Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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"Toward a Lesbian World"

I recently finished reading the book Facing the Mirror: Lesbian Writing from India, edited by Ashwini Sukthankar, and I was moved to type one of the seventy-five or so stories from it into my computer, a story called "Toward a Lesbian World," originally because I wanted to show it to Mikie - but then I decided now that I've typed it, I want to show it to the rest of you too. It's a true story, but its author gives only her first name, because very few of the lesbians who contributed to this book felt free to out themselves by using their full names.

I didn't type the story out because of anything it said about India, or lesbians, or hijras (a long-established "third sex" in India, consisting of people born male or sometimes intersexed, who are often but not always castrated - including removal of both penis and testicles - and who dress as women and use female pronouns but live in segregated groups separately from men and women, making their living mostly by annoying people by singing loudly in the streets and playing practical jokes until people pay them to go away), although the story concerns all of these. I didn't type the story out for its queer by choice content either, although the story certainly contains some. The author is not exactly an admirable representative of queer by choice ideas, nor is she a very admirable representative of lesbianism or anything else, so if you're hoping for a story about how every single lesbian or queer by choice person anywhere is a person you'd heartily approve of and relate to, this isn't it.

I typed the story out because of what it revealed about sexism and sexual violence - not the specific sexism and sexual violence of men against women, but rather the universality of sexism and sexual violence of any higher-status gender against any lower-status gender who the higher-status gender has been taught was "given their birth only to serve [the higher-status gender]. They are supposed to work for us, otherwise their life is useless."

Toward a Lesbian World

by Seema

I was born and brought up in Bombay, and studied at a convent school for girls, in the suburb of Bandra. As I was growing up I found that I was attracted only to girls, and by the time I had crossed puberty, I had confirmed to myself that women are in every way better than men.

When I started college, I came across a girl who was slightly manly; when I saw her it was love at first sight on my side. Somehow I got myself introduced to her - her name was Jyoti, and she was one year senior to me. Following our introduction I tried to meet her every day, with some excuse or the other. We used to sit in the common room for hours together. In the beginning I was very quiet around her. She used to talk a lot, I would only look at her. One day, I put my hand on her thigh and started moving it upwards. I was terrified, since I could not see any reaction, and I thought, well if she doesn't like this she will definitely break off our friendship. It was almost five o'clock so I had to tell her I was getting late, but that I would see her the next day.

I went home, but I was very disturbed. The whole night I thought only of her, and anxiously waited for the sun to rise. When I got up in the morning, I immediately called her to confirm that she was coming to college. She told me that she had been thinking about me all night too. I just can't express what I felt at that moment. at college, both of us bunked our lectures and went to the common room, but since it was full of girls, we went to the bandstand at Bandra and sat on the rocks. Since it was our first date, I tried to be passive. We started talking about various topics, but finally I got her onto the right track, and we started discussing women. As I was talking, I moved closer to her. It was cloudy and windy, drizzling slightly. In such romantic monsoon weather, how could I restrain myself? I just put my hands on her shoulders and pulled her towards me and kissed her. Everything happened within the fraction of a second. Afterwards, all she said was, 'Thank God, finally you did it.'

I still remember, it was the ninth of July, 1971.

After the first kiss, I suddenly realized that we were in a public place and I felt shy. But she didn't care, she said, 'Chhod, yaar, hamare jaisi kitni ladhikiyan hain. Duniya gai bhad mein. [Let it be, there are so many girls like us. The world can go to hell.]' But still, I felt really awkward. I was also scared that someone would see us and report it to my parents, who were not at all aware of my lesbian tendencies. But Jyoti was not ready to leave me. This time she kissed me and I responded to her kiss. We didn't want to go home, but we had to. Before we got up, she said, 'I love you.' I said, 'I, too.' We started walking towards the bus stop hand-in-hand. Neither of us was bothered that there were people around.

As we were walking, I asked her why it was that I was always getting attracted to girls and not boys. She replied, 'Because you are a lesbian.' I told her that I had thought I was abnormal because I only liked females. My other college mates were always mixing with boys - they used to go for movies and picnics together - but I never felt like joining them. Jyoti told me, 'We are not abnormal, do not ever think that way. We are perfectly normal.' This gave me more confidence.

She was often alone at her house, since both her parents worked. So one day she invited me for lunch. She stayed at a very nice apartment in Juhu, and I arrived at about 10 a.m. She had asked me to wear a sari, and a particular hairstyle - she used to love my long silky hair - and I had obeyed. She opened the door and stared at me. She was in jeans - she was always in jeans, or sometimes in shorts. She said, 'You look gorgeous.' she began showing me her house, the kitchen, the terrace and so on, and finally we landed in her bedroom. It was superb, with a double bed and attached bath.

