Tag Archives: Say No To Bullying

Can We Stop With The #BoysAndTheirToys in 2018?

VENUS_MARS

Relationship experts, Internet proverbs, and magazines at the dentist’s all tell us the same thing. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Men are from Mars, and women… well, you get the gist. Two planets apart, millions of miles away — now repeat it till you believe it.

But that’s the thing, it’s a myth. Men don’t necessarily need to come from Mars – they can come from Venus, Saturn, Neptune or even Ganymede (that’s Jupiter’s biggest moon for the astronomically unaware). In fact, they can come from anywhere they want, just like they can be whoever they want to be.

We might have been conditioned to believe that men need to be (or behave) a certain way, but the dictionary has never told anyone to be a classic d***hebag who smokes like a chimney and eats like a pig. Like I discussed last time, men aren’t a result of their toys, tempers and tastes, they are a result of their manners and their mottos.

Years of conditioning aside, it all usually starts as soon as you come kicking and screaming into the world. See, as a child you don’t understand the ramifications of what you say or the fact that one day, you’ll be embarrassed by what you’ve done – it’s like an Archiesversion of being sh*t-faced drunk and uninhibited – and no one has taught you that you have to behave a certain way just because, so you usually screw that up. You say the wrong things. You act the wrong way. You ask for the wrong toy.

As a child, I’d never had a kitchen set of my own – I had a lot of clowns, cars, books and GI Joes – and any time that I found these miniature cooking utensils freely available was a revelation. I would usually snatch an hour or two with them at my cousin’s, or play house with them with the girl next door.

It was pure, unadulterated joy, and I used all of it to bake make-believe macarons. It was big joke in my extended family, but I didn’t really care (also I really didn’t know). So finally, on my seventh birthday when my parents asked me what I wanted, I thought I’d jump at the idea – the only sort of jumping I would ever do.

I remember being really nervous about not getting anything at all, but I was also nervous that I’d be laughed at, so I checked and double-checked to see whether I really could ask for anything I wanted.

“Yes, please,” they said.

So I asked for a kitchen set. I don’t really remember the exact reaction, but it was politely explained to me that I couldn’t have one because kitchen sets were for girls.

I was crushed. So I asked for books. Video games. Toy cars. Spaceship models. The complete He-Man collection (side note: I got greedy).

For me, playing house wasn’t just about clanking those tiny utensils together; I wanted to act out all the ideas in my head – scripts I’d never be able to live but knew by heart. My crazy imagination was dying to see all the stories I scrawled in my little notebooks come to life.

And then Lego came along, and changed everything.

Conventionally, there was nothing wrong with a boy playing with his Lego set – I could build houses, and cafes and parks, without being disturbed. But the attempt to ‘Masc’ things up wasn’t far away – I got the fire station starter pack one birthday, but I ended up making a fancy condo (albeit with poles) with that as well.

The boys toys stopped coming my way though, and my bedroom filled up with books (and even more Lego sets), but it was a distraction from the seemingly endless amazement that I wasn’t macho enough – not playing sports or climbing trees. As long as I had my nose deep in a book, no one asked me why it wasn’t looking up football strategies online.

Eventually, my fascination with building homes and stories helped; I went on to become an architect, and then a writer, so I could say it all worked out for me – but my childhood remained the same.

A lie.

There’s been some progress, at least in moving away from the ‘pinkification’ of girl’s toys and allowing them the freedom to play with what would traditionally be called boy’s toys – their cars, dinosaurs, cowboys and all that.

It’s an important fight and we need it, but when it comes to the other side of the coin – little boys just dying to pick up a play doll or a play house – it’s a harder sell. Not to mention that in 2018, gender is not just about ‘boys and girls’. Everyone is finding their own way. Boys can play with girl’s toys and girls can play with boy’s toys. Heck, there’s no such thing as boy’s toys and girl’s toys anymore, just like there’s no such thing as a man’s job and a woman’s job.

How can I be so sure?

A few weeks ago, as I played house with my nephew, I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up. He wanted to be a superhero, his grandmother, a policeman and a race car driver, in that order (He also said he wanted to be ‘happy’, but he’s always been a bright kid). He’s four years old.

