Debunking Heteronormativity: Dr. Varuna Srinivasan - Educator, Sexologist And Gender Justice Activist
“I found happiness when I accepted myself.”
I don’t consider myself an influencer, but rather an educator. It is my way of giving back to society & paying it forward. I am fortunate to have resources that can be used to help people & change lives for the better. I make a point to always share my personal journey or perspective in tandem with the facts to be more relatable to people. When my audience develops a comfort zone knowing they are not alone in this journey, I consider myself successful.
I grew up around the world; born in New Zealand, raised in Zambia & Kenya before my family settled down in Chennai, India. I was born into a conservative Brahmin family & from my position of relative privilege, I stood against the caste system even more resolutely. I struggled understanding the restrictions they forced upon me. From where I was going to who I was meeting – especially if my friend happened to be a boy – everything was constantly monitored. Typical of an Indian family, I was told to explore only after getting married. Regretfully, such beliefs are deep-rooted & ingrained to the core of our society.
When I started recognizing myself as a bisexual, I had no one to talk to. My parents would have married me off at the first chance, while my friends mocked me saying that I was either gay or just confused. It was a low time and I battled depression. I felt like everything was closing in on me. That was the moment when I decided to take off and abscond, for my own sanity. It was a very hard decision but I was only doing what was best for my mental health & well-being.
When I moved to USA, I didn’t really have a plan. I decided to carve my own path. I took a student loan & received admission from John Hopkins University. It was a life changing experience as I met and conversed with people from diverse backgrounds. Collectively, the conversations and new relationships helped me understand who I really am.
I came out in 2017 to my then boyfriend and now husband, a cishet man, who was very supportive. However, my parents found out through a magazine. It was really difficult having that conversation with them but they didn’t create a fuss because I was married now.
My experiences & honesty with myself have shaped me into the confident woman I am today. It was only by stepping out of my comfort zone and moving across the world that I was able to break free and embark on a journey of self-discovery.
Last year, I had an epiphany moment. I never gave Instagram much thought but I realized that it has evolved as strong communication tool for propagating social justice. With that purpose in mind, I decided to start my own page. Through my Instagram account(@drvarunasrinivasan), I inspire others with confidence & perspective to do the same.
I want to strengthen and support the South Asian community by providing awareness on topics around sex education & LGBTQ+ rights. I also share information to demystify the process of growing up so that it is less daunting for children. I am passionate about integrating these changes within school curriculums through workshops and seminars. I am just doing what feels right to me – bringing a positive change grounded in real purpose.
As a woman, a person of color, & part of the LGBTQ+ community, it is sometimes blurred where sexism ends & the racism starts. I think this inter-sectionality allows us to include everyone in the conversation and helps each of us first accept and then celebrate who we are. It is difficult but important to take care of your mental health. I felt justified at times cutting people off because they didn’t understand my journey. The key is to maintain healthy relationships & set boundaries. Find time for yourself. Do what makes you happy, even if people tell you otherwise. Don’t run the ‘rat-race’. Find what you are passionate about and pursue that.
I know youth, especially in India, feels stuck. A few years down the line, you’ll find yourself accomplishing things and growing in ways you never thought possible, and that progression will foster true happiness. Break the circle and don’t feel guilty for choosing yourself. Be brave because a single moment of bravery, no matter how small, can change your life for the better. Your journey and struggles are special. So take charge of it and do what feels right to you. If I did it, I know you can too!