There was never any lightbulb moment when I realized I was bi; I just always was. There was never any internal struggle, I never even felt the need to come out. Straight people don’t carry the burden of coming out, so why should I? Some people who found out were surprised, some weren’t, but most of them have more or less been accepting of it.
Whenever I envisioned my future, it was always the idea of a hetero love that I grew up watching in movies. I was telling a friend recently that even my dreams don’t allow me to think in more expansive ways. An American colleague of mine recently got engaged to her girlfriend; she shared a picture of a party with their families celebrating the moment. I was happy for her but there was a twinge of sadness as well knowing that that would never be a reality for me. I’m not even talking about marriage rights; I know we will have to rethink entire institutions to be able to fully embrace our queerness. I will be speaking about weddings in this essay as that is perhaps the biggest, most prevalent form of personal celebration that exists in our country.
None of the elders in my family know about my sexuality. I come from a family where even inter-caste love is punished. I shudder to think what would happen if someone dared to break the gender barrier as well. At most weddings, the standard question people my age get asked is, “So beta, why don’t you just get married?”. And then an uncle who thinks he’s very funny will ask, “Are you gay or something?” and then proceed to laugh at his own, very unimaginative joke. Now, what if that someone is actually “gay or something” and wants a big wedding? As an introvert, I personally dislike huge gatherings but what I’m saying is that this should be an option for queers who do want such things. I’m also, of course, referring to a certain class that can afford to host such large-scale events.
What I perhaps envy the most above my American colleague is the ease with which she is able to live in the world. The fact that she is able to love freely without fearing any repercussions or drama. The fact that her family and her community have so willingly welcomed her partner into their lives. The most I can hope for is tolerance, nothing more than that. It’s such a pathetic word – “tolerate”, you tolerate a cold until it passes, a headache, the traffic, and minor inconveniences in life. I want us to be able to celebrate queerness outside the confines of pride parades and gay clubs. Sometimes, it all feels like wishful thinking, to be honest. Do I even need to seek the validation of the people around me? Is it validation? I’m not sure, is it time to stop pining for something unattainable?
I hope that in the next year, we’re all able to celebrate our queerness with unabashed joy no matter what that looks like. I want that for myself in my daily life, to make concerted efforts to literally dream bigger and to live joyfully in a world that does not make it easy. The works of other queer artists – the poetry of Mary Oliver, the paintings of Frida Kahlo and Amrita Sher-Gill, all of whom came before me – are a testament to our glory. In contemporary times, people from our own Indian LGBTQ+ community such as Manvendra Singh Gohil, Jerry Pinto, and Laxmi Narayan Tripathi give me hope. In an interview, Tripathi once said, “I don’t believe in dressing like an activist, what does that even mean? Wearing bland clothes and a jhola? I’ll wear my red lipstick, my brightest sarees, and talk about trans rights.” In 2023, I hope that we’re able to truly celebrate ourselves in all ways, and others will have to just deal with it.