Photo of Indian dresses. A pink saree, an orange saree, and a blue salvar suit - all three have colourful flowers and designs on them. Screen reader support enabled. Photo of Indian dresses. A pink saree, an orange saree, and a blue salvar suit - all three have colourful flowers and designs on them.

My mother died when I was six; with her I lost her collection of sarees too. She had bright colorful ones. The ones that made me wide-eyed and intrigued. The texture, the beads, the embroidered edges, everything enchanted me. They caught me and have me in their grasp even today. I grew up to value my desires and follow them. And yet, I have been forced to deny some of my desires, which are right-fully mine to claim. We all are living in cages. Male and female. Boy and girl. Good and bad. Cages strung together with the relationships that are formed between them.

My cage bears the name GAY. It displays class that gets mixed up with social prestige. The subject I study gets mixed up with the profession I’ll end up following. I haven’t really focused on my sexual identity that much. It was always a part of me, the cage that society built around my identity; but wasn’t really that much of a big thing. After my ‘coming out’ as gay, accepting another label, people around me swung into action. They gave it an exoticism. Something that was supposed to be different from all the cages that they encounter around them. The people who fight for rights-based space for different sexual identities forget that these identities are also of our own making. Many times we end up caging people more than affirming the liberation we think is the end. I don’t have a problem in asserting one’s own idea as something; but making it an exotic identity negates the right of asserting itself in the first place. One day when Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is no longer in force, it’ll be a victory for human rights but we have the choice of not making sexuality into another exotic identity.

Gay, bisexual, transgender, straight, gender fluid – I would rather just use these terms for relaying choices and not depending on them as labels.

We all have a lock and key to our cages and we let only some people inside. Our relationships usually mirror the extent to which we allow others – humans, plants, beings, non-beings, the universe inside our cage. My relationships, be they platonic or romantic have followed the path of intense trials. I lost a lot of steam while running behind what I considered ‘true’ love at 16. The same was repeated at 17, 18, 19, 20! Romantic relationships are readily available as packaged goods. Services finely made available to the ones who fit the bill. We have become claimants to the three words, I love you. The cages have to be decorated, made beautiful for romance to germinate. They could germinate if you are either a cut-out from an illusionary movie scene or a sell-out poster boy. They come with expiry dates. With agreements and associations based on raw words. We have sold our cages out. To incessant selfies, facebooking, tweeting, updating and making them beautiful.

Sex gets hidden somewhere; sandwiched between the romantic label and the family label. We hide it in narrow office spaces, in empty cabins or we rub it in on jam-packed rides on local trains. We hide it on days we don’t want it and hide it on days that the romantic label wants it. We hide it in our cars, bedrooms and classrooms. We hide it in quickies with strangers and one-night stands in places we will never visit again. These random hidden spots are our little keys to spaces inside us, which we want to fill. Our cages don’t let us open our doors. They trap us inside and we stay trapped in.

I ‘do’ my sexuality when I stare at random strangers. I do it when I make love with my lover. When I don’t let my cage obstruct what I think, what I feel. I do it when I let my mind explore the sexual liberties that people think go against their cages. I do it when I let my body desire everything that affirms its own feelings. I let my body out of my cage, to breathe and desire.

Often we think that laws give us our liberties. Our rights to how we want to perceive our bodies and our relationships are left in the hands of legislators. This, for me, is still another form of caging ourselves. No law, no statute of any country can make us feel the way we want to feel. Our hankering after demands will only give us Sections. We, you and me, can individually keep our bodies and spirits out of this incessant caging. Caging by laws, institutions, labels, our own selves.

I try to keep my cage open. I try to give my keys to everyone who wants to come in. Hopefully, one day, this cage will disappear.

I will no longer be caged.

Image credit: Muhammad Ghouri (CC BY 2.0)