His reasons for wanting to be his grandmother were simple. She made all the decisions at home. He wanted to do the same thing. We both high-fived and had tea with the underlying matriarchy in our makeshift hall.

My four-year-old nephew might be a doll (no pun intended), but the rest of us still have a long way to go. Countless dreams (and bones) get crushed every day because men are supposed to be breaking their heads (and their backs) at the workplace, or the gym. So here’s something for you to take away – do what interests you, not something that ticks all the boxes for becoming the quintessential man.

Am I gay because I played with dolls and kitchen sets, or despite the fact that I really couldn’t? Would it have really made any difference? With ‘traditionally masculine’ sports’ stars now coming out of the closet, there really is no fail-safe to stop your child from becoming ‘less macho’ (not even a good ol’ football can save him. Sorry about that.)

If you’d rather your child grow up sad and ashamed, the toy really isn’t the problem here. If they grow up to come out as gay or bi or trans or seem “less of a man”, it’s not because you bought them a Barbie doll when they were seven (it’s probably because they are built in a different way then you are.)

And even if it turns out to be true, so what? Be proud of them and pat yourself on your back for being such a great influence!

Just buy that kitchen set. You’d only thank yourself later when your son (or brother) gets you Eggs Benedict in bed.

You are welcome.

PS: My parents are, and have always been, great and very accepting and shielded me from a lot of bullsh*t (homophobic or otherwise) in life. They eventually did get me that kitchen set, only they pretended it was for my sister.

What I Mean When I Say I have A Gay Voice

What i mean when i say i have a Gay voice.jpg

Over the years, I realised I have had a lot of talents.

I can roll my tongue, impersonate a pigeon (my head tut is phenomenal), fly a kite without any help, and most importantly, lie my way through a resume even when I am asleep.  It’s a lot for one person.

But faking a baritone is clearly not one of them.

I realised my voice was softer (read: more girly, for the masses and the misinformed) at a very early age. Being all of eight, I wasn’t great at pretending to be someone else (at least back then), and booming out like a blue whale wasn’t something they taught at kindergarten. I chose the only plausible solution.

Silence.

I would reluctantly answer questions in the classroom (or avoided the teacher’s eye), never yelled out to friends across the road (either out of surprise, joy or an incessant need to go slap them across their faces), and would pretend to be ‘shy’ in front of people I didn’t know. It’s lovely how many things you can pass off; when you tell people you are an introvert.

But there would be times when I’d forget, and my shrill voice would ricochet out like a distress call, in multiple high-octaves and increasing pitches. And then the hushed whispers would come, empty sniggers from emptier souls. ‘Why do you sound so nasal?’ my friends would laugh, and I’d retort with a stiff-lipped jab about my ‘respiratory problems that they’d never understand’.

That would silence them all, up until I changed schools, and changed bullies along with them. I’d come up with new reason every single time, but they’d all get shot down (or laughed at) in a week or two.

Over the next two decades, I grew up — and grew out of these insecurities (and my shrill, pre-pubescent voice). I’d learnt to adapt the way I spoke to whoever I was speaking to, and I used it like a shield.

I’d conveniently gruff up with a North Indian accent while speaking to a male colleague, and soften up with a breathier, breezier Mumbai undercurrent while chatting up an acquaintance. I reserved my ‘it’s-too-loud-in-here-to-hear-you’ blur solely for my mother.

Only my close friends got the real version of me. Highly excitable.

But yet, my voice was, and is…still the same?

It sounds worse on the phone, solely because I suffer from a recurring nightmare where I have to hear my voice on an answering machine on loop — which only makes it an every day affair with telemarketers.

‘Hello, madam? Can we interest you in a home loan…’

‘Dear Miss! Vodafone has an exciting new offer for you….’

‘Yes, ma’am. Do you want to try our double cheese burst special with that?’

I’d gruffly tell them I was man, and hang up.

Truth be told, I hated the way my voice sounds, and I absolutely hate that I hated it, and I hated the way that a voice like mine was usually hated. It’s a hamster-cycle of hate, only here the proverbial hamster (read: me) was running on a wheel of increasing decibels.

