A Room of One's Own

by Manya Sinha

"Gender reality is performative which means, quite simply, that it is real only to the extent that it is performed" In 1990, Judith Butler, a renowned American philosopher and gender theorist introduced the term Gender Performativity, establishing that gender is merely a construct, a performance we deliver in our daily lives. But with the lockdown that was brought with the pandemic of 2020, gender became confined within our four walls. It was now a performance for ourselves. From conversations, confusions to a feeling of liberation that was met with obstructions, the less we were seen the more our gender became visible to us. Here are a few of these stories-

Siddhant-
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"I came out as a gender non-binary person around one year ago and it has helped me be at ease with myself. While I started accepting myself in my college itself, I lived in a boys' hostel and I had to take a lot of measures to ensure that I do not fit in because fitting in meant I was one of them. This experience of living in the boys hostel consisted of feelings that things might turn violent at any given moment, it might not be physical violence, it might not be against me - but it was violence. Ever so often I would look for small feminine symbols I could wear on my body as a way to let them know that I was' not one of them. Very recently I have started wearing a bindi and nail paints as a way of staying in touch with my feminine side. And that helps me a lot. It also reminds me about the gender confusion I have been through and it serves as a reminder to me so that I know it is alright to make mistakes and not be perfect. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to explore much of my identity in public spaces due to the pandemic and lockdown. But I am hoping it would change soon. I am very excited to show the world my pretty face with bindi and piercing soon enough."

Shinjini-
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"I started to question my gender a year and a half ago, but didn't have the opportunity to try out anything but I knew something felt wrong. When the lockdown began and I had to stay in, I really got to try the type of loose clothing I like and that was the first step. I also like how I don't have to wear gendered clothes anymore and go to gendered places and I can freely wear whatever I wish to inside my room. I also had some time to look up what it means to be non binary and reflect on different pronouns and what made me feel good. Other than that, make up has been reaffirming as well because I've grown to also accept my feminine facial features and also find ways I could now look to modify them and look more androgynous. Although, I feel far from it, I still feel it has helped a lot. Also, I'm Bengali and since Bangla as a language isn't very gendered, it has given me a safe space to explore gender and its connotations without any suffocating restrictions."

Rhythm-
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I came to terms with my gender identity a few months back and began using they/them pronouns which made me feel extremely euphoric and it still does when someone uses the correct pronouns. This is the first kurta I've ever bought from the men's section and I've been ecstatic about wearing it, To me, being non-binary also meant learning to accept my feminine side. I always thought that to be non-binary means to look androgynous but a few months back, a friend of mine who is also femme- presenting came out as enby and started using they/them pronouns-which was also where my questioning began. And along with it came the realisation that I can 'look' feminine and still be non-binary. My identity also made me comfortable with myself and things about my body that I wasn't 'supposed' to be comfortable with- like body hair. I haven't gotten my upper lip done in months, and it feels great!

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Vahishtai-
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I realised I was just playing something that was assigned to me even though I felt fucking stifled by it. I felt STIFLED with “womanhood”. Cis-womanhood. Irealised nobody fucking askedme and if I was asked, or given a more open choice, I’d probably... feel differently. The most physical or material it got during this time was me giving myself an undercut so that when I pulled my hair back I’d look “male” in the front. I have sideburn-tendrils of hair on the sides of my face now and I fucking love it. But I’m simultaneously growing out my hair longer than I’ve ever grown it out before. I’ve always sort of loved dressing super masc one day and super femme another. I’ve always loved not giving a fuck about either. Which is honestly to say that... there was just a lot of inward work. LOTS of work. Lots of conversations too. Uncomfortable ones at that. Everything changed but nothing changed, in a way. Outwardly, anyway.

I feel more empowered. I feel it in my bones and in my body. I feel free. I think self determination is just such a powerful thing and that’s the reason it is kept from us...

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SCM SOPHIA