Amit Bittoo Dey, an interior designer and model, spoke to SheThePeople about how he is met with judgement and criticism just because he chooses to wear a saree and how he rises above it. Here’s his story:
“I’m a boy but my sisters would dress me up as a bride when I was 5. It’s the earliest memory I have of wearing a saree and that’s where my love for sarees and dresses comes from. Once I was a little older, my father asked my sisters to stop dressing me up as he did not approve of it. But I started missing all the make-up and jewellery. I’d skip playing cricket with the other boys to play dress-up in the room. I felt beautiful – as if that was my real self.
I was in 8th grade when my parents caught me in a saree. They were shocked -‘Yeh ladkiyo ke kapde kyu pehne hai?”, my father asked. I knew I had to confess– ‘Dad, I like wearing sarees”, I told. He was orthodox and asked me to keep my interests hidden, atleast till the time I became independent. My friends told me, ‘If you wear sarees and dresses, people will think you’re a transgender.’ For the next 7 years, I would drape sarees behind the closed doors of my room, but it felt suffocating.
When I started growing beard, I would shave before dressing up, but one day I put on a wig with a beard. It felt weird but I found my real self. In 2012, I finally broke it to my parents– ‘this is who I am – a bearded boy who likes to dress up’. They weren’t happy to hear that and asked me to leave the house. At 22, I left my parent’s house. Life was tough and I didn’t have a roof on my head. But at the same time, I felt free.
Suggested Reading: A Saree Doesn’t Have A Gender Says Pushpak Sen
I worked as a freelance photographer to support myself and decided to pursue a career in modelling as well. In no time my photos started appearing in the newspaper. Many praised and some criticised. But I had found a new confidence in embracing myself. There was no looking back! I would flaunt my gowns and sarees and wear bold colours on my face.
I am still teased, called a ‘chakka’ and assumed gay. But I never let any of it bother me. I was open to judgements and allowed people to view me just as they liked- that actually motivated me to paint a new look everyday. Today, I am an interior designer and a professional model who loves dressing up but I don’t prefer to call myself a drag queen. In fact I don’t want my identity to be limited to a title. I’m just a man who loves to wear sarees. Why is that such a big deal?”
Watch the video here.