It’s the same as shrinking away from something that is even remotely effeminate -— including pink linen shirts, Cosmopolitans and peroxide hair — but what are we so afraid of? To sound like ourselves, or to be ourselves? Generations of (gay) men have cleared their throats, deepened their voices and raised their walls so that they could reek of everyone’s favourite perfume.

Toxic Masculinity, by you. I wore it proudly myself.

And then everything changed a few months ago.

I was meeting a few friends for a reunion halfway across town. It was a champagne-fuelled brunch, and everyone (including me) was buzzed and giggling, as people at champagne-fueled brunches are wont to. There were kids running around and playing with their tablets, like kids are wont to. In the midst of an extremely ribald joke that I am not very proud of, one of my friend’s kids tugged at my trousers. It was a little boy in blue, holding a tablet in one hand, and a Transformer doll in the other.

‘Why does your voice sound like a girl?’ the little child asked me curiously. I’ve never really liked little children — they are cocky, brash and solely rely on their cuteness to get away with inappropriate things — sort of like the quintessential f**kboy, only two decades younger. Call it an occupational hazard of being a gay person.

But yet, it had come back, the fear — it had followed me all the way out of every classroom and playground, and come back to haunt me almost two decades later. I felt like I was in school all over again. My facades went up, just like my voice had a few moments ago.

“Because that’s how my voice sounds when I am drunk,’ I said to him shamelessly, ‘It’s my happy voice! Your mum has one as well!’ (Sue me for being scathing.) We all laughed aloud, because it was all in good humour, but the mother avoided me for the rest of the evening. I compensated for her absence with three extra mimosas. (Side note: The mother wasn’t that close a friend, so the jabs were all well founded.)

But that’s when it struck me. People might say it is not, but my voice is gay (but not in the derogatory slur kind of way, but in a more empowering sort of way), just like the rest of me. Let’s get it straight. Do you know what you sound like when you laugh at someone for having ‘the’ gay voice?

An asshole.

Just like the fact that people come in all shapes and sizes, voices come in multiple octaves and tones. Some men sound like a double measure of single malt, some men sound like fingernails on a blackboard. Some men sound like twittering birds, some men sound like mean tweets by trolls. We are all born with our vocal chords, just like we are born with our sexuality.

And it’s high time we learn to deal with it.

At least I plan to. If it’s a dead giveaway that I am gay, so what? I think being a homosexual is pretty cool. I’ve got too much to say, and that is exactly why I won’t stop talking.

And neither should you.

The Guysexual’s Guide To Freedom

 

freedom biyatch

What does freedom mean to me?

Wearing pyjamas on a Monday. Heading out on a vacation in the middle of January. Eating (and owning) eight bars of dark chocolate in one sitting. Netflix binging all week. Not replying to a text right away. Not feeling guilty about any of it.

Freedom might mean a lot of different things for each of us, but for the quintessential gay man in India, it means a lot more — the freedom to dress how they want, the freedom to love who they want, but most importantly, the freedom to be who they want.

At the end of the day, what else do you need independence from in India? You don’t need to answer the question; it was rhetorical.

But then again, the answers needn’t be. As Independence Day charges at us with all its tri-coloured glory, here are 15 different ideas that (gay) men need instant freedom from, this 15 August:

1. Body-shaming
I’ve said it before and I will say it again — square, round, fat, skinny, triangular, muscled, average, toned, thin, beefed up or even trapezoid — gay men (or anyone, for that matter) come in all shapes and sizes. As long as they are not a trigonometric equation, learn to appreciate all of them.

2. Patriarchy
Fun fact: did you know what makes a man (or woman) highly irresistible?
Their ideas on equality (and inclusivity).

3. Section 377
Because Section 377 is as redundant as Pahlaj Nihalani’s opinion right now. Let’s dust off the Constitution of India, and dust off those blues, shall we?

4. Bigotry
We all need to left swipe on extreme right wing propaganda – especially the one that opposes anything that is even remotely LGBT, including your (just the right amount of inappropriate) man crush on Rahul Khanna. Respect other people’s opinions like you would respect your mother on her birthday (or Mother’s Day).

5. Self hate
The only kind of people who hate gay men more than the bigots from above?
Gay men themselves. Internalised homophobia is real, boys and girls — it’s time to address the problem out in the open. Just like you should be.