She told me, 'This is our bedroom.' She told me, 'This common time is ours.'

She undraped my sari and kissed me hard. She got me onto the bed and then never looked back. But while we were in the middle of our act, the door bell rang. She urged me not to worry, she would see who was there. I took my sari and went into her bathroom to hide.

Jyoti called me from my hiding place. She said, 'Don't worry, come out as you are.' I came out, not knowing that there was another female in the bedroom - Jyoti had not told me that she had invited anyone else! I tried to run back into the bathroom, but Jyoti caught hold of me and said, 'Come, I will introduce you. This is Salma.' I was feeling very uncomfortable as I was wearing just a bra and a towel. But Salma, seeing me, only uttered, 'She is sexy, Jyoti, good choice.'

So all three of us continued with the act which had been interrupted in the middle. We had a good time, a good lunch, some good music, and finally we parted in the evening before Jyoti's parents could come home. Salma told Jyoti, 'We should introduce Seema to more women.' She explained that all the women met once a fortnight at someone's house. All these things were very new to me, I had never even been out of the house at night without my parents.

One Saturday morning, Salma called at my place, saying, 'Tonight we are meeting at Andheri, so please come.' I couldn't, because I had no excuse to give my parents. This happened twice or thrice, then I decided that I must join the party. One weekend, I told my parents that I was going for a movie and would be staying at a friend's place. I was immediately asked her name, and by reflex I responded, 'Jyoti.' By this time my parents knew her. But they were not aware of the nature of our relationship.

When I went into the flat where the party was, I was surprised to see so many women. Jyoti told me, 'Don't worry, they are all like us.' I was totally lost in the crowd. They were discussing lesbian rights, women's liberation, and many other things which were unfamiliar to me. Everybody was with her partner, and of course, I was with Jyoti. The party ended almost at 2 a.m. I went to Jyoti's house to sleep. The next day being Sunday, there was no hurry to get up, but since it was my maiden outing I rose early and went back home. These parties were to become a routine part of my life.

Jyoti and I had been going steady for four years when I reached the final year of B.Com. The SSC results had just been declared, so there were many tenth standard students standing in a queue to fill up forms for junior college and pay their fees. Jyoti and I were watching them, remembering the days when we had stood waiting, like them. A boy approached us and asked where forms were available. His style of talking was just like a girl's. We pointed him to the office, and when he started heading towards it we observed that even his style of walking was not exactly masculine. I asked Jyoti whether he was a boy or a girl. She said, 'Let us follow him, and we will come to know.'

We waited outside the office, and when he came out I noticed one more thing that almost convinced me that this individual was not a boy, but a girl - I could see a bra under the shirt. When I told Jyoti, she said, 'Let's ask it for a name.' The person replied, 'Champa.' Both of us were startled. The tone of voice was male, the physical appearance was like a boy, but the name was a girl's. We were told by 'her' that she had just got admission. When she went away, I asked Jyoti, 'Yeh lafda kya hai? [What's going on here?] What is this, a boy or a girl?' She replied, 'Hijra.' I was shocked to see a hijra in the college, because up until now I had only seen them on the road, clapping in typical fashion and asking for money, especially targeting scared ladies. Jyoti told me, 'This hijra is not the same as the ones on the streets.'

After Champa had left the college compound, Jyoti told me, 'We should not lose this opportunity. She could be useful to us.' I asked, 'In what way?' She declared, 'These hijras are given their birth only to serve women. They are supposed to work for us, otherwise their life is useless. They cannot have sex and so are totally harmless.' She also explained to me how, long ago, hijras were kept in harems to guard women. She said, 'Just wait and see how we will make use of this chhakka [hijra].'

By the time college reopened, news about Champa had spread through our group, and everyone was curious. Of course, both Jyoti and I were waiting for our final B.Com. results and should have been at home preparing for our accountancy entrance exam. But just to catch Champa, we went to college. On the third or fourth day, I don't exactly remember, Jyoti saw her at the bus stop and called out, 'Hello Champa, how are you?' Champa looked at us but did not recognize us, as she had only seen us once, and that too for only fifteen minutes. In addition she felt awkward, since Jyoti had shouted her name loudly.

When we came up to her, Jyoti asked her which class she was in. I still recall the way Champa replied, 'Mai FYJC mein padhti hoon. [I'm studying in the first year of junior college.]' We asked her, where are your friends? She said that she didn't like to mix with boys, she didn't think it was right. We started laughing again. Then the bus came, and she went away.

The next day she met us in the college canteen, and slowly-slowly she became friendly with us. The first few days, we tried to gain her confidence. We used to talk to her as if she was a woman, and she liked that. At first, I was under the impression that Champa was a gay, but she was so shocked when I asked whether she liked boys, and whether she had ever shared her bed with any male, that I realized that she was a true hijra.

