What happens when someone doesn’t follow gender norms? I recall the day when I wore nail paint to college for the first time.

I have always been fascinated with colours. Whether it is the colours on a dupatta or the colours of a rainbow, I am immediately drawn towards the myriad of tints and shades. I imagine a world without colours would be dark, depressing, and dull. As a teenager, I had embraced my femininity with pride. I dressed to my pleasing and behaved with feminine grace. I was never ashamed of it, nor did anyone make me feel so. After joining the University of Delhi, I experienced greater freedom and hence, one day, I decided to wear nail colour to college.  

I started with an obvious choice, pink! I don’t remember if I was nervous about the stares, the questions, or the judgements, but nonetheless, I starkly remember my anxiety. One of the things I have learned about style is to carry yourself with confidence, even if you have second thoughts. So, I did just that. While travelling in the metro, when a few people gawked at me, I made sure to show off my nail colour more.  That moment felt like my own small rebellion against our regressive society.  

After I got off at the metro station, the auto-drivers made sure to get a better look at the ‘boy’ with the coloured nails. The security guard at my college rhetorically asked me if I was wearing nail paint. To every smirk, question, or stare at my hands, I raised them higher and asked the person, “Ache lag rahe hain na? I’m going to put black next.” Surprisingly, I received several affirmative responses and genuine smiles.

Heteronormativity is a system that encompasses the norms of gender roles, identities, and sexualities. The assumption is that everyone who is cisgender, heterosexual, and performs traditional gender roles is ‘normal’. Homophobia and transphobia are rooted in such a system. Hence, any such assumption of normality becomes problematic.

Due to the prevalent heteronormativity in our society, I expected – and –  encountered some hostile reactions. A classmate shared with my friend that she doesn’t understand why I have to be gender-bending. She believes that I should control my femininity and start to ‘man-up’. Further, she suggested that going to the gym will help. My immediate reaction was that of shock, veiled under a series of hysterical laughter. It made me realise that we have a long way to go before inclusivity becomes the norm. In a step towards the formulation of such a society, I will keep on painting my nails, one colour at a time.


Feature Image Credits:  Mugdha Duinn for DU Beat

Varoon Tuteja

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