6. Crocs
You might need freedom, boys — but your open toes don’t. The monsoons are over, so keep those crocs where YOU don’t belong — right at the back of your closet.

7. Judging relatives
Just like Apple’s license agreement and the disclaimer at the beginning of every movie, opinions of overbearing relatives are ticks that don’t need your attention.

8. Social media stress
The world might be going to war (here’s looking at you, North Korea and the United States of America) and I’ve still spent hours wondering why my #TransformationTuesday isn’t getting any Instagram love at 3 pm. It’s time to switch off the smart phones, and switch off that stress. I’ll probably go to the gym and work on my glutes instead.

9. Toxic love
No, the fact that he pinged you at 2 am, three months after he cheated on you (and effectively dumped you after) does not mean he’s trying to get back into your life. He probably just wants to get back into your pants. Love might be a lot of things, but it’s never deceitful. Nothing toxic can ever come out of a genuine, romantic relationship. Always remember that.

10. Notions of heteronormativity
Some people believe in monogamy. Some people believe in polygamy. Some people believe in free love. As long as you are practising safe sex, leave your notions of what is right and what is wrong right next to the used condom wrappers.

11. Gender appropriation
If Kiran, with the gender-neutral name, wants to dress in a way that’s slightly gender-fluid, don’t be a douche about it. No one needs that kind of negativity in their life — especially when they are trying to walk in six-inch stilettos in a busy Mumbai street.

12. Bullying
Just because I was okay with the fact that I spent most of high school getting pushed against lockers (and the occasional fellow nerd), doesn’t mean I am okay being dragged down a trail of comments by internet trolls, thank you very much.

13. No sugar diets
If gay men gave more importance to positivity than their protein supplements, the world would be a sweeter place to live in. Cinnamon bun intended. Empty calories aside, cutting sugar out just leads to an emptier life.

14. Bad television
The only thing worse than no LGBT representation in film (and other media) is shitty LGBT representation in film (and other media). Think of it this way — every time a gay person is portrayed as a promiscuous, sassy fashionista with no morals (or a wrist bone) on screen, a baby seal is clubbed to death in Antarctica.
Or worse, Chetan Bhagat comes out with another book.

15. Peroxide hair
Just one word: Nope.

The 111 Thoughts You Have While Talking To A Homophobe

homophobe.jpg

 

