Illustrations by Kripa Bhatia
I’m a lesbian and like many other people – not only lesbians – my best friends have changed over time, and I’ve fallen in love with many of them. It’s common among straight people too of course and we see that in popular movies, like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. But if you’re lesbian it’s different, as you can imagine. If someone remarks on the closeness between two women, it’s often like a taunt, or mocking.
This first story is the one that happened post puberty. Ek hi sabse intense tha and then after that I was like ‘Bas hogaya’. I had learnt my lesson (or so I thought).
I was 14 years old. I didn’t know about my sexuality yet. And I didn’t know I had a crush on her. I was just extremely attracted to her and I used to explain it to myself as ‘I just want to be friends with her’. But – I was friends with her! So I was confused about why am I still feeling this way? This was the closest I could get and it still didn’t feel enough.
I used to get butterflies if she was around me, laugh at all her jokes, we texted all evening, all of that – it was a typical teenage story! I was a little crazy about her. A little obsessed. She stayed some distance away from me but her classes were near my house. Whenever I was out on my cycle, I used to fervently hope that she would pass by so I could wave at her, because I knew her car. So every time I saw a honda city I used to think it was her.
I may have given off the vibe that I liked her or maybe it was just too obvious. One day I was probably irritating her or something when she turned back to me and said “Do you have a crush on me? Are you lesbian or bi?” in a joking manner. I was dumbstruck at that time and didn’t know how to address this at all. I went hahahaha and I just laughed it off. But when I went home, I kept thinking about it and wondering “Do I actually have a crush on her?” It was then I slowly started accepting that I do like girls. I vividly remember that moment, because it was such a defining moment for me to look into the whole matter and finally have a conversation with myself which helped me discover my sexuality. I didn’t feel shamed by her calling me out – I was so caught up in my own self-discovery. But I did become self-conscious and my behavior became more restrained.
Leaving school was difficult because I didn’t know where I was going next and she was going somewhere else, so I feared that separation. But we were in the same tuitions in 11th and 12th so we continued being friends.
In school after 10th, no one assumed I liked a guy because I was very tomboyish. I remember one day, my school friends and I were playing Truth or Dare at a sleepover, and they asked me ki do you like a guy? I was still confused. But because everyone was liking a guy, I also decided to like a guy and said yeah. And one of them was like “Thank god you like a guy, abhi tak we thought you liked girls” – again in a very demeaning way. That was a key reason I took a really long to come out to them as I thought ki fuck my friends don’t accept me, they think this is somehow weird. I was in denial thoda sa because of them.
But by 12th grade, I had completely accepted my sexuality and I thought that I’ll tell her. I was over her and for some reason I thought she was gay and just wanted to tell her that I am too. She was surprised and didn’t react how I had expected her to, but that’s fine because everyone takes time. We eventually became better friends once I told her I was queer, because then the air was clear between us.
She’s my best friend now but I have never confessed the feelings I had for her. She does think I had a crush on her but she won’t be hearing it from me! I guess it’s an ego thing and I hate it when she’s right.
It took me almost 2-3 years to get over her. It helped me know that she is straight and doesn’t feel the same way about me, so what’s the point, you know? I realized I needed to move on because it was never happening. After this, I almost never fell for a friend again. Except for this one other time.
I was in my first year of college and had a single person room in the hostel. She was 4 years my senior, we bonded very well and she, me and another girl hung out together a lot. They were my best friends in Aurangabad – my only friends really. I wanted to transfer to a better college in Mumbai the next year, so I didn’t want to invest emotionally in other friends. She used to come over after her day was done and chill in my room while I studied. We’d talk a lot and she told me things she wouldn’t tell anyone. The third friend of ours, Sejal, was more conservatively brought up – so things we talked to each other about openly like sex, we couldn’t have in front of her. She would tell me about this guy she likes, about her past romances etc. I had that typical hostel single bed and we slept beside each other whenever we hung out in the room. And somehow it became so that we started being a little intimate – just cuddles and snuggles though, nothing more.
She was the one who would always start it – and it would always be one-sided from her. I was extra careful to resist the temptation to cuddle her back. My sexuality was still secret back then and I felt anxious about anyone suspecting anything. It wanted to cuddle her back – but I felt that if I reciprocate, I will reveal myself and who knows what will follow. But as we got more comfortable with each other, it happened on a daily basis. It wasn’t a physical relationship in the typical sense of it, but the physical affection was a big part of our friendship.
Sometimes she slept the whole night with me and the next day it used to be like nothing happened, we always acted like nothing ever happened between us. I guess nothing did. It did create a feeling of sexual tension in me, a little. Also that was the closest I had ever been physically involved with someone, so maybe I didn’t want to jeopardise it?
I also knew she was slightly homophobic. Once my mom had come and we were just chitchatting and she’d said something like “Ye toh ladki se hi shaadi karegi, ye toh ladka hi hai.“ I ignored it like you usually ignore such small things because you don’t want what you have with that person to end.
One day I was sitting and studying when she came from behind, I don’t know what it was. But it felt like she was coming to kiss me and I jokingly said “Kiss hi karle, abhi aur kya reh gaya hai?” She responded “Ha! If I have to kiss someone I’ll kiss a guy, why will I kiss you?” and wow, that hurt me. She said it in a very belittling way as though to say why would I choose you over any guy. I didn’t react to her, I just let it go. I realized that there’s obviously nothing going on between us in her mind and it was almost like she’s using me as her teddy bear at the expense of my feelings.
The cuddling still continued after but it was almost the end of the year and I had to leave anyway. I was happy about my admission in Mumbai but also sad to leave my friends, especially her. It felt like I wouldn’t have something like that with anyone ahead in the future. She was visibly upset too. They came and dropped me at the station and that’s the last I saw of her. We still talk once a year – one of us just calls the other randomly and we talk for hours about our life. She still doesn’t know that I’m gay, she thinks I have a boyfriend but doesn’t know it’s a girl, she’s just assumed it is a boy.
I didn’t want to tell her because she’s still in the same college and I don’t trust her to not tell anyone. I also fear she’ll look at me differently because of our past, afraid she will be thinking “Ohhh tabhi bhi woh lesbian thi, did she get turned on?” and it would become weird. It is going to be very weird when she comes to know. Recently we were talking after months and she just brought up the topic saying “Haan hum kaise sote the tere room mein, kya kya nahin kiya humne” and in my head I was just like *nervous laughter* please let’s not talk about it.
I guess there was something a little obsessive about how she kept bringing up the topic – you know, of lesbian love. It’s hard to know whether it was because uske andar there were some feelings, and she kept poking at the idea out of fascination and fear at the possibility. Or if she sensed my orientation and was trying to make me say it out loud. But whatever her reasons, I didn’t want to make myself vulnerable to any hurt or homophobia. But yes, it creates a weird sense of tension.
I always think – I can’t let this happen to me again, until I fall for another friend. But thankfully now I’m head over heels for someone who feels the same for me.
I think when you’re best friends, you tend to fall in love because you know her as a person, you know everything about her. So the heartbreak is also obviously harder. Sometimes the intensity of friendship confuses you into thinking it’s love, so it feels like a betrayal, ki kal tak toh sab sahi tha – that person was really good with you and you really thought they felt something for you – but it was just friendship for her and it’s nobody’s fault. Friendship has no fixed definition – it’s just how different people express their closeness and the confusion is natural. But when you’re queer, it’s not just about rejection. It’s about that edge of scorn or shame or meanness that homophobia creates in even ‘nice’ people. It’s not just the rejection then that hurts, but also the feeling that you’re not going to be accepted as the full person you are, that your feelings aren’t just unwanted, but invalid.