One day Jyoti called Champa to her residence, and when she came, asked her whether she would wear a salwar kameez. Champa, without any hesitation, agreed. She changed in front of us, and when I teased her about this, she said, 'Usme to kya hai, hum sabhi ladkiyan to hain. [What's wrong with that, we're all girls.]' Then she told us that she liked women's clothes like saris, ghagra cholis etc., and wore wigs so that she could enjoy long hair. Two other women came by to visit, so we introduced Champa to them. We requested her to dance for us, and she agreed. 'Which song?' I asked her. 'Any song,' she replied. So we put on some music. Immediately she said, 'Yeh to mardon ka gana hai, ladki ka lagao. [But this is a man's song, play a song by a woman.]' We looked at each other. Then Jyoti played a song by a female, and Champa danced. Later, she told us that whenever she saw a woman with beautiful long hair or nice breasts, she would miss a heartbeat and feel sad that she could not be like her.

At one party, we made Champa wear a sari. We had made a plan to strip her, just to confirm her hijra features. So, while she was dancing I suddenly caught hold of her pallu and started to drag the sari off - vastraharan, as we called it. She stopped dancing but I ordered her to continue, in her blouse and petticoat. Her hands crossed automatically over her chest like a lady, though she had no breasts to hide. We all stared at her and laughed, but Champa kept dancing. After some time, Salma went up to her and unhooked her blouse. When Champa tried to hold on to it, Salma screamed, 'Hijra, drop your hands,' and she obeyed immediately. I came to see that Champa was scared of us, and that she would do whatever we told her. Until this time, I had been very gentle with her, but then I, too, decided to be harsh - because I realized that hijras are here only to serve women, especially women like us. I rushed and untied her petticoat and pulled it down, and as I did this, Champa crouched like a lady, hiding her penis.

Salma slapped her on her buttocks and told her to stand up and dance. Champa stood, hiding her face. We stared at her penis, waiting to see whether the shape and size would change, but there was nothing, no erection. It was like a dead piece dangling. It was very small, too, maybe an inch or so in length - just like a toy.

From that day on, Champa was totally under the control of our group of twelve women. If we needed anything, we used to call at her residence and not request, but order her, to come whenever and wherever we wanted. Many times, as punishment, we used to put a hot spoon - not too hot, but warm - on her toy.

One day we took her to Juhu to have a ghagra choli stitched for her. The tailor was also a lady, a friend of Salma's, and knew that we were bringing a hijra to her shop. When she took Champa inside the room for her measurements, Champa asked her, 'Are you not afraid of me?' I do not know what made her pass such a comment. That lady got wild, and without wasting a single moment, she shouted, 'Mai aadmi se nahin darti, phir chhakke se kya daroongi? Tere mein kya hai darne jaisa? [I'm not afraid of men, why would I be afraid of a hijra? What do you have that I should be afraid of?]' When they came out and the lady repeated the story of what had happened inside, Salma immediately pulled Champa's hair, pinched her toy and slapped her. Champa started crying. After going to Jyoti's place, we combed Champa's hair into a single plait, removed her clothes, tied her plait to the bolt of the door and made her stand there for the whole afternoon.

These things with Champa went on for years - dancing, punishing, stripping - but after some time reduced in frequency as both Jyoti and I were busy with our accountancy course. I became a chartered accountant in three years; Jyoti took an additional two years to finish. When my darling completed her course, we had a very big party at her place - by that time, her parents knew that she was a lesbian, but mine did not know about me.

After becoming full-fledged chartered accountants, both Jyoti and I started working, and both of us got good jobs. We decided then that we would stay together for the rest of our lives. My parents started searching for a boy for me; when I came to know, I told my mother that I was not interested. She was very disappointed and tried to convince me that marriage was necessary. But, being a staunch lesbian and a supporter of women's liberation, I had my own ideas on how to lead my life, Both Jyoti and I decided to leave Bombay and settle in Pune, and we started looking for work there. There was no problem about a place to stay, since Jyoti's father had invested in a flat there which was lying vacant. My father had also booked a flat, but it was still under construction. Jyoti told me that she would work and I would look after the kitchen, but I said that there was no point in me sitting at home, and that too when I was so qualified. My parents were not happy with this decision but my father told my mother, 'Let her go and be independent.' Poor dad, he was so innocent.

