Coming out is hard, no matter who it’s directed towards. In some ways, I came out “backwards” – my parents were almost the first people I told. It was seems totally counterintuitive, but I realized that I’d rather tell them than have them find out in some catastrophic way. They didn’t take it amazingly well, but I also didn’t get disowned. However, they did say one thing – that I was not, ever, allowed to tell anyone. Because they said it was a “phase” and it would be “damaging” to my future prospects if anyone were to find out. Of course, I couldn’t follow the gag order, but being who I am, I also had a hard time directly disobeying what they said. So I interpreted them as having said that I should just make sure no Indian people find out. As I slowly started coming out to the people close to me, I realized that coming out really is a process – it’s never a one-time deal. With every person, with every situation, you have to gauge whether it’s okay to tell people the truth, or risk them finding out and judging you, or worse.
Fast forward one year. I have a girlfriend, I’m out to all of my good friends, I’ve come out to my coworkers, and am about to have an Indian housemate. I decided to come out to the desi housemate, thereby making her the first brown person I’d ever come out to besides my parents. I’d steeled myself for the worst, almost expecting her to back out of our living arrangement. But she took it really well, and has since been great. She’s nothing but genuinely kind and gracious to my girlfriend and me.
Emboldened by coming out to my first desi friend, I decided to come out to a second one. This friend I had known for years. She was always the rebel Indian girl, dating the “white boys” (gasp!) and getting into general trouble. She was the girl with the bad (albeit, deserved) reputation, but she was also a sweetheart, and therefore my friend. She was the kind of friend I shared almost everything with, and therefore it felt right to tell her. In college, she took the wild-child reputation and upped the ante – she started sleeping with a married Marine while his wife, also a Marine, was overseas. It put some frostiness in our friendship because I couldn’t condone her actions, but when both the Marine’s marriage and her relationship with him ended, like a good friend, I helped her get through it emotionally, and we became close once again.
We went out to ice cream, and I was sort of debating what to say and how to say it when my girlfriend called. As per usual, I ended the call with an “I love you”, which ended up being the conversation starter. I mentioned that I was dating someone, a girl, and my friend was totally chill with it. She was surprised, and even more surprised that I had told my parents, but generally supportive. And then came the damning judgment – “Well, at least someone has done something worse than me!”
I know it was supposed to be harmless. It was supposed to be a lighthearted comment in passing. But I started off with a raised eyebrow that quickly turned into seething anger. I mean, really, since when has being queer been a worse crime than being dangerously promiscuous or breaking up someone else’s marriage? And not even just any marriage, a military marriage where one person was overseas serving the country. What a shitty, shitty commentary on “morality”. She’s the homewrecker, and I’m the “bad” one?
Through our years of friendship, I was always careful never to judge, and separated her actions from her personality to be able to love the person she was. And I don’t feel like I received the same consideration. It was like she was just relieved that by Indian standards, someone had finally done something “worse” than her. It was honestly so painful that I didn’t even tell my best friend about it until a week or so later, and I was still so mad that I couldn’t talk about it for long.
I suppose I should be grateful that I know she won’t gossip about me to the other desis. I suppose I should be grateful that she wasn’t disgusted. I suppose I should be grateful she didn’t end our friendship. But the truth is, it would be easier to not be friends. Even knowing all of the things she’s done that I didn’t approve of, I still thought we were equals. And now I know that that’s not how she views me – she feels that she has the moral high-ground, and that just sickens me.
Being gay doesn’t automatically make someone a bad person. Being judgmental does.