By Yatin for The Glass Closet:
I thought coming to my new campus, to Mumbai, would be the “new chapter” of my life. The place where I would be free to let go of the inhibitions and the fear I felt when I was back home, in a city that was more conservative, and under the watchful eyes of my parents.
Now I am starting to think that the problem is as much within me as it is within society. All this shame and fear towards queer people in our world has rooted itself within me, and I cannot escape it no matter where I go–Mumbai, Delhi, or New York—not even when I am alone with myself. My greatest fear is that I might never feel safe being myself, that the policing eyes of society are now my own eyes that have turned inward unto myself, to condemn every ‘wrong’ and ‘shameful’ thing I feel.
Not only does this affect the way I treat myself and think of myself, but it also affects the way I interact with people and systems in college. When my classmates use queer people as metaphors for things that are foolish, vulgar, unnatural, or sexual, many times I talk myself into staying silent and letting the people around me continue to say these hurtful things. I find myself hoping someone else would speak up so I wouldn’t have to. Because when I do call these hurtful comments out, I am made to feel like I am being silly for overthinking a phrase that was uttered without any specific ill-intentions towards queer people.
When I said that I wished our professors would stop using only examples of husbands and wives to illustrate some point, I was made to feel like I am being silly, that I am choosing the wrong battle to fight, that these things are not important enough to distance people over. To speak up or not to speak, this is the constant question that lingers in my mind all day.
When I decide not to speak up, I have realised that this self-censorship not only cuts off my outward voice that other people can hear, but also the voice inside my own head. Why do I have to deny myself the right to feel hurt? Why do the people who call themselves “allies” get to decide what language is too sensitive?
When I do speak up, people brand me as that “buzzkill” who nitpicks everything for things to feel hurt over. When people are treating you as some interloper who is always looking to police their conversations, it is difficult to not feel unwelcome in classrooms or while hanging out with friends.
Meeting new people and making new friends is difficult and complicated enough, because we need to stay aware of their boundaries and tread carefully to make them feel comfortable. If one adds this feeling of being unwelcome, of being hyper visible, it only makes this process more miserable. It is impossible not to feel alienated and alone when you find yourself in spaces like these.
When I make these accusations against them, in a way, I am also turning them against myself. Censoring myself from speaking out has already lead to me censoring my thoughts and my feelings. It has made it easier for me to hide. So easy, in fact that I am more comfortable hiding than I will ever be out in the open. This is not always a bad thing, because hiding has its own pleasures–the feeling of control, an almost erotic charge–especially as a queer person. But hiding from oneself? There is nothing pleasurable about that.
Denial takes a toll on my mental and physical health. It keeps me from finding not just romantic happiness, but a sense of well-being and peace in general. I do not want to go through my entire life hiding from myself or running away. I want to pick and choose when to come out of hiding, and when I do, I want to be received with openness and sensitivity.