If sharing was a proverbial coin at the rehabilitation facility, connections were one side of it, and sexuality was the other. Men and women were not allowed to touch one another – no handshakes or hugs or an eager slap on the back.
This was the time we were growing up, learning new things, reading new books and discovering something new almost every day, and this all-women space provided an opportunity to do that without requiring any pretence or catering to the male gaze.
The pandemic has put us through interesting times, to say the least – of reflecting, learning, realigning, thinking about what really matters, a time to pause and care for ourselves with kindness. At TARSHI, we’re just delighted to have been able to do the same – while also sharing something of what we’ve learnt with you.
I know that the lives of many human rights defenders are under continuous threat, that sometimes it is impossible to sleep or to enjoy a moment of peace because of the harassment coming from the outside. What I address in this text is our internal disposition as activists, and the ideas that stop us from taking care of and holding ourselves together.
My self-care journey has only just begun and I have a long way to go. I do have bouts of self-doubt, anxiety, and panic, and I still go through periods of feeling overwhelmed. However, more than anything, I have learnt that self-care, for me, is a subversive act, and caring for myself gives me the strength to challenge the status quo and play my part in social justice movements.
What does it mean to hold space and extend compassion to ourselves and our communities? Rachel Cargle reminds us to ask ourselves: who would we be if we weren’t trying to survive? Similarly, what would care and vulnerability look like if we weren’t trying to survive? The anarchy of queerness constantly and necessarily resists the capitalist engineering of the Survival Myth: one that wants us to endure an isolated life instead of embracing it with the radically transformative joy of togetherness. Caring for yourself precedes, succeeds, and exists alongside caring for the collective.
In a country like India where both mental health and non-binary identities are topics that are neglected despite being essential parts of an individual’s identity, it can be quite challenging to navigate through issues regarding the same. Accessibility to affordable and quality mental health services is a serious difficulty that the queer Indian population faces.
In a time when reason is more valued than emotion, unravelling and understanding the politics of self-care becomes all the more fundamental for us, and the movements we seek to develop and build. When our bodies, our emotions and our needs become weapons to be used against us, acts of defiance become rooted in thinking about your self and how we practice it. I find I am faced with more questions than answers, but I also know that asking the questions is the first step to finding the answers
This question of appropriateness is, for me, at the heart of all questions around sexuality. Each of us carries within us our own private benchmarks for which expressions of sexuality we find appropriate, and which ones, in turn, have crossed an invisible line. The ones we believe belong across the border, in the land of the inappropriate, of the too much.
I recently watched North Country on Netflix, a movie based on a true story of a woman’s fight for equality at the workplace. It is based on the case, Jenson vs Eveleth Mines, in the United States in which Lois Jenson, fought for the right to work as a miner, and the right to work free of sexual harassment. She won the landmark 1984 lawsuit, which was the first class-action lawsuit on sexual harassment at the workplace in the United States and resulted in companies/organisations having to introduce sexual harassment policies at the workplace.
None of these characters is perfect but in their imperfections we can learn more about body positivity, gender sensitivity, privilege, consent, unconscious and implicit bias, sexuality, masculinity, their intersections with class, religion, race, age, and more.
LGBTIQA+ young people should feel safe and empowered in everyday physical spaces, and many do – often with support from a wider community of peers who share similar experiences. But until the world becomes more friendly for queer and gender diverse people, we expect they’ll continue to find safety, community, identity, and friendship on Tumblr.
For a lot of queer people, ‘home’ can hold complicated meanings. The space of one’s home can be fraught with bigotry and alienation, and be far from safe or comforting. And so, there is a quest to find alternate ‘homes’, to find a space where we feel truly accepted, safe and protected.
Home, to me, was never a static entity, but my time in a girl’s hostel feels like the embodiment of everything my ideal “home” is – empowering, liberating, and full of women who love each other unabashedly.
Queer cafés are not exempt from the fast changing landscape of Indian metropolitan areas and offer both inclusion as well as exclusion from the promise of a queer utopia.