Situation 1: Its 5:30 am in the morning. Still dark outside. I walk downstairs to a bus stop across the street from the apartment building. I have a flight to New York to catch and the bus takes me to the train that takes me to the plane. Like every charming urban street corner, this one has its share of crazies. At the bus stop, there is an African-american chap and his girlfriend who is putting up with a lotta trash talking from her sweet talker beau. Suddenly I hear a ruckus, a lot of hollering if you will. Its coming from the street corner at the other end of the block. There are two Hispanic chaps, a white guy and an African-american chap engaged in this lively morning discussion. The white guy is gay as I will deduce. He appears effeminate. This seems to rankle the two Hispanic chaps who are verbally abusing the man and displaying aggressive tendencies. This is where the African-American guy comes in – He hollers loudly at them for a while, till the white man has gone. A second later he comes to the bus stop I am standing at, still staring at the Hispanic chaps and shouting loudly. He starts explaining the situation loudly to sweet-talker and his girlfriend. Apparently, the two Hispanic chaps were threatening the white guy with regard to his sexuality. He stepped in to tell them to stop it “because they have laws against things like that !! This is gonna get ‘em in trouble!!! This ain’t cool man!!” My first thought: Keep an eye on the Hispanic guys who were still standing shiftily at the corner. My second thought: Do I look gay ? I did a quick check…I had on a tshirt and jeans. I looked like me. I looked like any other person waiting to catch a bus on their way to their airport. My third thought: OMG. I am gay. 5 mins later there doesn’t appear to be any immediate danger to me but I still feel uncomfortable. I hail a cab to the train station.
Situation 2: Its about 1:30 am in the morning. I leave a gay bar in the city and hail a cab to get back home. The cab driver is an Indian guy. He is Punjabi to be more specific. Heavy set and appears to be tall. I tell him where I want to go. Cabbie Ji keeps eyeing me in a slightly odd fashion in the rear view mirror. I notice this and countdown the minutes to destination. A minute into our drive to destination he asks me if the place we just left had some party on. I replied that it had an Indian Bollywood party going on (which it did – Jai Ho! For those interested ). He then asks me “but isn’t it some type of gay…gay bar?”. I knew it was , he apparently also knew it was. He was fishing for my sexuality. My bristles were out. But it was 1:45 and I was still ten minutes away from destination driving through parts of town that aren’t the safest for anyone at that point of time in the morning with a heavy set Punjabi dude as my driver who could be a) gay and really curious b) homophobic and a bit of a problem. I went with the later assumption. I replied “I don’t know… maybe…but they also have this party where they play good bollywood music….thats what I was there for”.
Cabbie Ji’s next question, “You from India? You miss India?”
Me:”Yes, Yes I do”
CBJ: “Do you miss friends there?”
Me:”I have Indian friends here so its ok”
CBJ:”Do you have a boyfriend?” [my counting down minutes to destination could not get more intense]
CBJ: “Why not?”
Me:”Just haven’t found the right person yet”
CBJ: “Oh ok…well you are very beautiful… very pretty person…I am sure and hope you will find someone soon”
Me:”Thank you” [2 minutes …2 more minutes]
I get out of the cab. Get home. Safe. And really ashamed of myself.
Are you scared of [some] straight people ? Have you ever been ? Do you wonder if the person sitting next to you on the train or waiting in line behind you at the coffee shop is a threat to your well being if they discover you are gay ?
It doesn’t happen often …luckily. But there have been these situations when the hair at the back of my neck has stood up and I’ve either been on the edge or lied about my sexual orientation for what I considered basic self preservation. But that didn’t get rid of the dissonance and shame I felt afterwards, Like I had done something wrong. In Situation 1, I didn’t want to “look gay” for a fleeting moment…. Where on earth did that thought pop into my head ? In Situation 2, I could not tell Cabbie Ji to his face that I had just left a Queer Bollywood Dance party that was welcoming to all and that I didn’t have a boyfriend because I prefer women. And I search for that woman who I will adore, everyday.
As a gay person, I try and live my life with integrity – the same integrity that every human being deserves to live their life with. And yet, I fail miserably at times – lying, deceiving others, making every step of my life a calculated call, using ambiguous pronouns. I justify it in some ways because I genuinely believe that “coming out” should be non existent. Just as a straight person doesn’t have to tell every single person his/her sexuality – I shouldn’t have to. That’s integrity – to not believe I am any less or a second class citizen no matter what the laws or society says. At the end of the day I am a reasonably nice, honest human being. Sometimes I think that is one part to why saying “I am gay” to anyone is so difficult. We aren’t conditioned by society to be proclaiming our sexuality. Yet, we have to ? And doing so can endanger us. And we recognize that but it makes my head spin. I must lie. Else I am apparently being stupid.
What do you think ? Have you ever been ashamed of hiding your sexuality or selling out ? What were your Situations ?