Monday was the first day of my week alone. I didn’t have any particular plans for my project, so I ate samosas and went for a run, sprinting past the elderly women in their saris and sneakers. On Tuesday, my advisor told me to meet her at a university where something, (I didn’t know what), was happening. It turned out to be a workshop facilitated by a Christian organization, centered on the connections between the LGBT community and the Christian Church. A member of the Church talked about what his organization had done and is doing to assist and include the LGBT community, and my advisor gave her brave and charismatic testimony. We also heard from the director of an HIV/AIDS organization from Chennai, who gave a short lecture about the complexities of alternate sexualities and genders.
Next was a panel called “Voices of the LGBT Community,” where panelists talked about their experiences as sexual minorities and how this may relate to religion. Plenty of funny and poignant stories were told. It all went well, despite the moment when an audience member asked a question that seemed to be comparing sexual minorities to rapists. The workshop was to go on all day, and continue the next day, but we only stayed for the morning session. Afterwards was lunch, and then I had a lovely interview with a journalism student. That evening I wanted to cook something on the new “stove” we got in our apartment. However, when I got to the store, I realized how expensive ingredients such as olive oil and cheese are, so I gave up for the evening and ordered out.
On Wednesday, my advisor had more plans for me. First, we went to meet the District General of Police. My advisor talked to him about the issues that trans people face in regards to law enforcement, and he had plenty of ideas for how to improve the situation. He wanted my advisor to go speak to police officers in order to sensitize them to the issues that trans people face. It was pretty astounding how understanding he seemed to be, and I was bewildered that I got to attend the meeting.
Next we went to another university where my advisor was to talk about her experiences working on gender issues in the U.S. First, she had to attend another meeting so I was left at the campus. I hung out with some of the staff, who subsequently asked me if I would speak on the panel for a few minutes about my perspectives coming from the United States. (I was unable to decline). So that is how I inexplicably ended up on a panel about gender where all of conversation happened in a language that I do not understand. Being that I had not much idea of what the other panelists had said, I spoke as briefly as possible. On the plus side, I did get a bouquet of flowers out of it.
That evening I decided to try again to cook myself dinner, so I went the nearby mall to buy ingredients. In what felt like an episode of the Twilight Zone, when I walked into the mall the power was out, and only a few dim lights remained. Hilariously, everyone kept on shopping, looking at clothes with their phone flashlights and walking up and down the darkened and unmoving escalators. Just a few minutes later, the power came back on and everyone went on with their lives. I successfully purchased the necessary ingredients, and was finally able to cook myself a meal. (Though not without the power going out again just as I began).
On Thursday I spent the day checking e-mails and making sure everything back at school was in order. That evening, I attended a support group for LGBT people in Bangalore. It was fun, interesting, and rewarding. Unsurprisingly, by halfway through the meeting there were at least 20 people there, and only two of them (including myself) were women. (As it turns out, the other woman was also doing research). Nonetheless, it was fun to get to know what people were interested in talking about that week. I didn’t get home until about 10 o’clock, at which time I hungrily consumed some delicious tandoori chicken.
On Friday I had an interview with an employee at an organization called the Alternative Law Forum. I got there before he had arrived at the office, and was greeted by the sight of cats on tables and warm chai. I spent time getting to know the cats while I waited. The interview itself was wonderful, and we were only interrupted once by an assertive cat who wanted to join the conversation. Unfortunately, over the weekend I was hit with a cold so I didn’t get out much. Luckily, I am now on the upswing thanks to a combination of drinking copious amounts of liquids and watching Beyoncé’s life-changing HBO special.
Until next time,
A world-renowned panelist