I studied in a foreign country when I was five. I remember being cornered in the bathroom, the mean girls laughing at me because my tan didn’t come off. I fought back tears, standing proud and telling them that that is simply how my skin is, and they should learn to deal with it, before walking out with the last of my little dignity. That end of semester PTA had my teacher telling my parents that I was being a bully.
When I came back to my motherland, I dearly hoped that I would fit in. To my dismay, relatives engulfed me at family events, scrutinizing me for how thin I was, for how short I was, and then for how tall I was, and some more for how thin I was.
Puberty hit, and I was one of the girls whose body didn’t change much, but I assure you, the way people looked at me did. I was told to sit properly and dress appropriately, to stop playing cricket with my brothers and go help my mother in the kitchen instead, to talk softly and to “eat something honey, you’re growing up now.”
At sixteen, I came to terms with the fact that I was queer. The internet was my friend, and it told me that it was okay. It assured me that I was loved and accepted and that it didn’t matter who I loved as long as I wasn’t an asshole. The coin always has two sides, though.
So this? This is me flipping the finger at society. This is me telling all the dark skinned, beautiful men and women that we are made of ash and stardust and no fire can burn the fire within us. This is me telling all the girls and boys who look in the mirror and see imperfections, that the bump on your nose or the size of your waist or belly or the birthmark that just so happens to be a big black blotch on your arm is a part of who you are, and you are beautiful in any size shape or form. This is me telling the women out there that the breasts you grow and the blood that flows makes you a stronger woman than anyone who tries to bring you down despite the incredible things your body is capable of. This is me telling all the scared, anxious humans that if you are still in the closet or if you are out, it does not matter what pronoun(s) you go by or what gender you are attracted to, that you are deserving of love and life and all the happiness in the world, and that if hell exists, it is the people that are bringing it up to curse you that will be going there first.
The world is a cruel place where happiness is scant, but you have to scrape up any that you see because you can, because you deserve it.
I have learnt not to let the racism, the body shaming, the misogyny, the homophobia, or anything else that the world throws at me, telling me that I am wrong, change who I am. I am a brown skinned, queer, opinionated, outspoken woman who is unapologetic of what I was born as, and you shouldn’t be either.