I think I’m in the closet again… either that, I’m living a double life or have some sort of alter-ego.
I came out as a lesbian when I was seventeen, and then when I was nineteen I started dating a man for a few years. Since I’m not with him anymore, I feel like I have to come out all over again, even though I have obviously been queer the whole time.
While I tried my hardest to be out and proud during that relationship with a man, I have now realized just how much I was benefiting from the heterosexual privilege. Even though my politics and identity were queer, many straight people treated me with the privileges of a fellow straight person since they saw that I was dating a man.
Either they just assumed I was straight from the get-go because they saw him by my side, or they thought my queerness that I sometimes mentioned was insignificant since I was dating a man.
Now that I’ve been stripped of that heterosexual privilege, I’m again trying to come to grips with this coming-out process that I thought I had already conquered.
Although I understand it isn’t easy to be out to everyone, and I do not judge people who do not feel able to, I feel I am personally at a place where I need to push myself. I love being honest, hence why I love writing for gaysi, but I want to be able to be this honest in my every day life.
I have considered pushing away my straight friends in hopes that I will not have to be in the closet and “dishonest” with so many people, but I’m pretty sure that’s considered cheating under my current guidelines.
I also thought I could push away the straight people of color in my life, because I was tired and exhausted from having to be be in the closet around them. Then I realized just how many people of color would disappear from my life if I did that, and I really need brown faces in my life. It’s up to me to change the dynamics of what these relationships mean, especially in order to bring about social change.
Personally, I can no longer limit the honesty that is so essential to my being, to certain sections and domains of my life. I need to be my full queer feminist desi self in front of all my friends, acquaintances and family.
It is exhausting having to remember which parts of my identity I can reveal in front of which friends and acquaintances. Especially when even the smallest details of my lives can be detrimental if mentioned in front of the wrong people.
I don’t like this feeling of having an alter-ego. I don’t want to feel like I have all these different lives and beings that I have to juggle. To understand me, the people in my life have to see all my complexities, not just some – even if it makes them, and me, a little uncomfortable at first.
Furthermore, as queer desis we often compromise our ability to be out, in order to protect or appease our families, and there is no simple solution to that. In my case, I think it will be good for my parents to take that risk of being out and honest with me.
With an identity that is both personal (in my home life) and political (in my activism and work), there will always be a risk for me. I will always be vulnerable, but I can’t always be scared.
For inspiration, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the queer people of color around me that I admire: my gaysi family, the feminist writers I read, the spoken word artists I watch and listen to, the activists that are out there doing everything they dream of doing…
Although I understand that no one is completely fearless, the biggest thing that I feel separates me from the people I admire is fear. Before I can really make it to this next phase in my life I need to deal with fear. I don’t expect it to go away but I need to address that it exists.
It is strange and difficult for me to be feeling this way because ever since I came out (the first time) I have felt far from fearful. I’ve become accustomed to being extremely outspoken in terms of my politics, activism, in social settings and classroom settings. I’ve never associated myself with fear since then, but I’m realizing that it is relevant.
I thought I had everything that I wanted, but I want so much more now. I’ve been fantasizing about what it would be like if I could confront people about their assumptions about my sexuality with no hesitation, if I could address the queerphobia of my straight friends of color with no hesitation, if I could share my gaysi articles with no hesitation…
As I am about to get out of graduate school I want to get an honest job that I am passionate about and live an honest life that I am passionate about. As a queer person of color, I am living in a world where it is never entirely safe or comfortable to be absolutely unguarded. Honesty is brave and fearlessness is difficult. Although I can probably never completely accomplish either, I want to strive for both.
So here’s to the grand task of trying to live with both brown feet on the outside of the closet!
“When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” – Audre Lorde