Exclusive! Monica Dogra opens up on being pansexual and her secret marriage for the first time; says, ‘Was ashamed of my gender’

Published on Jul 11, 2022 11:07 AM IST

Although she has been vocal about her sexuality, singer-actor Monica Dogra has never come out and spoken about it at length. For the first time, Dogra drops her guards and pours her heart out in an exclusive conversation. From talking about growing up as a confused queer girl to revealing about her now dissolved marriage - read Dogra’s story like never before.

Monica Dogra (Instagram)
Monica Dogra (Instagram)
ByVinay MR Mishra

“It’s hard to love yourself if you don’t even know who you are,” says Monica Dogra discerningly as we speak and those words stay with me till the end of this interview. The singer-actor came out as pansexual last year - at least for the Indian audience - via Instagram; though she asserts she has “been telling this truth for many years”, people only took notice once her show The Married Woman started streaming. The closest Dogra rubbed shoulders with the Indian media vis-a-vis sexuality was in 2016 when she did a crowdfunding campaign for the LGBT community. Whilst she had noble pretensions, “a hate article” shoved her back to her shell. “My name was tagged as “a joke”,” she recalls, adding how the queer communities and the indie music scene “hated” her.

She continues, “This was before internet sheepism was brought up as problematic. I fell into one of the darkest depressions of my life. I couldn’t leave my house without panic attacks and anxiety for almost a year. After that, I feel like I lost any expectation of having community support.” In lieu, that set Dogra free.

Today, as she resides in LA, she pours her bares her soul for the first time talking about her now-dissolved marriage to growing up as a confused queer girl.

Excerpts…

When did you first identify as pansexual?

I only ever heard the word some five or six years ago and I thought ‘Oh my Gosh! That’s me!’. It was very black and white growing up. Either you were gay or you were straight. And if you were gay you certainly weren’t accepted or celebrated. Gay was even a slang word connoting something bad. It was so twisted.

Take us through your journey of identifying yourself…

When I was little, I was a tomboy some days, and on other days hyper-feminine. I liked to express both sides of myself. I identified with girls who dressed very boyish or queer boys who were very feminine and wore makeup. When I was 4 or 5 years old, I remember one of my best friends in my neighbourhood was a girl who insisted on being called a boy’s name and walked around topless like she was a boy. I thought she was so cool. Of course, I didn’t think much of it (then), but now looking back it was something that attracted me. I never kissed a girl or had a full blown sexual experience with a girl until I was in college - I was drunk at a party. It wasn’t until much later, that I felt I had fully fallen in love with a biological female who was masculine presenting. That really screwed with my head. Up until that point, I identified as straight. Suddenly, I had no idea who I was. I had a bit of an “aha” moment when I figured maybe I’m bisexual. At that point, I still didn’t know what pansexuality meant. But I knew I liked feminine energy men and masculine energy women. This was 6-7 years ago. Soon, I came across several verbiages around pansexuality, and now I think that’s the most real fit for me. I am surprised all the time by what I find beautiful.

Coming out, as beautiful as it is, can also be daunting. Did you ever have a coming out moment? Was it like a coming out story like they portray in shows with a table in between and you sitting across it?

I’m from a very disjointed family. My mother and I were estranged for over 11 years of my life. My father is mostly quiet, even if I do share anything from the heart, he doesn’t really hear it. I think a lot of people can relate to this kind of patriarch in their family - quiet and isolated.

I was married to a man - a very gentle, kind, wise and extremely understanding man. I had to tell him I felt an attraction for my co-star in a film I had acted in, about a trans woman who wanted to transition. He held my hands and understood me. That made me love him even more. We have gone our separate ways and chosen to dissolve our marriage. I always kept my marriage a secret from the press, I guess since I’m telling you all these intimate details, I may as well share this too. So, there was no coming out “moment”.

While growing up, who were you most comfortable talking about your sexuality?

Growing up, I was ashamed of my gender for the most part. I remember when I first started showing signs of having breasts I just wept thinking my life was now over. No more freedom for me. I was becoming a woman. I was molested by my cousins in India and touched inappropriately by a family friend in my sleep. I think I am just another story amongst many stories similar to mine. My biggest outlet for truth-telling and exploration has been my art. If you look at my music videos and listen to my lyrics, I’ve been revealing my soul for a long time.

Did your candidness with regards to your sexuality affect your work? Several artists even internationally have opened up how they were asked to not talk about their preferences and how they lost work... What’s your experience been?

I’ve never been mainstream. I don’t look mainstream. I don’t sound mainstream. Individuality has been both my curse and my great blessing. The Married Woman was massively successful, and I still know people are watching it on repeat years later. So in my case, I don’t feel limited by my candidness, but rather that I’ve had 16 years and counting of relevancy because of it. So, if I could give anyone encouragement to be loud and proud with their truth, however scary, I hope this is evidence that there is a light. I’m not saying it’s not difficult. But whatever you do get, you know you got it on your own, and on your own terms. There is something so satisfying in that.

Is Monica in love currently? And if you are, are you open to talking about it?

I have never talked about my love life, out of superstition more than anything. Nazar na lage. But, I can say I’ve been lucky to experience profound love in this life.

If I may ask, have you ever been in love with someone who didn’t identify as a cisgender man or woman?

Yes, I was. That’s what really screwed with my head! It only happened once. But it shook me.

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