“I am not ashamed to be me… more than anyone else I know, I love my life and accept myself. What’s wrong with being unique? I am proud of everything I am and will become.” — Johnny Weir.
I realised I was queer when I was 11 years old. I am 24 now and still closeted to my parents. 13 years of living a dual life is a task, honestly.
Belonging to an orthodox Christian family meant that talking about sex, gender, or almost anything related to sex was off the table. It was so off the table that parts of the Bible which might include sex-related content was not even read out during family Bible reading sessions. My mother was so afraid that she went on to tell me that kissing boys would get me pregnant (obviously that didn’t stop me). So you can very well imagine how devastated she would get if she got to know I was reading about sex or was into girls.
In a certain way I am thankful to my mother for making sure that I was kept away from anything sexual, as it made me even more curious than I ever was about anything and everything related to sex. Maybe if I was given sex education before, I won’t have taken such a massive interest into something so natural and ordinary. In my personal opinion, the hype around the subject of sex is way too much. It’s just sex, and it’s great (or not), that’s all folks!
Coming from a small town like Haridwar, where everyone was straight and dating the other “normative” gender, it was almost as if there was something massively wrong with me. And I became a homophobe (thanks to the Bible, that book needs multiple revisions). It’s really isolating to not have even a single human being who is going through something even slightly related to what you are going through. In order to feel “normal”, I started dating boys. But something was really off about every single relationship I had had. I was just not sexually or romantically attracted to men, at all! That confirmed that I wasn’t “normal”.
In the start of 11th standard, there was a new admission, Ritika in my class, and somehow hanging out with her didn’t feel weird. She was made to feel like she was an “outsider” by the class, because she would only converse in English. Birds of a feather flock together! She was the first one to tell me that homosexuality was not unnatural. She told me they were people just like anyone else, they just love someone of the same gender and it was their default setting. Our understanding of homosexuality was very basic but it was a start for me. I had a word to identify with – “Queer” – and I wasn’t alone. She was the one who made me google about and explore the LGBTQAI+ community. Soon after that I confided in another friend of mine and got very positive feedback from him. It felt great to finally feel like I was not abnormal or broken or “the devil’s child”, as my mother would put it.
The hardest was undergrad. A new group of friends, a girls college, a christian college at that, the South Delhi crowd – that’s typical JMC (Jesus and Mary College, DU). I didn’t know anyone except Ritika there (who got admission along with me) and was afraid that I would be judged for my orientation. I came out to one of my new college friends, Komal. It was one of the hardest things that I have ever done in my entire life. Funnily, she told me she had already figured it. She accepted me for who I was and it was the greatest feeling ever – To be okay in your own skin, for your existence to be validated, to live, not just exist. Komal and I have been best friends for the last seven years.
Having a great social support systems helps. After that I came out to a lot of my friends and was accepted by almost all of them. They never discriminated against me, or made me feel like an outsider. Even though they had never been through something similar, they never invalidated my experiences. I understood myself better as I explained to them my experience of being ‘not-straight’.
At times that feeling of being a stranger to your own family members and ‘living a lie’ for them disturbs me. But I have to keep reminding myself of the reason why I do so. If only society could be more accepting of the fact that ‘Love is Love’. I won’t have to pretend for my parents.