As South Asians, we should encourage our males to conduct their lives with freedom even if they do not encapsulate the expectations society holds of them. Archaic ideas of gender roles should be vanquished as was polio is in India. We should help our developing boys understand that being sensitive, nurturing, less sexually focused or artistic does not compromise their masculinity in any way; character development is most essential.
South Asian parents - would you not desire a son that is responsible to his family, is academically sound and contributes to the betterment of society - regardless of whether he willingly undertakes roles traditionally assigned to a female, expresses himself uniquely, defers important decisions to his wife and is not a dominant figure in a relationship?
On a personal level, I was fortunate to have parents who created strong spiritual underpinnings for me to establish myself as long as I was happy. They encouraged me to play sports I enjoyed, perform domestic duties such as washing clothes, sweeping floors and cooking whatever pleased me. Gender roles were never discussed. There were no restrictions, just unconditional love.
As I became older, there was a natural growing curiosity to expresses myself as more feminine in terms of wearing makeup, women’s clothing and displaying feminine mannerisms. This feeling was inherent yet dormant inside of me.
I am a huge Ariana Grande fan along with Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. I gravitate towards those who spread a positive, open message about a fruitful life. It does not mean that I've eliminated all ideas of masculinity that I had bouncing around my mind, but to mix/match/fuse and unleash my true self.
Subsequently, with careful introspection, it evolved into an honest acceptance being as being listed under the umbrella term, “transgender” - more specifically “gender fluid/non-conforming.” I realized that this was who I am while the circumstances around me helped to expedite my awareness of it.
Not everyone was going to be fully understanding. But I think that anyone with genuine curiosity would ask me about it and become better educated. On the flip side, there are always going to be ignorant people who will look down and shame those who identify as transgender or as part of the LGBTQ community, throwing hurtful invectives like the F word, the P word, etc. However, one has to move on and stay positive. I have heard my share of such vitriol and had people stare at me, thinking I was a disgrace or deserved to be looked down upon. I had to be mentally tough, rely on God, have that “thick skin” and move on.
I sometimes like to ask others rhetorically, “If people find it strange or wrong for a male to dress/behave femininely, why don’t such people feel equally about tomboys or masculine females?” The answer, I know, is that men and women are not perceived equally; with men being “better” than women it is seen as a regressive move for a man to be like a woman but not vice versa. That is another discussion for a different article.
My personal philosophy is to surround myself with individuals and things that make me happy, and be ruthless in eliminating the negatives in my life. I owe a great deal to my friends, Sathya and Bharathy, for their continuous strong encouragement and loving words. I am free to live my life, be a productive member of society and make my family proud through my work, character & overall comportment taught by them and our spiritual guru, Sai Baba.
This is my narrative which is not extraordinary to say the least. It is my belief that many such South Asian males maintain such surreptitious sentiments. What is gained if a male child deals with such feelings by suffocating himself just to please society? Could he be at risk for depressive symptoms or even become suicidal? Maybe. It is imperative that South Asian parents teach their male children at the youngest age possible because in a misguided quest to be "real men", many males may cease being real humans.
On a macro level, imagine how gender functions in the real world: From homosexual men and women, to the transgender community, to masculine women or feminine men and all the majestic shades of gender ambiguity in between, gender is not an absolute quantity so much as it is a spectrum - a rainbow coalition if you will.
In the country’s poetry and ancient mythologies, Indians have conceded the fluidity of gender; it is only in the laws that we stick with the binary system of male and female. A change in India’s thought process where gender is thought of as one of the various hues in a rainbow would offer a more dynamic and hearty nation that would be on the ascent because its children. Here’s hoping for that change - change that is good.