1. Uh-oh. Look who it is, I can’t do this again.
2. I hope he doesn’t see me, I hope he doesn’t see me…
3. This is the most interested I’ve ever been in my mojito.
4. Is that an ant in my drink?
5. Oh damn. He saw me. Why does this always happen to me? I swear to god if he comes and says hello right now, I would just kill —
6. Too late.
7. Umm, hello to you too…
8. Okay, that’s not an ant in my drink either. Phew.
9. Oh yeah, I’ve been great. Thanks for asking.
10. And no, I am not here with my girlfriends.
11. You find that surprising? Pity.
12. Yeah, it’s amazing how many hot girls I know….
13. …No, they haven’t converted me yet.
14. I am still into boys.
15. Yeah, funny how that works.
16. Not really.
17. Do I want to hear another joke?
18. Pray do tell. What am I here for?
19. Umm, no. Not THAT one.
20. Yeah, it’s really funny that I am not drinking a Cosmopolitan.
21. That wasn’t a joke. I was being sarcastic.
22. Maybe I should laugh a little too loudly so that he gets the point.
23. Okay, I might have gone overboard with the back thumping.
24. Yikes! My arm accidentally touched his chest.
25. Does he think I am hitting on him?
26. He definitely thinks I am hitting on him.
27. Look at the way he’s looking at me. So beady.
28. I am going to drink another mojito. Really, really fast.
29. He just started a sentence with ‘I’m not homophobic but…’
30. This is going to be interesting.
31. Oh no. I take that back.
32. Did he JUST say that penis and penis don’t go together?
33. They did in that sentence, sir. Just saying.
34. NO. Two men having sex is NOT weird.
35. Your face is weird.
36. Thank god my mojito is here.
37. Let’s chug this.
38. Oh yes, but you are ‘gay-friendly’. I am going to take your word for it.
39. That’s just going to be another lie I’ll pretend to believe and nod.
40. He said that again. Maybe I should nod again.
41. Okay I feel funny. Too much head shaking is happening.
42. Yeah, yeah, I am okay… I am not a lightweight.
43. Har har. You are so humorous.
44. No being a lightweight is NOT a gay thing.
45. How many other gay men do you know anyway?
46. Yeah, I did not take offence at what you just said.
47. Oh yes, it’s definitely surprising considering how ‘gay men love drama’.
48. We don’t, really. Drama loves us.
49. You know what else loves us?
50. Great metabolism, pretty girls and success.
51. And an amazing sense of style.
52. Yes, I am judging you for wearing those crocs to the bar.
53. It’s not even raining.
54. And yes, I am going to drink slowly. You don’t need to tell me.
55. You aren’t my mother. Don’t use that tone with me.
56. What do you mean do I even drink beer?
57. Yes, I love beer.
58. I can drink a whole six-pack.
59. Those are not the only six packs I love.
60. LOL. Sometimes I am so funny.
61. Does he think I am laughing at his joke?
62. He definitely does.
63. Oh great, he wants to call for beers for us.
64. Wow, I am honored that you think I’m like one of your ‘straight buds’.
65. Yes, I think we should do this more often too, ‘mate’.
66. Gah. I can’t fist bump him on that.
67. What if I pretend I didn’t see it?
68. Quick! Look the other way! Look the other way!
69. Too late.
70. Surprise surprise! Yes, I do know how to fist bump.
71. Yeah, we gay boys fist bump too.
72. Why am I even still talking to this person?
73. Where’s my beer?
74. Oh. There it is. I am going to chug it and scoot off.
75. Three, two, one…here goes.
76. Okay, that wasn’t a good idea.
77. Damn. I shouldn’t have had that beer.
78. Yes, I know that drinking a pint is like eating seven slices of bread.
79. How do I know that? What do you think I am?
80. I read about it on Mashable.
81. No, I didn’t learn about that on Pinterest.
82. Sweet mother of lord. Is this man for real?
83. No. I don’t even have a Pinterest account.
84. Yeah, I also don’t follow Kim Kardashian on Instagram.
85. Don’t ask me who my favourite Kardashian sister is. I won’t answer the question.
86. What’s that even supposed to mean?
87. I should most certainly punch him.
88. No wait. I won’t.
89. Or maybe I will.
90. I can’t do this anymore.
91. CAN’T EVEN.
92. Wait, look at the time!
93. Oh, is it time for you to head to bed already? Such a pity.
94. Should we call for the cheque?
95. Yes, we’ll call for the cheque.
96. No we are splitting it. Most definitely.
97. Yeah, gay men split cheques. Why are you so surprised?
98. You should write a book. You should call it ‘Stupid Things Not To Say To Gay Men’.
99. I’ll help you publish it.
100. You don’t even need to give me credits.
101. A mention in the acknowledgments would do.
102. OH YAAAAS! The cheque is here.
103. And that’s my half. Smile.
104. It was so great running into you. Yes, I’ll find my cab. What? I am not bad with directions? Haha, you really tear me up!
105. But not really.
106. Let’s never do this again.
107. Oh great, he’s leaving.
108. THANK GAWD.
109. Time to go home and watch RuPaul’s Drag Race reruns.
110. I should probably pick up a bottle of Pinot Noir on the way.
111. Maybe I’ll just get some beer instead.

Time to be fat and fabulous: Let’s say no to gay bullying?

 

Body shaming 1x1.jpg

It’s a balmy night in 2014.

I am at an LGBT party in the suburbs with a drink in my hand and grinding couples on the side. I feel a tap on my shoulder. It’s Daniel, an American expat who moved to the city almost a decade ago. I smile.

Our relationship can be summed up by ‘pokes’ and staggering witty banter on Facebook. It’s one of many dalliances I’ve had that die an early death, even before numbers can be exchanged. He squints at my face.

“You look a lot different than in your pictures; have you been drinking a lot?”

I suck in my stomach and my self-respect. Is it that last French fry that I just popped into my mouth? Is it too much alcohol? Is it too less sleep? A heavy bone structure? Just bad genes? Or simply the fact that I have my heart in my throat?

