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I couldn't believe my best friends would do that.

School was never a safe space for me, like many other homosexual kids; I was bullied a lot. During my childhood, I didn't know about the homosexual or LGBTQ+ community. My classmates used terms like "meetha," "chakha," and "hijra" just because I cried easily, which they saw as unmanly. They picked on the way I talked, walked, and used my hands while talking, which made me super insecure. The whole school knew about this.

I had two friends at school. They suggested playing Holi and got me onto the roof, where they assaulted me. They beat, broke, slapped, and kicked me, leaving me totally naked. They recorded the whole incident on video. I couldn't believe my best friends would do that. After that, I never made any new friends. Because of this, I still struggle with the idea that crying or asking for help is a sign of weakness, something I can't show others.

While working in a sales group, I confided in my cousin about my sexuality and the incident. Initially supportive, she later texted me, urging me to hide my sexuality, fearing it would bring shame to the family. I was scared she would disclose this information to the family, as I needed to be financially stable.

Even highly professional and educated people have expressed homophobic views, making it hard to find a truly inclusive work culture. At my previous company, where most employees were married and I was the youngest, disclosing my sexuality led to gossip and homophobic comments. When I confronted the situation, I had to resign. However, I'm grateful for the opportunity to work in a more inclusive environment at my current company.

Through all these experiences, I've learned one important thing: no matter what society throws at you, it's your life, your story, and you matter. Don't let others dictate who you are.


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