'I believe in the idea of troubling gender'

DU PhD student reflects on difficulties of being a genderqueer on campus

Vikramaditya Sahay, a PhD student of Delhi University, comes from an urban household of strong minded and independent women. He is deeply political, articulate and straightforward, not only because he is a genderqueer. 

He says he has disturbed the idea of gender in a “patriarchal and policed campus” of Delhi University for eight long years. The campus is not very accepting, Sahay adds.He loves being called Robby. “That is my pet name, as the Punjabi says.”

Sahay says he doesn’t like being viewed as a gay subject; queer makes more sense to him because it “deconstructs the idea of gender”.

His interests at college went back and forth – from debating and dancing, girlfriends to boys. By the end of his undergraduate course Sahay became the president of his department association, which he says involved in “one-to-one interaction” with teachers.

“I had a terrible time arguing with teachers. It was not a happy situation,” Sahay says. “It has nothing to do with my sexuality, or perhaps it has.”

He has a passion for dance and feminist theory. He couldn’t pursue dance because people questioned his femininity in college. But his inclination for feminist theory led him to feminist politics on the campus. 

Sahay is one of 10 members of the Queer Campus, a group of queer students in Delhi University. They meet every Saturday under some trees in the Department of  Economics. They discuss queer politics, movies, theatres and not all share a similar taste. 

“We also discuss why one hates Twilight,” he says. “Some five of us meet every day and five others join on and off.”

The group started in the 90s was dormant for a long while until Sahay and former Delhi University professor Ashley Tellis, a former professor at Delhi University, revived it. “Knowing other queer students helps,” he says.

The Queer Campus has a reading group where they read and discuss feminism and sexuality; they hold regular seminars and invite feminist thinkers and they also plan to bring out an FAQ booklet for understanding the body, sexuality and to raise awareness about sexual harassment in hostels.

Sahay and some others in the group oppose the idea of marriage and family, which he thinks are “violent institutions”. 

He says the idea of masculinity and femininity are tutored by society and he believes in performing gender in “incoherent ways”.  

“I hate the argument of a woman in a man’s body. I play around gender to make certain incoherence about it that leads to certain speculation and confusion, a certain question,” he says about his “anti-gender” idea. 

He usually wears a dupatta, kurta and churidar. “The idea is not to look masculine or feminine, so I don’t wax my arms. Being a feminine boy, this is how I have expressed myself,” he says.

He says he tried various looks in college and was once influenced by punk culture. It was only a few years ago that he settled with kurtas and dupattas. 

Sahay claims he doesn’t believe in identity politics and hence doesn’t prefer categorisation into LGBTQ. 

“I believe in the idea of troubling gender,” he adds. He says Article 377 will attract more policing on his group’s activities.

“Not all sex is procreative,” he says while trying to explain natural and unnatural sex. “Most of it is for pleasure.”

He links the idea of procreation to the institution of marriage, which he defies. However, he is not opposed to same sex marriage. 

“The rights should be equal for everybody, even outside the institution of marriage, for instance live-in partners,” he says.

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