‘It felt like the word lesbian was bad’

Express News Service | Published: 10th September 2018 10:25 PM
Photo: Debadatta Mallick

CHENNAI : Thirty-one-year-old Archana Vijayan knew she was different when she was 13 years old. At 21, she found that she was a lesbian and was trying to grapple with accepting her sexual orientation. In her first year of college, while flipping through the pages of a Tamil magazine, she learned the term lesbian. “It was an article that spoke about how this woman had made another woman a lesbian. It made me feel like the word lesbian was a bad one and I was extremely guilty because I was involved with a woman at that time,” she says. 

Archana spent extensive hours on the Internet connecting with people on chat rooms, online and support groups trying to understand more about what she was going through and how to cope. “College was the hardest period for me. I was studying in Coimbatore and I would get the most obnoxious text messages from people because the word spreads quickly. People would make vile statements like ‘You are a sinner’ and others would send messages full of unspeakable expletives. It scared me because I was concerned that this would escalate to physical violence. But, but thankfully nothing like that happened,” she recalls.

Archana came out to her family and friends in 2013. Ironically, it also happened to be the year the Supreme Court passed the judgment criminalising Section 377. “I was finally ready to accept that I was lesbian. I told my family, and it was not easy because my mother did not take it very well. Also, father had known this for five years and did not say anything.

Unfortunately, a year and a half later, Archana lost her father. 
“He was my silent supporter,” she says ruefully. “Things got harder at home because my mother was in denial. It took her five years to accept me the way I am.” But, things changed when Archana’s mother was made to watch an episode of a show that focussed on homosexuality. 

“Though she never said anything, she began reading about homosexuality and came in terms with it. She knows my girlfriend now and also walked the pride march in Chennai this year and enjoyed herself!” 
When asked about how the 377 verdict would change her life, Archana said it will help a lot of people who are struggling to come out. “The next step is to legalise same-sex marriages,” she says. “I would definitely like to get married. I want it to be a traditional mix of family and friends.” 

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