In Conversation with Anwesh Sahoo on Self-Empowerment

You know what… you are so much more than your sexuality or your gender. It does not matter how god has made you. What god has given you is a beautiful mind. Please make the most of it. You are so much more than the stupid labels you are surrounded with. You have skill sets and potential so work on them. People are not going to pay your bills. You are going to pay your bills.

Anwesh Sahoo is a 22 year old Mr. Gay World India (2016). He has been a TEDEx speaker for the past two years. Anwesh is an Electronics and Communications Engineer who has his heart set on learning Design. His latest passion is dance and he has travelled through the country for it. In his interview with It Gets Better (India),Anwesh speaks on healthy self-esteem and empowerment that an individual must cultivate regardless of what the sexual orientation might be. Anwesh recalls his journey from being bullied in school to winning the pageant.

Giving your all

I don’t really value myself with how many people find me desirable, with how many people find me good looking, or popular. I think for me, it has always been more important that I am happy with who I am and successful in whatever I take up. Recently, I took up belly dancing. I have been wanting to take up some form of dancing for a very long time and I wasn’t able to make time owing toacademic pressure, and parental resistance. I eventually managed to take up belly dancing and I gave myself completely to the form. No matter what I do, I need to be really one of the best at it.

Knowing who you are

I got a call from Mallya Aditi International School in Bengaluru in 2016. They were really good. They were 16-17 year olds and I was really impressed with the way they managed the entire setup. The first TEDxtalk I delivered revolved around how we need to break out of the gender binary, “You know what! It’s okay to be gay.” That one statement had changed my life when I was coming out.  It made me feel so liberated knowing that gender is not about being a man or a woman. It is a spectrum between these two extremes of being a man or a woman. All these gender roles are all societal. So you need to define your own set of rules. You need to understand what you want to be and that is extremely important in life. You understand who you are and you are happy with who you are. That is one of the most important message that I want to reach out with.

Surviving bullies and making this world a better place

I remember in my 12th standard when I was about to give my boards, I carried a pink pouch with me (for school supplies). I really like the color pink. I think it is a beautiful color. It is everybody’s color. One of the guy friends of mine, he was one of the bullies in school… a part of me thinks he was homosexual and that is why he used to look down upon me. It is very common. A lot of homosexuals are the biggest homophobes. This guy at school would often come to me and despise me for having that pink pouch. I wish I could go back in time and have the strength to say, “So what? It does not matter.”It is okay to be homosexual. It is okay to be gender queer. That is the kind of world we want to walk in eventually (Where sexual orientation does not dominate human life choices and the quality of it.)

Working with your ABCs…

Everyone must wake up with infectious optimism and tell themselves, “I am going to be awesome today. I am going to make use of all the gifts and resources I have with me. It does not matter how much you have.” I remember when I started out as anartist in the professional environment and was required to know all the fundamental softwares; I did not know how to use Photoshop. I was not a professional model when I went for the pageant (Anwesh won the same pageant and the title Mr. Gay World India.) I saw how the models had this really good,beefed up bodies and I was like, ‘How am I going to do this?’ But I made the most of the given amount of resources. I said, “I have A,B,C resources with me, so even if I don’t have my A through Z,how do I make the most of my A,B,C?”Learn to empower yourself everyday as you wake up.

Hopes and dreams

I remember going to this wedding. The bride and the groom went on to the podium where they held hands and hugged. They put the varmalas (garlands), and the sheer beauty and purity of that moment, it brought tears to my eyes and I remember wishing, “May be, I too could experience something similar someday?” Back then, I was going through an emotional turmoil and was struggling to come out. I am so grateful to God that he gave me hope that something incredible will happen. That hope kept me going. I am glad I went through the turmoil, because then Panče would not have happened to me, Mr. World wouldn’t have happened to me. I met some amazing, very talented, and hardworking people through this journey.

Love thyself before someone else

Love is a process. When you talk about making a relationship work, it is so much about security. I have only been in a relationship with Pančefor a little more than a year. I am still learning a little more about him everyday. I met Pančeat a party in 2017, and I was so charmed by his intelligence (Panče’s a Scientist, and works as a Professor at NYU), we clicked at once, and ended up having a conversation for hours. When people talk about love at first sight, there is no such thing. You can like, be fond of, or lust over someone, but not love. Love is a process. Love is a serious term, and it takes ages for you to understand the other person, and for the other person to understand you. It has been that way with Panče. I am so happy and elated that I met someone like him. He’s such a precious man, and I love him so much.

Please tell yourself that this difficult time is going to go and you will make it through.

I think there’s too much of a peer pressure to be in a relationship, lose your virginity, be likable, everything as soon as possible. It’s how people in the community learn to value themselves, how many men have you slept with? Did you manage to lose your virginity at 17? It’s awful, how we’ve managed to give rise to this completely skewed mentality. Learn to love yourself first, you will be as valued as you learn to value you. The World will come later. I’ve been in a very toxic relationship in the past, and very glad I had the understanding that it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve also been there, looking for a date through the Grindrs of the World. If you can find a good partner online, and if that works for you, then why not? But I am a little old school and Grindr, simply wasn’t my thing! I wanted to wait for the right person to meet, the old-school way, even if I would have had to wait for 20 years. I think there is no point in really hastening the process. You have to be really patient. I was single for a year when I met Panče and, I had really enjoyed my singlehood. The relationship you have with you, is the most important. I learned how I should complete myself, and nobody else should. That’s the only way you’ll foster a healthy relationship with your partner, if you ever choose to be in a relationship in the future.Finding someone special will happen eventually. Even if it does not happen, how does it even matter? Be happy with who you are. That is the only thing that really matters.