Coming to Terms with my Otherness

No, I am not here to express grudges. I am here to reclaim myself. I am here to assert. To share a eureka moment I had last night, one after having sleep deprivation for five consecutive days. And I can’t do that unless I wipe clean that shit that has smeared me, my existence. That shit named you. Yes, you the hegemon. You, the oppressor.

But who is the oppressor? Am I not one? Sure I am, in many ways, as others are – in many ways. Many are oppressed as well, as I am, in other ways. But then we are all individuals-in-flux. There is no coherent “I” in me. There are many I’s in me. Bring the mirror closer. You will find the same in you.

The “I” that speaks now is the voice of an oppressed. The oppressed “I”’s within me. Each one has a name. They must have. I will like to know them closely. Do you know yours?

The oppressed don’t just scream in pain. They shout. They revolt. They fight back.

But fight against what? To borrow from Fanon, anything that opposes the recognition of the right to coexist with dignity, opposes my existence. My very existence then becomes a negation, an antithesis. Of that oppressor. My opposition then becomes a denial of the relation of dependence. The I in me who rebels.

But what is being opposed? The I who speaks here today does not have his difference respected. His difference, in this case, means he is not “normal”. So they say. So they act.

What is this difference? I don’t do things that normal people will do. When they turn on fans or coolers, I feel cold. When they enjoy cold, I shiver, I cough. Even if I happen to be in a different room, in a different place altogether, thereby not causing any inconvenience to others, dealing with my health, my discomfort, I get laughed at. This may seem trivial to those who have not had to experience such humiliation everyday of their lives. I don’t need to explain it to them. I don’t care – neither do I want their support, much less their sympathy.

This is oppression. I don’t need the patronizing “get medical help”. I know that. Thank you.

But just to reiterate, this is not just a rant or an angry outburst. Yes, anger is there. But there is much greater happiness. Happiness in finally embracing the abnormal.

To all those who sneer at the abnormal, FUCK OFF. I AM ABNORMAL. Those who have known me and can be honest might recall I have, for a while, expressed strong disapproval of this word that expresses prejudice. A lot of us do that. That’s good. But not good enough. I, the I that is oppressed in this way, feels it’s not. So I embrace the abnormal. Abnormal is good. Not that “normal” is bad. But abnormal is no longer the bad. It is my identity, well part of it anyway. But an integral part.

By this I don’t claim to become a representative of people who have identified themselves as differently is abled, disabled and so on. I am glad to take up those terms, but I don’t know if I am allowed, if I should, if I can. That is a complex process, requiring me, in fact the I in me who’s speaking now, to interact with those people who may or may not empathize with what I say here. That can wait. I need to be myself to myself.

Now a related point. Regarding my gender. This is more problematic than the first. Here, I am not just oppressed. I am, as a carrier of certain historical privileges, a straight male, and most certainly, Brahmin. This surely puts me in an oppressor location. But I really question, what does it mean to be a male? How male am I? How similar am I to other males? To “THE” male? Isn’t there always a question of “the real” man? There is of course the discomfort of conforming to fixed standards – I believe in fluidity of gender. But gender activists living perfectly conformist lives mouth such high sounding rhetoric day in and day out. Fuck all that.

How male am I, I ask myself again. I don’t need the answer from the others. From potential to existing partners, to revolutionary leaders to family to teachers and every alternate person in the universe I found myself in – I have sought answers from all, for a very long time. I have got many answers – some have reassured that I am no less than a Bahubali, some have said I need a doctor or a shrink to get my malehood on track. I have sought recognition of my malehood. Because it was good to be man. It was a bad thing for me not to be man. Even though, all this while, I have talked the talk about gender activism, I have let this I in me, who cannot fully conform, be silent.

This has been about opportunism. And it still might be. As I said a while back, the gender question in my case is complicated. In the case of being heckled for my physical difference, there isn’t the slightest doubt that I have been wronged. But here, I have tried to put up the “male face”, I have performed a certain malehood in the everyday interactions. This is partly for structural oppression, but I am just too un-Marxist now to pin it on structure. I chose to do it for I felt good. I was being opportunist.

So why all this talk now? It is first of all, an extension of the previous point. I am abnormal. But not just because I wear the muffler when many others enjoy the air conditioner. But also because, as an extension, I am not really the normal boy. Yes, let me put that in FB-bold: I AM NOT A NORMAL BOY. I know, asked if they are normal boys, many in the radical camp will surely KNOW the right answer. “What does it mean to be normal” or “Define normal” Indeed, what does it mean? But it would be a lie to pretend we don’t know at all. Those of us who like to be seen as normal boys.

I still don’t know if I have been able to give up that desire of being seen as a normal boy. But that doesn’t stop me from recognizing the fact that despite these attempts to “pass” as normal, I have failed. Often. And far from serving humanity or injecting revolutionary consciousness or such stuff that our radical comrades are so good at proclaiming, I am merely doing myself a service. By embracing the fact that I am not a normal boy. I am NOT A NORMAL BOY or MAN or any variant implying the same.

Of course there is ambivalence when I say that I am not a normal boy. But it is a contingent remark or rather self-reflection, based on selective set of experiences. With regard to some specific frames of reference. I am not normal man because I am not as strong as most boys. I am talking about the perception that goes behind such dual characterization – of me and of “most boys”. I have no idea about, and indeed little interest in, what the real facts are, about real or normal boys/men. So I am not strong enough, I am not independent enough, I am too sentimental, I can break down or cry easily, I am not intelligent enough (in the sense “real” or “normal” men or boys should be). From my childhood, I remember having had many such interactions where I was bullied, in multiple ways. I don’t remember how I felt every single time. But I do have a collective memory of those experiences. And it fits well with what I am saying now.

So once again, yes, this is a political act. But tell me why isn’t pissing or farting. On the other hand, it is significant. For me at least. I don’t care much who is reading this. And how they are going to react. I would actually like to imagine some radicals whom or whose leaders I had lambasted for their undemocratic ways, reacting to this with “I knew something was wrong with this guy”. But honestly, really, I should be diss-ing such pettiness.

This matters to me because this is a step (towards what? I don’t know) beyond what is now, what I am now. Writing on FB was a form of ‘outing’ for me, a necessary precondition for what is about to come. This surely means a certain reconfiguration of social relations and interactions. Some of these changes I want, some I don’t. There are risks. But, to borrow from Fanon (and Hegel), my existence-in-itself-for-itself has no meaning unless I struggle. And herein lies my struggle. No longer by “dealing with my abnormality”. But by embracing it. And by dealing with demands of “normalcy”, both from within me and from without.

I do not claim to speak for anyone but myself. The I’s in me which are oppressed or which oppress.

I am strongly indebted to Dalit-Bahujan, feminist and Black liberation writings for some understanding of the power of inversion.

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