What is that they say? Love is love, right? Who you fall in love with is your own choice, it doesn’t need labelling. It’s a romance between two people, gender doesn’t matter. Today, homosexuality or alternate gender identities are acceptable to more Indians than ever before but it still remains a struggle for LGBTQIA Indians to come out to their families, friends and the society.
A beautiful couple, Dharti and Shubhalaxmi are defying the odds everyday by choosing to be with each other for their whole lives. Please read below our exclusive interview with Dharti who explains her relationship and also her struggle to cope up with the Indian society.
1. How did you meet, and when and how did you realise that this was a deeper, romantic connection?
Shubh and I met through Facebook. She had sent me a friend request and we were chatting for a few months before we decided to meet. When I saw Shubh for the first time, waiting for me near a shop wearing a black kurta, it was like an instant connection for me. She was a bit scared and a little conscious too because it was her first time meeting a stranger in person with whom she just had chat on Facebook. But we really liked each other and we started spending more time together. We used to hang out at her place or spent hours in cafes talking about our lives, Shubh always had some fascinating story to tell. Days went by and we started getting close and I don’t remember the exact moment but somewhere down the line we fell for each other and we knew we were made for each other.
2. What is one thing that you love about each other, and one thing that annoys you about each other?
I love how simple Shubh is, she is positive (most of the times), hardworking, smart and funny. The best thing about her is that she is very inspiring and motivating. She knows what will cheer me up and what will light up my mood when I am sad. She is very practical (sometimes emotional) and ambitious in her life for which I am very proud of her. The only thing that annoys me about her is that she is a little lazy.
3. Do your parents know about your relationship? If yes, how supportive are they?
Our Parents do know about us but it is like an elephant in the room, everyone knows about it but nobody wants to talk about it.
4. What is your answer to the people who demarcate love on the basis of gender?
I want to say that love is just love and we cannot limit it on the basis of gender.
5. What are your thoughts on marriage equality in India?
Section 377 got decriminalized last year and I am very happy that India took one step forward towards marriage equality. It might take a few more years but I am sure that it will happen one day.
6. Do you plan to get married? What are your plans for the future?
I will get married once it gets legal. I have no plans for the future right now. I am just living in the moment. As long as I am with Shubh, I am happy and I am just looking forward to living my life happily with Shubh.
7. Your thoughts on the representation of lesbian/bisexual couples in Indian television and Bollywood.
Earlier it was worse. Gay characters were always used to be characterized as horny and lusty which is not completely true. But now, Indian cinema is changing and I really liked the movies Aligarh and Kapoor and sons where they have not stereotyped the gay character. Sonam Kapoor’s upcoming movie Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is allegedly a lesbian love story which is the first mainstream movie to show a lesbian character. I hope that this movie shows the struggle of LGBTQ people in India.
8. According to you, do lesbians/bisexual women in India receive more criticism than gay men? If yes, then why?
Yes, I do feel that Lesbians are more criticized than Gay men because I have seen in the community itself that people don’t support lesbian artists may be out of jealousy or insecurity, I don’t really know the exact reason. From the outside it seems like LGBTQ community has a great unity but if you have a closer look from inside, you will see how people try to pull each other down and don’t even support each other. Maybe humans are just wired that way.
9. How is it like, being a part of the LGBT+ community and living in a country like India, which doesn’t often support people from this community?
It is difficult of course because we don’t have marriage rights, We cannot take a joint loan to buy a house together, we cannot live peacefully without being constantly judged by society. There is a constant fear of being rejected by our family and friends.
10. How did you come out to your parents? What would be your advice to other closeted LGBTQIA+ people who are afraid to come out?
I came out to my mom 3 years back. I sat her down and explained everything how I felt about women and how I felt since childhood. Earlier it was hard for her to digest the whole thing but now she understands more of it and she is just happy in my happiness. I made a video HOW TO COME OUT OF CLOSET TO YOUR INDIAN PARENTS on my YouTube Channel “DHARTI”. My advice is that it is better to be financially independent before coming out to your parents and also completing your education. Because if anything goes wrong then you will at least be independent enough to take care of yourself.
11. After section 377 being legalized, do you think a time will come when we will see a change in the orthodox mentality of the majority in India?
See, legalization of section 377 doesn’t matter to those people who hate LGBTQ community. We cannot change the way they think until and unless they themselves are willing to change their thinking towards us. People who want to understand they will anyhow support us and people who don’t want to understand will always remain the same.
12. A lot of heterosexual men in India are unaware about alternate sexualities, can you share some funny or the most ignorant comment made towards you and/or your relationship?
Yes, there are many incidents and one common thing I usually get is that “you should try having it with me, you know you will forget about being lesbian”.
13. Please share your top 3 myths about being a lesbian and a bisexual woman that you both have encountered in your lives.
1 – People think that lesbians hate men, this is the biggest myth and it is completely wrong. I get along very well with my male friends.
2 – People also think that all lesbians are very boyish or manly which is also not true. Not all of them are the same.
3 – People assume that all lesbians want to have THREESOME which is the most ridiculous thing I personally feel.
14. What are your thoughts on national campaigns such as FSOG? What kind of role do they play in today’s India?
I am very proud that FSOG is a campaign led by a media company, Laudco Media, doing a lot for the LGBTQ community of our country. It’s truly amazing to see them talking about India’s most taboo topics like same-sex marriage, safe sex, also supporting people who have gone through sexual harassment, they are teaching people about alternate sexualities and gender identity. In a country where anything different is being constantly judged by people, they are trying to educate people how not be judgemental.