When I came out to my friends six years ago, it felt like I was finally able to be honest with them. There was an easiness to our conversations; my friendship with them attained more parity related to my feelings and emotions. Some kind of load was lifted off my chest, and I felt light and more confident. I could not think of going back to feeling being in the closet ever again.
But in a professional environment, things are different.
Coming out to people who have been your friends for long time is comparatively easier than to come out to ones whom you have known in a professional environment.
It is an environment where human transactions are influenced by personal motives and exhibition of emotions is considered unprofessional. In order to walk the line I decided to be discreet and calculative with my words in discussions around relationships. With each passing day, my attempt to keep my sexuality in the closet at work was becoming tedious. It began to appear unnecessary to me. I was going through the same old feelings of dishonesty, fear, and a lack of confidence all over again. I felt trapped inside the closet again.
It continued until one fine day a colleague found a gay dating app on my phone. Instead of telling anyone about it, she directly asked me if I was seeing any guy. Oh lord, that was fun, I can never forget that moment. I found a friend and confidante in her. It was the easiest coming out I have ever done till date. My coming out to first of my many colleagues was followed by loads of bitching sessions where she and I would discuss about office wannabes, their dressing sense, giggling over our crushes, planning ways to find out if they were single or not, referring to them with secret names, and fishing around for new eye candy in the company! Of course, we had discussions of other serious stuff about life too. And just like that, work became light and fun for me.
This experience encouraged me to come out to my other colleagues, and I decided to come out to them on my birthday. They were all surprised to hear that I was queer, they never had thought that I was ‘different’. I was amazed to know that they never judged me or categorised me. My behaviour, which, by the way, is flamboyant at times (for which people in our community are judged and labelled) was never a distraction or a bother for them. The impression which I was creating in their mind were only through my work and my rapport with them. It’s one of those instances where you encounter the healing power of human beings, their power to make someone feel loved and valued. Humanity surprises you at the oddest of times, and at unexpected places.
The demographic profile of my colleagues is very diverse, it includes men and women, between the ages of 25 and 40, of different religious and political beliefs, coming from every socio-economic group of the society. Disagreements, disputes, and arguments are very natural among people with different beliefs, and I too have had my fair share of unpleasant incidents at work. But when I think about the kind of support, care, and space my friends at work have provided me, I cannot stop thinking of how much love and warmth I will receive from them at my wedding with my partner.
My boss has ‘swiped’ guys for me on the dating app on my phone, I mean how cool is he?! And it’s just not my colleagues who have been supportive of me, their families too have been concerned about me because of the fact that homosexuality is still a crime in our country. They wish a good and safe life for me. and hence want me to settle somewhere with more inclusive government. It feels sad to know that people of my country have accepted me, but the law and the government hasn’t.
There are people within LGBTQ community who think coming out at work would invite unwanted attention and trouble; many of us worry that people would judge and stereotype us basis our sexuality. But believe you me, by keeping ourselves inside the closet we are stereotyping everyone as homophobic including our potential allies.
Coming out is not easy for everybody, but at times like these when people are scared and unconfident about doing things which are right, I believe coming out has become a fundamental responsibility, rather than just a personal choice. The LGBTQ community needs visibility and role models for coming generation. And those role models will have to emerge from amongst us.