Mx Ria Sharma Talks Her Journey Of Liberation And Self-Love As A Gender-Fluid Person
- IWB Post
- November 23, 2021
In a world that has enough ways to categorise and compartmentalise, being gender fluid is not easy. Mx Ria Sharma understands this and perhaps which is why their mission is to educate and spread the word. “I want to reach a point where I am able to reach out to literally everyone and tell them my story.” A story that is worth telling because of its honesty, sincerity, and normalcy.
Mx Ria was assigned a female at birth but came out to her parents in 2016. An advocate of gender fluidity and the LGBTQ community, Mx Ria understands the place of privilege that they come from. Their parents were extremely supportive of their child saying that it didn’t matter whether they were gay or lesbian, but what mattered was that they were good human beings.
Just in case, you have been wondering about the use of pronouns here, it’s a good time to clarify. Mx. Ria encourages the use of neutral pronouns. As Ria points out, “It becomes difficult to live your entire life with a wrong pronoun or gender that society has assigned to you. I lived around 10 years of my life along with the pronoun she or her, though there are times when I may or may not feel like a woman. But when I found out that I could use pronouns they or them and prefix Mx I felt a sense of liberation because this is what I am and this is where I fit. It is important to stand in solidarity and respect a person’s identity.”
Mx Ria, though young, speaks with wisdom and self-assuredness that is beyond age. Did it come easy? Of course, not! Ria had their share of doubts, insecurities and it took hard work to reach a place of acceptance, love, and respect for their body and self. “Being queer is not easy. You are dysphoric with your body and you are trying to understand yourself. We are constantly struggling, even if we come out, the struggle doesn’t end.” Ria’s journey was traversed with support from family, friends, the LGBTQ community, therapy, spirituality, and speaking to more and more people. Their destination today is self-realisation and self-love. Here they stand understanding that being gender fluid or lesbian is an ‘important part of me, but it doesn’t define me as a person.’ There is more to their personality, skills, ambitions, and opinions. And boxing them or viewing them from a single lens keeps society away from discovering their holistic vibrant beings.
From accepting a female’s body and finding peace with menstruation to being open about their romantic relationship and societal judgments with their ex-partner Sanjana, Ria doesn’t come across as a rebel. She is calm and composed trying to find ways to ‘normalise’ the ‘queer’. There is no bitterness, no complaints. Only hope, empathy, and openness to giving every living being a chance to be the best of themselves.
Ria is an educator, speaker and with her interactions with youngsters, they hope that the future at least, is of a society that is empathic and respectful. In conversation with Ria, as they talk about gender fluidity, acceptance by self and society, and why spreading awareness is so important.
What would you like to say to parents and family who are skeptical or shameful for accepting their children or friends the way they are?
Ria: We know that being queer or transgender or being gender fluid is not wrong at all. And so, be just that helping hand or a listening ear. At a point in time when you are doubting yourself or nobody is trusting you, support is very important. And parents or friends can be just that. If as family and friends you can be a flame of the candle in the entire darkness, it will help younger queer children a lot.
What have you learned about your body while finding your true identity and how it helps you overcome the moments of self-doubt?
Ria: It’s funny but it was much easier for me to accept that I am a lesbian woman than accept the fact that I was born in the wrong body and I was gender fluid. I knew I was different but it was difficult and my expression was very boyish from the very start. What helped me was that my parents were gender-neutral parents. So they didn’t realize and it was not intentional, but things, like they didn’t stop me from choosing stereotypically boyish toys or clothes, helped. However, dysphoria for my gender was difficult and the hallmark was when I started menstruating. I would literally talk to myself and say that Ria, you are menstruating and now you have to accept that you are a woman. But in my heart, I didn’t want to accept it because it felt like I was trying to fit myself into something which I was not. In 2016, I started working with activists and I realized that there is something like being gender-fluid. When I came to know about that, it gave me a sense of liberation. I also say I am queer, but today, those tags and labels don’t matter to me a lot because I am much above them. But at that point in time when one is doubting themselves, it becomes very important for a person to know those labels and to have the freedom to choose for themselves. As I met trans and gender-fluid people I realized how normal it was and that was also the turning point in my career when I knew I wanted to be an educator and spread the message that sex is very different from gender.
Tell us about the mental battle you face when you feel dysphoric or disconnected from your body. How do you heal?