Jyoti and I shifted to Pune. Both of us found jobs and we lived very happily for almost five years. My mother was always asking me about marriage but I used to avoid her questions. One day she came to Pune without informing me, on a surprise weekend visit. But it ended up being a surprise for her rather than for me. It was a holiday and I had gone shopping, so Jyoti opened the door and took her to leave her things in our bedroom - it was a three-bedroom flat but we were using only one . . . I think there is no need to elaborate on this. When my mother opened the cupboard, she saw a vibrator inside and read what was written on the box. When I came back with the groceries, she took me aside and asked me what that thing was for. Finally I had to tell her. She started crying. I proudly told her, 'Mama, I am a lesbian.' I was very tense, but I said frankly, 'Jyoti and I love each other and want to marry.'

My mother stayed in Pune for two days, but she didn't say a single word either to me or to Jyoti. On Monday morning she went away without telling us. That evening, I called up at the Bombay residence to find out what my mother's state was. She was okay, and she had not told my father about our conversation.

But soon afterwards, Jyoti's father told us that he was selling the flat. He wanted us to vacate it within a month, and asked Jyoti to move back to Bombay. Very sadly, we hired a car for the trip and left Pune early in the morning, at around 7 a.m. About fifty kilometres from the city, our driver tried to overtake a Maruti car. But the road was narrow and he didn't notice a truck approaching from the opposite side - or maybe he misjudged its speed. He just managed to avoid a head-on collision, but our car got banged on the rear and pushed off the road. After that, I only remember coming to my senses in the hospital in Pune. My parents were there - I don't know who had informed them, or how. I immediately asked about Jyoti, but everybody was silent. They just told me to rest and not worry about anyone else. I was recovering fast, so I requested to be discharged. But I was not permitted to leave Pune, so my parents took me to our flat. I was continuously asking about Jyoti, and one day, after a month, I demanded that they reveal the truth, I would take it. I was informed that Jyoti was no more.

I felt as if I had suddenly become a widow. I lost all my energy to live and thought of committing suicide. But I could not even get up from the bed. My legs were badly injured and the doctors had no hope for me walking in the near future.

Finally, my father took me to the USA for further treatment. As he was in Air India, our passage was free. A place to stay was also not a problem, since my cousin sister lived there. After six months, my condition improved - first I could walk with the help of a walker, then with a stick, and finally I was doing it on my own.

When I came back, my mother, even though she knew me to be a lesbian, forced me into a marriage. My father still did not know about me, but he urged me to accept the idea. So, against my wishes, I was married. My mother had high hopes that I would settle down. It was impossible for me to forget my darling Jyoti, but for Mama's sake, I tried. When we were newly married, my husband often attempted to provoke me to have sex. He would try many different things so that I would become his. He would take out his penis, but I would ignore him and read novels, or turn on my side and go to sleep. When he asked me the reason why I was not allowing him to touch me, I told him clearly that I was a lesbian and I was not interested in men. He was shocked to hear this and thought that my parents had deceived him by not disclosing the facts. I also felt bad for him, but was helpless.

Soon afterwards, my husband got a good job in the UAE. But before we could leave, another unfortunate incident occurred. While I was climbing down the stairs of my family's residence in Pune, I missed a step and rolled all the way down. I blacked out completely. When I came back to consciousness, I found myself in the hospital. My parents and my husband were there in a state of great tension, since we were to leave for Dubai within two months. I was discharged from hospital within a week, but I still could not walk, so I was taken home in an ambulance and laid flat on the bed.

One month I was totally immobile. Nobody was willing to tell me what was happening to me. After a month, I was taken for a check-up, and I grabbed that opportunity to ask the doctor what was wrong with me. First he tried to avoid the question, but I told him I wanted to know, and I would not lose my will to live even if the news was horrible. Finally, he told me that I had injured my legs on the same spot where I had been hurt in the car accident, and my vein was damaged. I would never be able to walk on my own in the future.

I hope this was a punishment for me and my parents for not having explained the truth about myself to my husband.

Three months later, my husband called me to join him. I went in a wheelchair. I was very lonely in Dubai. It is very difficult to trace women of our particular category in the UAE - it is very strict there, it is not free like India. There must be women like me in the Arab community, or among the expatriates, but since I am in a wheelchair I cannot locate them, sitting in my house.

After a long time of being alone, I have started growing close to my maid who is only nineteen years old. Since frankly I feel that all women should be like me, I decided to convert her. I brainwashed her by telling her how sex with women is healthier than sex with a man. Slowly I trained her and she started getting pleasure from me. Today I am happy. Today she is able to give me the orgasm which I need. My husband, knowing everything, tolerates me as he has no option. I want to get a divorce, but he is still under the impression, after all these years, that he will one day change me.

Now he is planning to move to the USA and I will go there with him, to work for women and contribute the maximum possible to our cause. Of course, I shall be doing all these activities from home as my handicap has rendered me completely immobile.

My manifesto: All women in this world should be lesbians. We must all try to convert more and more women to be like us, so that our population will increase. We should fight for our rights so that one day we will dominate society.
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