Real Life Story
Falling in Love With a Gender Non-Conforming Person
Their love story is one for the ages – rooted in honesty, self-acceptance and personal growth.
Rituparna Borah fondly recalls meeting Amrita Tripathi at a common friend’s party in a barsati (small terrace room) on one hot summer night of 2016 in Delhi. More than anything, she remembers Tripathi’s smile.
“At a party, I’m always the one who will sit in a corner with a drink,” Borah said. “Amrita just walked up to me and struck up a conversation.”
Tripathi was pleasantly surprised when they found out what Borah did for a living – queer feminist activism. “They told me how they’d never heard these three words used in a single phrase. From then on, we talked about everything from gender roles to caste privilege,” Borah said.
Being gender-nonconforming, Borah’s occupation was a source of comfort for Tripathi. “Besides the body image issues, I’d always second guess my own gender and wonder what sex or gender category I fell in. I think of myself as a lesbian but have heard from people that I can't be one if I'm also gender non-conforming – so that was really confusing at the beginning. But being with a queer feminist activist helps and I realised how the right to self-determination is the most important,” Tripathi said.
The fondness for Tripathi was there right from their first meeting at that barsati. There was something about the way they carried themselves, the way they could hold a conversation effortlessly, that appealed to Borah.
“Even to this day, five years since the first time we met, we never run out of topics to talk about,” she said.
For Borah, who belongs to the indigenous Koch community from Assam, India, it has always been important that her partner understand the intersection between caste privilege and identity. “Simply being queer is not enough. You can be very casteist while still being queer. With Amrita, despite the fact that they are from an upper caste, they have always acknowledged their caste privilege.”
However, it has always been a two-way street for the couple and in the best possible ways. Borah, a cisgender woman, said that she comes with her own set of privileges that are not available to Tripathi, who is gender non-conforming. “We are both marginalised in our own ways and this is precisely what enables us to understand and empathise with each other better.”
This mutual understanding only deepened when they decided to live together. In March 2020, two weeks before the pandemic hit, Borah’s month-long trip to the United States was cancelled. “They proposed we move in together,” she said. “The pandemic became bearable because we were always there for each other. We would talk to each other for hours, cook together, and share our fears.”
Even though Indian law does not yet recognise same-sex marriage – despite decriminalising homosexuality recently – Tripathi proposed marriage to Borah in August that year.
“I was taken aback,” Borah recalled. “I was also pleasantly surprised because it seemed like the most natural progression to our relationship.”
Borah said she has always been anti-marriage for various reasons. But with Tripathi, with the comfort level and understanding they shared, it only made sense to tie the knot. “We then proceeded to open a joint bank account as a couple. The bank authorities were very accepting of our relationship.”
If there is anything that Borah is grateful for about her relationship with Tripathi, it’s how they have both eased into each other.
Tripathi agreed. They said that with Borah, they were reserved at the start of their relationship but soon realised that there was “no pressure” to be anything or anyone. “She talked about my self-doubts with me and never expressed anything but complete happiness about being with me,” Tripathi said.
“The first time we got intimate, I could sense that they were not comfortable with their body,” added Borah. “They would hardly look in the mirror before going out and even ask me later if I wanted them to shave their body hair.”
Borah made it clear that she loved Tripathi, regardless of their body hair. For Tripathi, this was surprisingly refreshing. “Up until then, nearly everyone Amrita had been with had told them to wax. Now, they are comfortable walking with me on the streets even with their short pants on. And they certainly take even more time than me getting ready in front of the mirror,” Borah laughed.
Tripathi says that it took time, but they eventually opened up and now feel comfortable and confident being with Borah. “I was finally able to say 'to hell with shaved legs.' I still have doubts about these things but then I know I'll have her by my side and she'll love me and my body and whatever I choose to wear,” Tripathi said.
Borah said she is humbled to know that she could be Tripathi’s safe space. “Our relationship is based on honesty. For me, it’s a privilege to simply love them.”
Source: Arman Khan, VICE.
Did you like this story?