Deeply embedded homophobia and transphobia in Indian society always play a big role in the hindrance of LGBTQIA+ individuals to grow in society. People are still being denied the basic rights that they deserve. Those who do not fit in with society’s conventional ideas of men and women are often subjected to ridicule, intimidation, and even physical abuse. The bare minimum which everyone can do is to give respect to every kind of human. But they are just selective in that process.
Meet Ashim Das, who identifies as gay. They are in their 3rd year in NIFT, Chennai in the knitwear department. Ashim belongs to a small city in Assam called Lumding. They have faced a lot of discrimination and bigotry because of what they identify themselves as. They started their modeling journey in the most unexpected manner. Till their school days, they were never comfortable in front of the camera. They were always shy and reserved. It was after they came to NIFT, Chennai, things changed for them.
After going to college, there was this one senior who was doing a shoot for her garments. And she wanted me to pose for her. Somehow I agreed to her and posed for her. Strangely those pictures came out really good. So, then I thought that maybe I am good at this and can do more of these.
They are trying to get some agency for their modeling but have not gotten a good opportunity yet. Hence, they are mostly doing freelancing right now. Their parents are very oblivious to what they do as of now. They are also not aware of their sexuality. As Ashim is not very comfortable sharing about their work or sexuality with their parents as of now.
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Ashim has faced discrimination a lot of time for what their identity and orientation is. As they are very visibly queer, they are always looked down upon whenever walking by the street. There is always an uncomfortable stare which annoys them a lot.
I was once coming back from Chennai to Assam. So at the TSA, I went to the men’s section. The moment I went through that body scanner machine, there was this guy who stepped back and stared at me from up and down. Then he asked me my name and when I said it is Ashim. He looked more confused. He kept on staring at me and then asked that do I belong here. It was weird and awkward for me, it made me very uncomfortable.
Discrimination according to them is something that they expect to get but do not get it. There are certain rights that they deserve but are not available to them. Even the basic freedom they have been denied by society at times. So discrimination arises when you are not treated the way you are supposed to be. Ashim is concerned that discrimination is literally everywhere wherever you go. People from the LGBTQIA+ community are always seen differently, some do not even consider them normal. This behavior in people just infuriated Ashim.
I find it easy for me to survive in big cities like Chennai than in Lumding. My place is very conservative in comparison to Chennai. In Chennai mostly people do not care what you do rather they are very supportive. But in Lumding due to a lack of awareness and education, they would not accept me the way I am. Although Chennai is pretty chill place but it also depends on the area you are in. There are certain places in Chennai as well where we face discrimination and prejudice.
Ashim has never faced constructive criticism as of now in regards to modeling but sometimes people just come to pull them down through social media comments. So, mostly they just ignore them or block them.
In the dating field, Ashim had faced some rejection. As people do not really accept the way they are. It’s hard for someone like them to find a partner who is a very queer presenting person. They have also tried their chance on dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, etc. but they failed to be helpful as well. Although they could find some good friends from those apps but never had a partner to date.
It boils my blood when I see basic rights being denied to people of my community just because they do not identify themselves as something that society expects them to. That is so sad and disheartening when I see gay couples being beaten up or mistreated at a public place just because they are together. It just completely breaks my heart. The laws in India should improve surely. But before that people need proper education and should learn to normalize homosexuality.
Ashim used to be shy earlier but now when they are in front of the camera they just completely forget about anything around. That is the reason they have never experienced stress or pressure during a shoot as they enjoy doing it. But the toughest part of being a fashion model according to Ashim is trying to stay relevant in this wildly competitive industry. In the future Ashim would like to work under labels and also want to settle abroad at some point. Two reasons they want to go abroad are for exposure and acceptance.
My favorite quote is by RuPaul Andre Charles who is an American drag queen. It goes like “we’re all born naked and rest is drag”. which basically means that you are allowed to be whoever you want to be and feel good in your own skin. That quote specifically motivates me a lot.
Modeling has made Ashim accept themselves. As they used to be a very insecure person, so modeling helped in loving who they are. It made them more dynamic and confident. Modeling will always have a great impact on their life as it just changed their perception as well as personality completely. Through modeling, they get to celebrate themselves and show their authentic self to the world. According to Ashim modeling is the best thing that happened to him.