Read time:11 minute, 4 seconds

In her own words, one of India’s ex-professional, women’s cricketer’s, Adishri Chengappa shares her fascinating story of coming out in a country where women still fight for equal rights.

Adishri tells us about how her decision to move to the UK, not only changed her life but helped arm her to fight for other women and stand up for the LGBTQ community in Inida.  

You’ll be hearing a lot more from Adishri and her adventures in the London queer community, as she is also OutNewsGlobal’s newest London correspondent

Written by Adishri Chengappa

My first match in the UK when I played for Cardiff University

Looking back at the thirteen-year-old me seems so long ago. It was at that age that I knew my interests were not like the other girls who chatted and giggled about boys.

I just knew that I liked girls. It was a frightening and confusing time. It was 2010, and I for sure, had no LGTBQ role models in my country to relate to at the time.

Worse, it slowly dawned on me that I was in love with my best friend and that what I felt for her wasn’t “normal”. It wouldn’t even become legal to be gay in India until 2018.

Most gay women’s first experience is usually with their best friend and a straight one at that. I had no idea what I wanted, did I want to kiss her? Did I want to date her? Did I want to marry her? My thoughts and emotions were pushed to the extremes until one day, my best friend reciprocated my feelings. 

We were intimate behind closed doors and appeared to the rest of the world to be inseparable best friends. 

The secrecy induced raging hormones which for me was the beginning of a realisation, and to her, an overly affectionate friendship. 

I continued this pattern of falling in love with best friends till my early 20s, meanwhile escaping into a vortex of bi-curious women who just wanted to experiment. 

It did not once occur to me that all of it had to do with women who just wanted to have sex. I was pretty secure with my sexuality but the women I encountered, had a look of uncertainty in their eyes for what they were doing. To me, they were all opportunities of finding love, even when I knew they didn’t take it seriously.

I continued to torture myself for doing something wrong and falling for impossible women. 

My relationship with God was a fearful one because of how religion is portrayed in India and I was convinced I was going to hell or didn’t deserve a good life. 

As life progressed, I was courageous enough to come out to my friends at a very young age. They were supportive and kind to me about it but as years passed, I noticed some irregularities.

They knew how to handle boyfriend problems but when it came to girlfriend problems, I could see them clearing their throats in discomfort and shifting in their chairs.

The bigger problem was that no one wanted to have these conversations at the time, it was a taboo and unheard of. 

I tried dating men in these periods of confusion just to test out the possibility of being bisexual for my parents and the society.

It was creepy when I told them I was into women as well, they saw it as a kink and asked me to engage in threesomes. It was particularly shocking when these men would take it upon themselves to “prove” to me that men are better and that I’m missing out.

I struggled to find meaningful relationships with men and women and succumbed to my erratic sexual needs just to keep myself afloat. 

I’ve played professional cricket for about five years where, for the first time, I protected my sexuality and decided to never mix business with pleasure. I became an observer and a confidant for women who wanted to explore their bisexuality within the team. 

It moved me to learn that women from rural villages and underprivileged families also knew that they weren’t heterosexual. It was illegal in urban cities like Bangalore in India, but in rural villages, it was a ruthless death sentence. 

Even a whisper about the “L word” could result in these women being thrown out of their houses, burnt alive or sexually abused 

Many lived in fear with their sweet secret that could cost their lives. Their courage to follow their heart and allow themselves to explore their sexuality during our tournaments humbled me. 

It made me accept the love my friends offered within their capacity to understand my sexuality, which enabled me to educate them from a broader perspective. And with family, I always told myself that I would keep engaging them in conversations about it as an acting mediator to inform them that at the end of the day, love is love and it’s no one else’s business.

Teammates I felt comfortable sharing my sexuality with, I was also captain at the time

As a cricketer what I found amusing is how everyone around me leaned towards their masculine energy to combat the sport. At first I admired their androgynous spirit but as tournaments went by, with rising levels of performance pressure, some started turning into aggressive men in sport.

I still remember the time an opponent walked up to me in the middle of the pitch and said, “If you hit one more boundary, I will break your head in my next delivery.” I found it hysterical; I smiled at her and replied, “Don’t worry about me, just focus on your game” and she laughed, patted me on the shoulder and walked away.

I caught myself in situations that triggered an unfamiliar energy in me to get along with my teammates, it formed layers of delusion that made me want to be bigger than I was. Today when I look back, it saddens me that to get noticed, to be seen and to be heard, we had to climb the incessant poll of matching up to the standards of men’s cricket by enacting them. 