I mumble out a lame excuse and blend myself with the background. Daniel busies himself with a pretty boy by the bar, as I exit out of my guest-starring role in their soon-to-be love story. I can walk back home in shame, but this is 2014, and I don’t have a Fitbit to count the calories I will burn.

If you are a human being who wasn’t born with a set of six packs to flaunt at the beach, you’ve probably witnessed it firsthand — every gay man has either been at the receiving or serving end of body shaming (or sometimes even both) — it’s like Mean Girls but with men. Don’t believe me? Just walk into the next LGBT party.

Or simply log into Grindr.

You’ll hear a storehouse of excuses. He’s too fat. He’s too thin. He’s too skinny. He’s too chubby. He’s too square — the entire concept of the perfect body is almost as fictitious as Donald Trump’s chances of winning the presidential election. (I wrote this before the results were out, sadly). While the glorification of the male body has always been an important part of gay culture, social media is partly to blame. Hiding behind Instagram edits and Snapchat filters, it only becomes easier to project the most perfect versions of ourselves. Plus, you can do this while scoping out the competition and secretly judging everyone who doesn’t look good in a tank top (Side note: I have a love-hate relationship with tank tops. I’d love to wear them, but they hate me.)

As a self-deprecating, but self-loving gay man, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t done the same. Are we trained to put the more gym-toned, ripped men at the top of the pedestal, at the very height of the LGBT food chain (right next to the celebrity A-listers)?

We pump ourselves with protein supplements, count our meals by calories and sync our steps with fitness apps, while laughing at the ones who don’t. Think of it this way: Every time you do, more and more men are pushed back into oversized cardigans and Internet diets. More and more men are pushed into eating salad as an actual meal.

Let’s be honest.

It’s body shaming and we do it to each other and ourselves. It might be in the form of ribald jokes at the gym, hushed whispers at a party or drunken barbs on a date, but it still doesn’t change the fact that these are negative connotations that single-handedly target someone’s image issues.

Fawad, a business mogul, moves between London and Bombay every other month — his hectic life keeps him busy enough to not bother himself with weekly dates, but he still partakes in the occasional drink. Unlike Daniel from 2014, Fawad is a friend. A friend who told me about a date that went disastrously wrong.

“What else would you call a fat person, if you don’t call them fat? Cellulite isn’t sexy,” he scoffed. Clearly, the date in question wasn’t an Abercrombie & Fitch underwear model.

I gently push away the pizza we are sharing. Four hundred calories that’ll never help me find true love. Fawad, with his fitted shirts and angular cheekbones, on the other hand, has it all. Apart from my respect in the given situation.

“I don’t see what the problem is,” he says nonchalantly, sipping on his gin and tonic. But one wouldn’t expect men who wear fitted shirts to understand the problem in the first place.

Body shaming in the gay world is as serious as global warming — think of people’s feelings as the ozone layer. You are depleting them, and you aren’t helping the world by doing so. Want to do your bit to change the world? The next time you even think you might be body shaming a fellow gay man, just make sure you aren’t saying any one of these things:

“I feel so fat. Do I look fat today?”

“You probably shouldn’t be eating that…”

“Those pants don’t look good on you at all. What were you thinking?”

“Did you see the love handles on that one? I swear he had a muffin top…”

“‘You want to get with someone? Why don’t you just lose a little weight?”

“His ass is flatter than a plasma TV.”

“I swear he had boobs.”

“I wish I was as skinny as you, damn. I wish I was anorexic.”

“He gained so much weight after we broke up. I clearly won the relationship.”

“… At least you are not a twink!”

Let’s face it, we come in different shapes and sizes, and it’s unfair to think that we can be all cast from the same mold. Whether you are skinny and thin, big and muscular or a Venti and decaf (that’s just my coffee order), you need to know that everyone is unique in their own way — the first place to start over is your dating profile. What you say out aloud or through those 250 characters can say a lot about you. After all, when you say “No fats, no femmes” on your Grindr profile, you aren’t critiquing the kind of men you wouldn’t want to charm over dinner, you are critiquing yourself.

After all, we don’t need to pack ourselves with protein, boys, we just need to pack ourselves with positivity. And that’s something you can share over a plate of fries.