Coming Out To My Joint Family

Artwork by Aditi Kovid

It had been two weeks since I returned from my time in New York City and a day since my parents had returned from vacationing in New Zealand. It was around eleven o’clock at night, I was cocooning in my room. My worst fears came true when my father kept banging my door in an excessively loud, persistent manner and was asking me to open the door in a very high-pitched voice.

My aunt, who I came out to almost a week before had outed me to my parents. (Yes, I didn’t get a chance to properly come out to my parents!) All the details that I gave her about me discovering my sexuality, the girl that I was dating and how I pictured my future (so that she doesn’t lose her mind completely) was broken down and manipulated into bits and given to my parents.

I quickly skipped across the room and opened my door just enough to peek outside. What came next are now a barrage of scarred memories. My father barged in pushing the door asking me “What am I hearing? Is this true? You like a girl in New York?” in an aggressive tone. This was followed by my parents occupying two corners of my room and my uncle and aunt followed their suit by occupying the spaces besides them. All four looking at me like I had terribly wronged them and what followed next was an assurance of it.

A  series of statements fuelled by their angst, shock and disbelief were unleashed at me. These were inclusive of how I had absolutely shattered their trust, and how they never expected ‘these things’ from me because I was the righteous child of the house. Slightly more expected ones strung along,  “Oh! It’s just a phase”, “you are too innocent to recognize these things!” and “you get seated so easily!” My father opened up to me about experimenting with boys while he was in an all boys boarding school and his body needed it. He continued and said, “But then I got married to your mother and everything is correct.” I thought to myself that you can’t be corrected because that is who you are. But I saw his face, I saw their faces, and realised that maybe now is not the time. Maybe it’s best for them to vent it out so they can get past the anger and eventually see me for me. Their anger turned into anguish and I could see it in the tears that streamed down my father’s eyes and eventually my mother’s. My father broke down in front of me and it sent me shivers down my spine. I was shaken. This is the same man I idolised in so many ways and probably the strongest person I know alongside my mother. To see him and her break down the way they did, like children wailing and weeping, crushed my core and ripped my soul. My uncle stepped in to handle my dad as I moved towards him with a glass of water. I wiped his nose and his tears and politely took the glass close to his mouth so that he would drink from it. Unfortunately, he did not want to sip water from my hands. He brushed me aside and asked me to not come close to him. Ignoring what he said, I continue to lift him, and that very moment felt interminable and as though a hundred thousand needles were being passed through my skin. He was persistent in his attempts to keep my hands off him and even though I didn’t feel like it, I decided to oblige. It only felt right to give him the space. I held my tears in, so I could create an environment for them to vent out all the preliminary emotions they felt.

As my father walked across the room and settled on the floor, my aunt who is by now also teary eyes upon seeing my father (it was a first for most of us in the family) decides to take things in her hand. She continued the thread of misconceived notions and said “When you told me, I thought about it. I even went ahead and thought of getting you married to someone which could be arranged to end in a divorce and then you could lead the life you want. So much for the love of you. But I realise, it’s an illness. And we can find a cure to it. We shall go to the best of the best. And all we need is for you to cooperate with us and believe in us.” First, I was shattered. Shattered that she thought a marriage of convenience is better than facing the truth and funnily enough, she unknowingly asked me for the same things I was seeking from them: cooperation and belief. Then, I gain my composure and try explaining that being bi-sexual or lesbian is not an illness. It’s not something that can be cured. It’s like heterosexuality and is not an abnormality.

By this time, my father who had left the room for a few minutes entered again and in the consistent power demanding tone goes on to say that he did not agree with me at all and his reason was “it’s unnatural” as it isn’t something sanctioned by his faith or his god. To add to this, he said it was his fault. It was his fault because he never differentiated between a girl and boy while bringing me up, that he allowed me to fulfil my dreams which I have now (upon disclosing my relationship) drifted away from. Oh, how I wanted to tell him that my dreams were bigger and how I was constantly reducing the size of my dreams to fit into my reality of a conservative traditional household. He went on to say that he should have treated me the way daughters are “supposed to be treated” and should have gotten me married early so I wouldn’t have lost my head. His belief was (and is)  that I was only twenty-five years of age and I had not experienced life in the manner he has and therefore I am not capable enough to take “such decisions” on my own.

My uncle, who had now seen enough rose to the occasion and demanded a sacrifice from me. He insisted that I leave my girlfriend and choose a life of “normalcy” and claimed what child am I if I cannot sacrifice a new budding love for my parents who I owe my birth to, and my existence to! What he failed to realise was that this was not about the woman I fell in love with, this was about me finally responding to my calling, it was about my sexuality and me wanting to accept that part of me. My cousin, in whom I confided in with some details about this night later, made a valid argument: Why should I consider a sacrifice when they aren’t willing to acknowledge the existence of my sexuality and relationship and most importantly accept that I legitimately have something grave to lose?

I was at a loss of words. For I knew that it did not strike them for a minute how their words would impact their daughter mentally as they put forward their delirious options of sacrifice, lavender marriages, and divorce. So, I chose to say nothing at all. I was hurt. Deeply injured. I was silent as I watched my uncle help my father stand up and they both walk out, my aunt follows, and the room fell into silence again. Only this time I looked at her, my mother, held her hand and held it hard, as if almost clinging on it. In that moment I could feel my chest so heavy and my body dissolving, all at once. Silence still. And in that silence, she shed her tears. Her silence spoke. She was probably the only one I was most concerned about and I wanted to speak to. We saw eye to eye and neither of us could hold back.

We cried. Mom and I. I told her, I could do anything for her. Anything. Give up my choice of partner, my relationship, only for her because I was so consumed by her tears and and hurt. But could I really give it all up?

I wish our society was not conditioned to think as much about “log kya kahenge?”. I wish our society was conditioned to be supportive or at least supportive to learning about things they did not know instead of diminishing on the basis of “aisa thodi hota hai”.  A few months back I would have said that what followed were the worst months of my life, however today I am grateful for that time.

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A choreographer with a penchant for writing. Rediscovering myself one day at a time. Currently learning to unlearn because tu koi aur hai, jaanta hai tu.
Sneha Jhawar

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