I have been OUT for ten years now. Loud and proud, out and about. I have marched, sauntered, run (with high heeled shoes and flats and sometimes my bare feet) and sometimes skipped entirely nine whole pride marches (2020 does not count. No, it does not!)
But I’ve known I was queer for much longer than ten years. I’ve known for more than twenty. What on earth took me so long?
I’m not the only one who stayed in the closet for so long, or longer, or even forever. Writing a post for this blog, I feel safe. Or safeish. My audience, I think, is queer, and queer-friendly. You get what I am saying. You know where I am coming from.
When I was growing up, I saw sexual harassment disguised as romance on Bollywood and Hollywood both. (James Bond and Shah Rukh Khan are my main culprits, but they are not alone.) I saw the ideal of straight romance, straight marriage, straight baby having.
I saw what the movies – and the people around me – thought about queer people. Queer men, queer women, trans men, trans women – I heard what they said.
We all did.
Of course so many of us never live a life in the open. Where can we go? What can we do? How do we show love and desire? The extraordinary vulnerability of saying that you don’t want that don’t want a “normal” life, that you have this other desire – and this is not like saying, I like Aamir Khan better than Hrithik Roshan. You are not *allowed* to not like the “opposite” gender. Boy meets Girl – the oldest and enforcedly only story.
Until very recently (even if you count the original Delhi High Court judgement), even consensual sex was “wrong”. Transgender people were criminalised by police. People were thrown out by their families, trapped by the families, or assaulted by their families, to curb our queerness. Police brutality was common and for the course if you were a visible minority.
In all of this, what possible good argument is there to be out at all?
The more we come out, the more we add our voices to the growing population of LGBTIAQ+ people in India, the more visibility we have, the greater our strength on our path forward, for progress, empowerment, legal and social rights.
That’s a great argument for why people should do it, but it is essentially also a call for martyrdom. Come out and risk violence for the cause!
But – if you do have the courage, or the boldness, or the fortune – to come out, and find the larger queer community – well, suddenly you are not the only person you know who is “other”. There are so many of us. We are everywhere, across caste, class, religion, nationality, ethnicity. We are a unity across the world, or can be.
I knew very few people when I marched my first pride. I marched rovingly, tagging from group to group but staying with no one. I marched by myself, but I wasn’t alone. I had a place.
I found friends and acceptance I hadn’t had before, and I’m not the only one.
I don’t know where you are on your journey. Mine has given me a community, friendship, some romance, and a place that belongs to me. I hope your own path is happy, and that even if you don’t ”come out” of the closet, you find your people, and can be with them.
We deserve much, much better than the shallow promises of the movies.