Sayantika Majumdar’s singular goal for the queer movement is freedom and she dedicates all her work, energy, and efforts to this cause. She happily labels herself a lesbian. In conversation with egomonk, Sayantika shares her thoughts on the challenges to the movement and believes these battles can be overcome with narratives, including her own.
The idea of romance between two women was something I couldn’t wrap my head around; I did not know what that meant for my life, what the template of life would look like, being a lesbian. I didn't even know the term lesbian.
Sharing her coming out journey, Sayantika wastes no time in dishing about the chauvinism that our society functions on. Growing up, whenever love was portrayed, it was always a cis-heteronormative relationship. She points to the minimal portrayal of queer relationships on screen and their complete absence in her immediate surroundings while navigating puberty. This delayed and complicated her understanding of her queerness. It was difficult, she tells us, to come to terms with herself, even though she knew she liked women.
It was when she was walking her first pride march in Bangalore at the age of 24 that she found support and a strong sense of belonging. Her apprehensions about what life would be like for a woman who loved women were slowly being answered.
I came out at 24. My partner came out at something like 12-13. I know people who have come out at 70! There is no right time to come out.
Sayantika’s lived experiences taught her that coming out is a constant journey. This is especially true when society is undergoing a revolution that is attempting to make inclusivity an increasingly vital part of its evolutionary story.
Sayantika explains that the most significant coming out is coming out to one’s own self; looking in the mirror, and accepting and being proud of one’s gender identity and sexuality. And this, she warns, takes time. Her advice to young queers is to figure it out, not on anyone else’s timeline, but on their own.
Elucidating what she vocally advocates, Sayantika takes a slice of her own lived experiences. She unabashedly shares that her lack of awareness and experience did, in the past, push her to look for labels; for a while, she identified as bisexual. She did date men, but with time her understanding of herself only grew, and today, she is happy to use the label ‘lesbian’ to describe her sexuality.
Sayantika believes that we shouldn't treat a label as a totalising burden and clarifies that none of these labels are all-encompassing; they are ever-changing. Sharing her personal experiences as a gay woman, Sayantika talks about the marginalization and the daunting experience of navigating her sexuality in the 'utterly sexualized and fetishized' shadow of a phallocentric perspective of lesbians.
Gay men get discriminated against, lesbians get sexualized.
Several lesbians like Sayantika have had to face this 'dehumanization,' as she puts it, which "takes away from our love." Sayantika laments that the term 'lesbian' largely invokes the question of sexual engagement for most and people struggle or are unwilling to see beyond that. This, she is certain, stems from the objectification of the female-presenting body.
She questions the general reaction when we learn about our straight acquaintances dating someone. Dating remains, in essence, the same with contextual differences. One’s gender and sexual orientation do not change the feeling of love or the desire for companionship — this is something Sayantika repeatedly highlights.
This weird 'voyeurism' that exists in society when it comes to lesbians is something that Sayantika argues is very dehumanizing and marginalizing. However, she says that she is not surprised because even with cis straight women, it is male pleasure that has always been given importance. The idea of female sexuality — lesbian, straight, or otherwise — has been ignored in the evolutionary history of society.
Apart from sexuality and gender, Sayantika also had to come to terms with her neurodivergence. She is a survivor of abuse who was diagnosed with PTSD. Later, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It’s been 10 years since the diagnosis, and Sayantika has a lot to share. For her, the diagnosis was a relief. Sayantika shares small anecdotes and believes that anyone struggling with their identity should take the time to build their strength.
Sayantika knows that living with mental health ailments can feel overwhelming and confusing as they are so interlinked. In such a scenario, self-diagnosis doesn’t help and misdiagnosis can aggravate the problem. She encourages seeking help as soon as possible. On the topic of therapy, she tells us that it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. To manage high functionality and neurodivergence, the mode of treatment changes from person to person; for some people, it can be art therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and for some people, medication.
Today, Sayantika has triumphed over most obstacles that life has sent her way, and provides peer support to all those she can reach out to.