for the self against all the conventions that deem us undesirable. We used to talk for hours in the night. Somebody far away helped me cope with what was happening immediately around me. Also in my defense against my failure in front of my friends, she restored a sense of validation. We met for a date when I went home for the vacations. It was not just a date between us, it was also a date between our imagination and our realities. We realised that both of us were wishing so hard and that we didn’t have to. Eventually we drifted apart but we remained each other’s well-wishers.
Sometimes I wish that I hadn’t done any of the things that I have mentioned above. Sometimes I wish I only had histories with boys. But then, wishing it away is not the answer. And most importantly, I am grateful, and owe these amazing women for their acceptance, love and care for me. Sexually inclined or not, as I look back at the stories above, I am able to trace a history of how the pursuit for intimacy began in my life. It started in the form of a wish. A wish to be special to someone and vice versa. And at that moment we wish it so hard that we wish we could win against all odds. We want to feel deserving and feel special and we want to give the same to someone special and we start looking for it. Someone who embraces us just the way we are and is awed by us just the way we are, and we want to do the same for them. And when we find them, we try and build a connection against all odds and our wishes conjure up creative ways to unite and connect with that soul. We try to complete each other’s story and add to it. Sometimes it misfires, sometimes it hits right and fits how it should exactly fit. Requited or unrequited, what matters at the end of the day is the intention, and to have lived a few moments in close proximity with someone, feeling deserving of love and also feeling the urge and capacity to love. And in that process, finding ways to create and recreate memories and experiences that teach more about desiring and being desired beyond what we are told and what we have learned from books and movies. Sexual or not, one cannot deny the intimacy and the romance that was felt and what it marked, once upon a time.
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