Ria: I constantly doubted my body and myself. There was also a time when I was abused online. But eventually, when I look back at my story and what I am today after struggling, I think it’s very important to talk to your body. My dysphoria is still related to how I look and present myself to the world but I have accepted that I am in the body that was assigned female at birth. I am ok with it and I embrace it every day. I also started following a lot of spirituality and working with my body and that was when I realized that your body is just a gift to attain your higher purpose. So that kind of acceptance and respect that I started having for my body recently has really helped me to cope up with my dysphoria. Even if I was assigned female at birth and a feminine body, I still can be myself. That self-acceptance is important, though it is not easy for others or everyone. There are shades of dysphoria and some people like transgender can’t fit into their bodies. And that it is absolutely ok to align a body with your soul.
What emotional conflicts did you have to battle with patriarchy in your new identity?
Ria: My story is a bit different because I found the men in my life were amazing but the women just gave in to the patriarchy. I looked up to them but through that, I knew I didn’t want that in my life. Even when I came out as a lesbian, I knew within the community my voice wouldn’t be heard because I was lesbian. I was the woman of the community! Gay men still had a voice because they are men at the end of the day. In fact, there are very few lesbian women who have got the stage or the mike to tell their story. And I have experienced it too when I travel every day I am constantly looked at from a very different point of view. I am constantly judged, women themselves don’t want to interact with me because I look like a boy. But if I don’t travel in the women’s compartment I won’t feel safe. I am born female and if I want to feel safe I have to be in a women’s compartment. But again there too, society doesn’t accept. So it’s just this cycle that we need to break.
How did you smash the patriarchy in your relationship with your partner?
Ria: We separated sometime back, but we have always stood up for who we are. When I was with Sanjana, my ex-partner, people had the insensitivity to come up and ask if I was a boy, because people couldn’t see two girls getting romantic. Constantly, there was a sense, that two men can still manage because they are responsible strong men but two vulnerable women cannot work out. We both knew this was going to happen, and when we discussed ideas on marriage, we knew that people wouldn’t be able to see two women living together. We would have had to say that we are sisters or friends or something. So basically, we have to make so many plans around our life to just exist. But we dealt with it and though it was a difficult stage to stand out in society as two women in love, I think it was important.
Why do you think there are fewer lesbians who come out in the open when compared to gay men? Patriarchy is, of course, responsible for this and how can it be changed, in your opinion?
Ria: First of all, it is important to create a safe environment for women, in general. Even when lesbian women want to come out, they don’t. If I count my lesbian friends, I have a handful of them when compared to gay friends. It can’t be that there are fewer lesbians or bisexual women, but they are not coming out because we don’t have a safe environment for women. There are stories, on ground level, of what is called corrective rape. In rural areas, in Gujarat and Rajasthan, lesbian women are made to have sex with their male relatives, and it’s nonconsensual so that they get the experience of being intimate with a man. The truth is we don’t have a safe space for women themselves, so lesbian women would have an added level of difficulty. In fact, for a woman to have sexuality is also a taboo. So even if women are heterosexual, we don’t talk about women’s pleasure. It’s just too many layers. We need to liberate women first and foremost.
Do you think the pandemic has been more alienating towards nonbinary people? Why so?
Ria: There are many perspectives to it. For me, I am very privileged, but I know people who live in toxic environments because their parents are not accepting and if you are gender-fluid then there is a constant pressure of dressing in a certain way, etc. For those people to go out and be themselves was easier than to stay in. Secondly, the pandemic affected everyone, but some gender fluid and trans people need to take hormones that were not available for a long period of time. If you don’t take hormones, your body acts up against the mind. Also, support during the pandemic was limited, especially when we talk about mental health. Therapy is, in fact, very expensive, and there are very few queer affirmative therapists. At that point in time when at home facing dysphoria or a toxic environment, I think access to therapists or people who could help was less.
The journey of acceptance is constant. What is next for you in this journey of discovering self?
Ria: On a personal note, at this point, I want to learn how to live independently without any partner. On a serious note, I want to do ground-level work for the LGBTQ community, for mental health, and also for sex workers. Today I work with youth, parents, and children and help them understand the concept of LGBTQ, how to talk to their children about sex or sexuality. I honestly feel that children are better and moldable than adults. Their main idea is if they are treated well by someone, they like or befriend them. I think that we can at least talk to them about empathy and respect when they are young. And then, when they reach 10-12, talk to them about menstruation, body and slowly take over the topic of sexuality and sex, too. That’s my goal, accepting myself as I am and also doing good work for the world.