I want to live a life. I want to build a life. Let's see who can stop me.
Kumam hates to be invisibilized. Growing up, he idolized the kind of romances Shahrukh Khan movies portrayed, a guilty pleasure that Kumam admits to considering Bollywood movies are not screened publicly in Manipur since 1998. He knows that those portrayals of larger-than-life romance are unrealistic. Although maybe 10 years ago, Kumam might have wanted to move to a more liberal country, today he wants to see who can dare to love him openly and choose what he wants right here in Manipur or India. For him, there is a strange sense of contradiction in a state with such intense political turmoil and civil imbalance. People are allowed to be who they are but not show it. And this is the invisibilization that Kumam no longer wants to tolerate.
The decisions are taken from policymakers and leaders who are not even from the community.
There may be some high-level government policies being implemented for the transgender or LGBTQ community, but those are yet to impact lives. Kumam is cognizant of how this has led to traumatic and detrimental consequences for multiple marginal communities - northeastern states whose history is silenced and rarely discussed; the trans community whose struggles are swept under the rug; people living with HIV having to battle extreme stigma even today (with Kumam claiming "It is the stigma, not just the virus that killed many lives"); and the lower castes whose lived realities are not even considered or acknowledged in the processes of governance. These communities were especially vulnerable during the pandemic, with most of them not having access to proper healthcare, and the losses they faced have been ignored and undocumented. Through his initiative, The Matai Society, Kumam has provided ground relief and access to much-needed information from a queer feminist lens. Kumam wants to help provide safe spaces where affirmations, love, respect, and mutual friendship can help people gain the strength they need to break the silence imposed on them.
One's sense of identity is validated when they can break through the layer of invisibilization.
Kumam says there is a narrative that there needs to be acceptance. And he is determined to change that narrative because for Kumam, why should he ask for approval when that implies a power imbalance. Nobody has the power to stop Kumam from being who he is, which is why instead of acceptance, Kumam wants dignity. Kumam's childhood in a conservative society meant that for 20 years of his life, he kept his identity strictly under wraps. Moving to Jawaharlal Nehru University was life-changing for him. The safe spaces that Kumam got to experience and his friends gave him the courage to come out and be more vocal. Even though he is back in Manipur now, Kumam has the self-confidence that he wouldn't trade for anything! As an educator in a government college, he takes his role of developing the next generation's mindset and worldview very seriously. For Kumam, schools form the cornerstones of a person's worldview, which is why education needs to become holistic. Not just books, but cultural programs, workshops, sports, everything can play a valuable role. And based on numerous conversations that Kumam has had, gender-neutral uniforms are an efficient, practical, and a great way to start!
It's simple. Can you live without intimacy, sexuality, and desire?
Kumam also wants the next generation to grow up knowing it is okay to love in public. Broaching topics of intimacy with us, Kumam is quite surprised when he describes how people are allowed to fight in public, marry in a very public setting, yet all the intimate moments are supposed to happen behind closed doors. For those belonging to the LGBTQ+ community, social standards and internalized aversion to seeing public displays of affection have led to intimacy becoming stolen moments together, and they deserve much, much more. Kumam wants a future where loving somebody and living harmoniously is no longer against normative society standards.