Imagine the end of a rainy day, the smell of the wet earth, the sharp rays of the sun post the drizzle, and then the only remaining proof of the recent shower…a rainbow, which slowly fades into oblivion.. “A rainbow is an optical and meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection or refraction of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky. It takes the form of a multicoloured arc. Rainbows caused by sunlight always appear in the section of the sky directly opposite the sun.” – reads the ever informative, Wikipedia.
The ever marvellous, phantasmagorical Rainbow! My earliest memory of it bring forth other childishly idyllic impressions of bubbles and fairies, laughter and happy endings. Rainbows meant storybooks, colours and leprechaun gold. They stood for happiness, security and I would basically add one to my every “successful” drawing.
The advent of Dexter’s (*1) Laboratory changed this relationship. DeeDee, our protagonist’s obnoxious sister could be defined in two words – Unicorns and Rainbows. These were promptly rejected by my eight-year-old self as felonious components of the “girly” shtick and dismissed with derision along with the rest of my Barbie dolls and tutus.
By sixth grade, VIBGYOR had become an overused trivia fact. Grade seven delved into wavelengths and frequencies that I robotically excelled at. The very existence of Rainbows faded into the background, only being brought to the fore by random dreamers who would happen to see one and immediately pull at my sleeve and say – “Look look a rainbow!”, to which I would absently reply, “Oh nice”.
Once I learned about apartheid (*2) I could better appreciate Bob Marley’s (*3) “Rainbow Country”. The rainbow became historically meaningful, a revolutionary symbol endorsing diversity as natural.
In grade eight, I lost my mental virginity to new found friend, an effeminate boy during a group science project. We would jump on tables in empty labs and belly dance during designated project hours, thereafter we would go back to class and snigger, sitting comfortably in the back benches while our hapless teacher would struggle through Reproduction.
I soon found out my “girlish” friend was gay. I was cool with it. It explained what was wrong with him. Little did I know how “wrong” I was.
Four angst ridden years later, I was living the fact that “sexuality is a spectrum” and it was not necessary to fall on one end of it. This realization brought a lot of clarity and rightness to my world. However, the winds of change couldn’t exactly blow away my cultural, familial and personal baggage. That is when, sitting in my shared room in a small town in India, I found Pride. Rainbows made me smile all over again.
“Somewhere over the rainbow way up high, there’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.”
I can safely say that I have seen both sides of the rainbow, i.e. India and only recently, Vancouver. Straight until proven/allowed to be Queer. This has brought its own guilt and dis-identification trauma. How active am I as a queer? Shouldn’t I do something for my people back home? What right do I have to impudently enjoy my queer status when women like me are languishing in secret back home? When I see the over enthusiastic, sickly sweet Queer Club members of my university offering up cookies and condoms, I want to punch them in the face. Sometimes I feel like my queerness has only caused me unhappiness. But maybe its the other way around. Being a gay refugee of sorts, I have not managed to make any meaningful connections within this community that I claim to identify with. I constantly feel frustrated, alienated and uncoordinated. Unseen, unknown and unfulfilled. Apparently when you’re queer you don’t stop being just another person. Where is that promise of paradise?
That’s when the visual irony of the rainbow comes and kicks me in the shin, mocking my struggle with the seemingly unattainable realization of my sexual identity which eludes my field of vision like a pot of leprechaun gold. That’s when the downward curved rainbow feels like a frown on the face of the earth. How not gay!
That being said, as someone who needs and values a sense of community as essential to human existence, I feel proud and privileged for being part of a beautiful, self-actualized community of free thinkers. It felt almost like a rite of passage when I first walked across Davie Street’s rainbow crossing. Life was good. I belonged.
The rainbow has represented the gay community since the 1970s. Today, it is a powerful symbol that represents all of the feelings I have experienced and much more. It carries with it the legacy of its victory against apartheid, lending an almost presumptuous persona to the queer folks’ stand today. Then again it is that very legacy that lends a brighter light of hope to the currently oppressed. This too shall pass, it says.
So here is to the hope that someday, I will be out to my parents, which I will be the most of myself. That the sun will shine for the Gay community and looking towards the horizon all I will see in the blue blue sky is my own little rainbow. My much awaited cheesy little happy ending.
“Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream, really do come true.”
1. Dexter is an American television drama series. The series centers on Dexter Morgan, a blood spatter analyst for Miami Metro Police Department who also leads a secret life as a serial killer.
2. Apartheid is an Afrikaans word, which means “the state of being apart”. It was a policy of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.
3. Bob Marley was a twentieth century Jamaican reggae Singer-songwriter, musician, and guitarist.