I love squash. In the winter, it’s pretty much all I eat. It’s such an easy food too! Just cut it open, scoop out the seeds and bake it – automatic deliciousness. However, one squash can be a lot for a person to finish as I’ve discovered, living on my own. So last night, my former roommates and I had a mini squash party and what started out as an informal get-together morphed into visiting happy hour at a local restaurant. As the night wore on, my former desi roommate blurts out, “Oh, I have something to tell you!”, but refused to say it in front of the group.
Turns out, the campus desis know I’m a homo – even the freshman who’s been on campus for only four months – four months in which I haven’t been in a lesbian relationship, oddly enough. The desi roommate’s boyfriend is a teaching assistant for freshman biology. Apparently some of the kids in his class, upon realizing that we’re friends on Facebook, kept asking him if he knew if I was a lesbian. And former desi roommate has been pestered non-stop by other desis for the same info. Neither has said anything but they really don’t need to. Apparently, the cat isn’t just out of the bag – the cat is running down the street after having turned my life into its litter box.
I’ve been expecting this for a while now. Hell, I’m almost surprised it didn’t come sooner. It’s been a little over three years in which I’ve not worked very hard to hide my sexuality. In my time at college, I’ve played rugby, cut my hair insanely short, had a “really close friend” who would always pick me up from bhangra practice, and I openly declared that my thesis was about healthcare not meeting the needs of queer women – you’d have to be wilfully ignorant to not be able to put those facts together.
I think what prevents me from being as relieved as I thought I would be is the fact that no one, not a single person, has approached me personally about it. I’m a relatively well-known campus desi – I’m on the board of the Indian Student Association and I’m a member of the bhangra team. I interact with a lot of brown people on a frequent basis. If this is hot campus gossip, how come not one person has asked me about the truth? I recognize that asking someone about their sexuality can be intimidating but I feel as though someone could have at least alerted me to the fact that I was the center of this gossip firestorm. These are people who generally have positive opinions about gay rights but they can’t handle one of their own being a homo?
On one hand, this saves me a lot of trouble. If they all assume I’m a lesbian, I could technically just relax into the label everyone else has made for me. But that in itself is a problem. I’m not a lesbian, and while I have a stronger affinity for female-identified persons than male, the label I need to use is queer. Part of me wants to just believe that the exact label doesn’t matter, that the important part is that people understand that I’m non-hetero. But I know that’s not how people will understand it and it’s frustrating. I want to be out on my own terms but I’m not brave or empowered enough right now to do so. I’m still financially dependent on my parents (whose financial support is conditional on the gag order they’ve given me), and there is a chance that I’ll go back to living with them post-graduation. Even though my parents know, they would be devastated if other people knew our deep dark secret.
And then I wonder about the implications this has for my male partner. Being in an apparent hetero relationship (we’re both queer identified, but with opposite gender identities), with all of the hetero privilege it comes with, this adds a totally strange dimension to this debate. Back in October, my partner requested to link us as ‘in a relationship’ on Facebook and sent me a request to make it “Facebook official”. And it’s been sitting in my requests tab ever since. My relationships with women have never been “Facebook official” – would it be fair for me to go public with a relationship now that I have a male partner? Is it even fair for me to judge those relationships with each other?
I know for a fact that there have to be other desis on campus who are so far in the closet that they’re frolicking in Narnia with Aslan. I hope those kids are comforted by the fact that despite my intensely rumored lesbianism, I’m still well-liked and involved in campus Indian culture. But if I acknowledge being in a “hetero” relationship, what kind of example does that set? People are going to think I had my requisite college lesbian experience, and then went back to men. Ugh.
I know I need to worry less about the public perception of my actions and just do what feels right, but it’s so nerve-wracking to know that I’m the guinea pig. Insofar as I know, there have been no other openly-queer desis on campus. There are barely any in my state – and they’re all gay men. The Indian community here is all first-generation, very conservative, and very tight-knit. I’m trying so hard to be an advocate, and be true to myself, but I don’t know where to go from here.
Same day edit: I’ve had a couple hours to think about it. I went to rugby practice in the hopes that tackling would make me feel less angry – it didn’t help. I’m officially furious. I don’t feel like anyone has a right to pass judgment on me and my sexuality. I feel that since no one came and spoke to me about this, it is a clear indication that they’re not supportive. While I could care less what anyone thinks of me, I find the gossip abhorrent. Part of me wants to be confrontational. The other part of me feels if I’m not ready to accept all of the potential consequences of a verbal throw-down, I shouldn’t engage in one. I feel so incredibly ill-equipped to deal with this right now, because while I want to take a stand and call people out on their bullshit, ultimately it comes down to keeping this away from my parents. I’d be grateful for some thoughts/advice.