Growing up in Goa, ‘bailem’ (pronounced buy-leh) was a term I heard a lot. It’s the Konkani equivalent to pansy, fairy, queen, faggot or any of the insults that stem from a lack of education or shameless intolerance. As a straight girl, it was just a word I avoided using. Not that I made a conscious effort to investigate its origins or understand anything about the people who were so carelessly labelled thus.
It’s only recently, thanks to the efforts of fearless individuals like poet and activist Alok Vaid-Menon, that the conversation about gender has breached the mainstream. The knowledge that gender is different from sexuality. That someone who looks female on the outside may not consider themselves a woman. That ‘they’ is, and should be, used as a pronoun to describe an individual human being, if they don’t identify with the male-female binary. It’s been a slow and volatile education, and hopefully you, like us at Elle India, are willing to learn.
Language is powerful. The words we use to express ourselves define our ideas, and ultimately, our actions. If we truly believe that every person regardless of colour, race, sexuality or identity deserves a seat at the table, then allow that belief to reflect in your language.
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Video: Rohan Popere; Hair and make-up: Maleka Fatema