Got to witness a lot of ‘Coming Out’ stories lately… both online, and offline! Though the outcomes varied vastly, the fact that so many of us, queer folk, have started breaking the (un)comfortable walls of the closet fills my heart with the joy and hope that probably can’t be expressed in words.
Extremely fascinated by the so-called ‘Success Stories’ of the process, I couldn’t help but think about my friends who are still waiting for the unconditional acceptance… some of them feeling impatient, some low, and some are quietly keeping their fingers crossed while people around them – families, friends, colleagues – are taking their time to ‘adjust’.
While people who matter will take their own time to come around, I wonder if we have ever tried to shift focus and look at people who, probably, don’t matter as much in our scheme of things, but have, unconditionally, extended their support and encouragement to our ‘queerness’, and we have hardly noticed them doing so.
For me, there are three such people. My (local) hairdresser, my office boy, and a cabbie! Sadly enough, since I never thought of them as really ‘important’ people in my life, I never appreciated their ‘no questions asked’ acceptance of my gender identity and their own sweet little ways of expressing the same – till very recently of, course!
I have always revelled in the fact that people just don’t figure out my designated gender unless I tell them, but with hairdressers, it has always been a different story! Probably because it is one thing to ‘hide’ your physical features from someone standing at a distance, and absolutely another to do so from someone standing inches from your chair! They have always started by calling me ‘sir’, and observing my voice, (lack of) facial hair, skin texture etc, it has always changed to ‘ma’am’ – and that’s when I change my saloon! This guy started with ‘sir’ as well, must have observed the physical features too but no curious glances ever. He just changed ‘sir’ to ‘boss’, thus ensuring my comfort without even feeling the need to know which side of the line I belonged… No Questions Asked!
This was the first workplace I came out. Everyone began with endless questions, and it was only after getting satisfactory answers that they came around. Everyone but ‘mama’ – a 50 year old man who served coffee in office. It was like, till yesterday, he had said “Coffee ma’am”, and there he was, today… “Coffee, Sir”. I looked up, trying to find, at least, some curiosity in his eyes (can’t help – so used to it!), but not even a trace! Not that he wasn’t used to talking – we used to talk about his wife, and his son’s marriage and his daughter’s final year in college – but not a word from him now! Just the same calm smile that was his trademark. The only time he probably spoke anything about it was during my farewell party there, when he said “Sir, please meet my daughter once, I think (s)he is also like you!” Unbelievable!!!
The Cab Driver
We were waiting for a friend of mine to arrive. He started by asking my name… then whether I am married… then if I had a girlfriend! The second question, at first, made me feel like giving it back by saying something nasty, but something about his innocent, harmless smile kept me from it. I said no to the last two questions, to which he said he will pray I get a pretty girlfriend soon. I smiled, and my friend arrived, and both of us got busy talking while he focussed on the road. I didn’t quite realise his queer-friendliness till now, coz he was addressing me as ‘sir’, and so being specific about a ‘girlfriend’ wasn’t surprising! Next, he tried to talk to my friend (who is queer) with the same conversation opener – “Are you married?”. “No”, she replied. After a brief pause, he said “I’ll pray, like sir, you get someone too!” That ‘someone’, kind of, struck me – in a pleasant way. All this while, he was being very specific about genders, and now – someone! My friend got busy attending a call, and several questions made their way to my mind… Does he understand queer?… Could be a coincidence?… he wasn’t generic while talking to me, then why her?… As I laughed at myself for reading too much between the lines, we reached our destination. As we got off, he repeated “Sir, I hope you get a girlfriend soon, and madam, I will pray you meet your special ‘someone’ soon!”