The rejection we faced from the society as women cricketers, pained us for generations. We didn’t know how to ask for help, our predecessors fought valiantly for our equal rights but as young players, we didn’t know how to be role models for the upcoming generation of women’s cricket.

This was my experience when I used to play, new reforms have been implemented now to support women’s cricket in my country and it makes me very proud. But my passion faltered for the lack of communication and support within a team environment, where I felt less of a woman and less of a human being, when it became more about the people in the sport rather than the sport itself.

On September 6th 2018, “homosexual sex” was finally decriminalised in India. It was a massive day for my country. 

I was friends with a few lesbian women at the time who were mostly in their 30’s and for once I felt like I belonged somewhere. We partied and had great conversations regarding gay relationships.

I learned so much from them. How they married men in their 20s to satisfy their parents but that they couldn’t do it anymore after a while. They chose themselves and their financial independence and decided to come out of an arranged marriage that was making both sides really unhappy. 

Until, one night, a chaotic episode involving a homophobic man occurred. He crashed our party and physically assaulted us while he was drunk. We fought back and kicked the guy out by calling the friendly neighbourhood police. The aftermath of the incident uncovered the immaturity in these adult women, who were ready to get out there and punch some more men to celebrate their strength. 

For me, at 21, violence wasn’t the answer. It never will be the answer to convince people to accept us. I was shocked by the possession of this masculine energy again with these women. This incident further confused me, the poor choice of actions and words from my own community made me silently part ways with them.

When I came to the UK in 2020, I was ready for new experiences with women from different nationalities. I dated a woman who was also all about the sex, and I believed we got along because we liked the same music, artists and shows. But I soon faced an odd situation, where she didn’t want to know anything about my culture, or who I am and there was no depth beyond sex. The one time she opened up to me, she panicked and projected disinterest.

I found many other women who were emotionally unavailable and told myself that maybe foreign women just weren’t for me. It was a generalisation I wasn’t proud of, but as I met people outside of my dating life, I learned a very valuable lesson.

There’s an aura in the UK about being unafraid to be yourself that I didn’t quite understand initially. It wasn’t about the language or cultural barrier, it was just the fact that I had carried an emotional baggage to the UK without even realising it.

I am a huge believer of “you attract the energy you carry” and today I have made peace with the fact that all the women in my life who were unsure, scared to be themselves or explore the depth of emotions came to me because I was just like them.

Sure, I knew what I wanted, I wanted love, but if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else? In the great words of Miss RuPaul Charles.

My graduation day at Cardiff University

In 2022, I went to therapy and found it within myself to learn how to love myself first. I continued having relationships with women who struggled to open up, but it no longer shut me down. I recently went on a date with a woman who barely touched me during sex, while I did all of the work. When she was done, I looked at her and I said I think I’m ready for more.

My cup is full and I am in search of another cup that’s full so we can sit down and sip from it while we do life together. This cup analogy is a bit random but it helped me understand how I would like to be treated, especially when I started treating myself better. I became more confident and knew what I wanted.

Being in the UK has helped me accept myself in all aspects. The freedom to be who I want to be was challenged by every label and stereotype I’ve carried from my country. It took a year for me to fathom that in the UK, I am an independent woman who deserves to choose the life I want to have. I no longer want to run away from the very country that birthed me, only for the lack of acceptance. Acceptance for me starts from within and radiates no matter where I am.

I came out to my parents recently with my entire heart and they showered me with love for the pain I carried for years. It’s not that I needed their acceptance to live a happy life but their support became a catalyst for me to use my resources to help women in my country find their key to self-love. To find the strength to own their sexuality without fear.

The stages of self-love and transformation I went through

I want to be the voice of reason for my ex-teammates to live their truth, to educate allies and homophobic people in my country that at the end of the day, the heart wants what it wants. I want to join the fight that so many inspirational LGBTQIA+ activists back home valiantly raise their voices for. 

I want to take the values I’ve learnt from being in a different country to tell them that they are not alone. I want to bring together like-minded women from my country who also came to the UK to study to speak for their rights and not dissolve in fear. If we can all come together no matter how scattered we all are in this world to escape the treachery of a heteronormative society in India, we can truly bring about change. 

In Conclusion

We don’t need to run, or hide anymore, all we must do is speak from a place of love and acceptance. The land, the soil and the roots of my country never told me I was wrong, it was the inhibitors who painted women like me and other members of the LGBTQ+ community as predators, when we’re all meant to be harmonious prey.

About the author

Adishri Chengappa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Latest articles