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NEHA RAJAPPA

I went to school in a very small town in Wisconsin where I was surrounded by predominantly white people. I struggled to embrace the Indian part of my identity, as well as another key part: my bisexuality. The university environment started to give me more opportunities to express myself, and I began to feel confident in doing so. However, this doesn’t take away from the fact that the stigma of conversations about inclusivity and sexuality still don’t happen nearly as much as they should within the Indian community. A lot of aspects within this community still make me feel uncomfortable sharing my experiences and identity. 

 

In general, sexuality is a very complex subject. Although things have progressed, we still need to do a lot of work dismantling ingrained stereotypes. I’m often met with offensive questions which I find very disrespectful when I come out to members of the Desi community. Men, especially, tend to make me feel uncomfortable by oversexualizing me and making assumptions about my boundaries, which makes me feel like I could never share the most vulnerable parts of me within this community. I was forced to look at the world from a different light at way too young of an age, and as a result, I am able to see that many women struggle to recognize misogyny or sexism targeted at them. There are so many aspects of Indian culture, stemming from something as simple as movies, that encourage negative behavior against women, let alone women of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

 

I want to be someone who can help people in this community develop the courage to embrace every part of themselves because I know how hard it can be. I’m not “whitewashed”. I am also not someone who will hide their sexuality out of fear of oppression or offensive language. It took me a while to understand that people who truly care for me in this community will respect me and work to recognize and dismantle these stigmas. My message for other questioning people is: understand that it's okay to feel like you don’t know who you are. Everyone has to go through a period of time where they don't know who they are before they can actually embrace who they want to be.