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Hiten Noonwal takes us through his art, activism and tells us how his sexuality translates in his work…

Art and fashion may be two independent entities, but their love affair is no secret and unlike most other same sex relationships – their relationship was surprisingly well-received by the social circuits! Now they (art and fashion) are a happy couple, often spotted walking hand in hand at fashion events and la-di-da gatherings.

Drawing strong inspiration from their love story, artist Hiten Noonwal decided to express his own sexuality through both art and fashion and the result we say is pure artistic bliss. Noonwal’s art reflects his comfort level with his sexuality and translates as a strong tool of art activism.

Read on as Hiten spells it out in his own words…

On gender identities and sexuality –
I identify myself as a gender fluid artist. I’m not defined with one particular gender identity. This is because, ‘Art, as well as the artist has no gender’. That doesn’t mean that the artist is gender-less, instead, it’s about how their narratives are no longer defined by gender. I see gender as the Universe; it’s so vast and wide with so many options that you can’t really contain it to a small scale. Defining this term is unique to each individual who identifies with it. The same goes for which pronouns they prefer to use and how they might choose to present their gender. In many of my artworks I’m a female and many others I’m male.  I’m ‘living in-between genders,’ and I am comfortable with either male or female pronouns.

On taking the road less travelled –
I always knew about my sexuality ever since I collected my senses as a kid. During my school time, I thought I’m like the rest of my classmates. But they, the kids of 2nd grade at school started calling me a ‘girl’ and started making fun of me. That’s when I first realized that people think I have a different identity and that I’m strange to them.

On the loneliness and depression he faced along the way…
In school, I was always left alone. My classmates used to say, ‘You are strange, you are neither a girl nor a boy, we’ll not hang out with you. We'll become strange like you.’ They used to call me names – 50-50, hijra, it was humiliating and depressing. There was no one to support me. Not even my teachers. That was when I started expressing myself through paintings and poems. While I sat alone beneath a tree in the school playground, during the games period and lunch time I would just paint. That’s how I took to art. Later in 12th class, my teachers started appreciating and supporting my art. I started participating in inter - school and other creative competitions. And I'm glad that I could win those. I then went on to study fine art for my bachelors. From there on I started expressing myself through self-photography and performance art. Fashion has found its way in my artworks since I joined NID, M.Design and Apparel design.

“I express my daily life in my artworks. I want the world to be a place where everyone is treated equally despite their sexuality and not be discriminated on the basis of their orientations and gender. Using my own body as a medium and using various techniques of photography, make-up art, costume design, fashion styling and performing arts; I try to raise a voice against inequality and abuse” – Hiten Noonwal.

On art activism and translating his angst into art –

We live in a world of physical identities; if your body and soul are a rare combination you are stamped with slangs like hijra! I am trying to change that with my work. My work speaks about gender equality, gender fluidity, feminism, sexuality, abuse, humiliation, depression and self-acceptance in a sensitive and inclusive way. This probably stems from the fact that my own identity was not accepted. My art helps me cope with the depression and humiliation I face every day. It feeds my soul, it makes me content and brings me to my full potential.

A word of advice for those struggling with their sexuality and gender identities –

Some people are sure of their sexuality and sexual orientation as teens while others are not. For gay teenagers; the journey to self-discovery, to accept their sexuality and to come out is far more difficult, because our society is hardly accepting of them.

I however insist that self-acceptance is key! The moment we accept ourselves and our own happiness; peace embraces us with a big warm hug. We feel proud of ourselves, our self-esteem grows and we don’t feel alone anymore! The world becomes a better place and we love ourselves for what we are. This world is equally yours as it is anyone else’s. There is nothing wrong in being different. God made us all perfect. If society doesn’t give you respect, raise a voice!

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Celebrating the pride of coming out…

What does it mean when someone comes out of the closet?
Ritika SrivastavaTeentalkindia Counsellor

The rainbow wave has brought with it a stream of pride parades/ marches, movies and literature in support of equality for all genders. As the movement breaks out across the globe and more people march in favor of the LGBT community, we also stand to celebrate our brethren of all genders and sexual orientations.  

In the spirit of keeping humanity intact, the Human Rights Campaign of 1988 announced October 11th as National Coming Out Day and as supporters of the initiative we at TeenTalk are celebrating people who have managed to survive the intolerance and come out with much pride.

A 23 year old Liberal Arts Bachelor, Shiv Kabra shares his coming out story –

So how and when did he realize the difference in his sexuality? “I started to realise a difference in my sexuality and that of those around me sometime around 11th grade. I am not sure it dawned on me in a big way, just slowly realised what I suppose had been there all along. I had dated girls up till then, and realised I wanted to date guys too” he says.

The most difficult step that any queer/gay child has ever had to take is to come out to his/her parents. Parental rejection or acceptance plays a great role in how life hereon turns out. On taking the plunge and coming out, Kabra tells us how he broke the news to his parents; “I came out to my father over Skype and framed it as having to do with being in a relationship. He took it alright. My brother had already come out to them, so I rode on the coattails of that. My mum and I spoke the next day and we didn’t really talk about it too much. She was mainly worried about how hard things might be for me in the future. So my parents did their best to be supportive. The first person whom I confided in however was probably a friend.” 

Fear of discrimination and being judged is a huge determinant factor to anyone embracing one’s sexuality, publically and socially. Ask Kabra if he has ever faced discrimination, been judged or treated differently for his sexual orientation?  “Yes. But I think that also has to do with my gender presentation which is non-conforming” he quips confidently. One common denominator in most (not all) gay and queer people is history of sexual violence or assault. Did Shiv face anything such? We ask. “I wouldn't call it sexual assault. But a complicated relationship” he keeps it short.

That said, one of the most crucial and difficult aspects of coming out is to deal with discrimination, overcoming it and survive with or without acceptance. We ask Shiv how he managed it and the answer is as simple as it is meaningful; “Plunge into academia, activism, and support from friends” he states. True that, there is no better survival tactic than to educate, empower oneself and stand for what one believes is right. 

And finally, is there any word of advice that he has for the LGBT community and the gay/ queer teenagers who are intimidated by the sheer thought of coming out? He gives his two cents and keeps it precise, “There might never be a point where you ‘realize’ your sexuality. I’m still trying to figure mine out. It’s important to explore and give yourself space, and be mindful of consent.”

Well, we say that is good advice. Whether to come out or not is a personal choice but the freedom to be able to embrace who one is, that’s everyone’s basic right and we must be able to claim it!   

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