Ten years ago, I took the most satisfying shower of my entire life. I remember to this day, the elation and sense of peace I felt, as the hot water splashed all over my body. I felt as if a huge rock had been lifted off my chest and heart. Half an hour earlier, I had come out as gay to my father, at the age of 17.
Having been brought up in a typical Punjabi household, I was somewhat fearful of coming out to my father. Nothing threatens the ongoing shameful tradition of patriarchy more than a woman or a gay person standing up for themself by basically asserting their right of existence. Surprisingly, he wasn’t violent nor did he threaten to disown me. The first words out of his mouth were “Would you like to see a psychiatrist?”. I replied, “No. The reason I am letting you know that I am gay right now is because I don’t want you to go ten years down the road and expect me to marry a girl. I am not going to ruin another person’s life just because you expect to keep a social standing.”
Treatment through a psychiatrist basically boils down to the idea that homosexuality can be ‘cured’. If it were the sixties, I would probably have been chained down to a bed, shown images of nude women, and have had electric shocks sent to my brain (Please read more about the disgusting practice of ‘Conversion Therapy’ on Wikipedia). We explored ‘ex-gay groups’ on Google and I seriously considered trying to make myself straight for a while. It’s not that I was ashamed of the chills that went down my spine after I had kissed a boy, it’s that I was shamed, I felt guilt, and I felt that my father’s patriarchal sense of entitlement was not being fulfilled.
A week later, I basically gave up on the idea of trying to turn myself straight. I was just too turned on by men to force myself to like women! The next challenge was to come out to my mother. I thought that would be much easier than coming out to my father. So I spoke with her two weeks later and came out to her. She said “My son can’t be gay”, and I pretty much reaffirmed what I said to her. There were a few tears and denial followed, but eventually it was all resolved. Once again, I was super lucky to have a brown mother who didn’t flip out.
The final person I came out to was my brother. That was a piece of cake. He was watching Seinfeld at 11 pm in the night and I just walked up to him and told him I was gay. His reaction was “Oh ok”. That was it.
I share this story to give all my South-Asian LGBT people a sense of hope. If you are strong in your convictions and values, no one can break you down. If you are true to yourself, no one can beat you down. While I am not going to be silly enough to recommend that you all come out to your family, I will ask you to remain true to yourselves. Sometimes, if you are young or financially dependent on your family, you can’t come out at that stage. Or perhaps you live in an extremely homophobic society and don’t have the option to come out. My recommendation to you would be to go find like minded people. Go make out with a boy. Go make out with a girl. Go make out with a transman or a transwoman. Fight patriarchy and homophobia and misogyny. It doesn’t always have to be explicit. A silent, satisfying kiss between two gay people can be just as big of a fuck you to homophobes as holding hands and dry-humping each other in public.