I was recently asked to be a member of a Pride Panel at my university, and I’ll totally cop to having very, very mixed feelings about it.
I’m proud to call myself a staunch queer advocate. I’m admittedly not completely out to everyone in my life, but I don’t bother to hide my queerness anymore. As long as I feel safe speaking out, I’ll do so. And that has been a big step for me. I started college terrified of who I was, petrified to speak up against injustice when I saw it, and too intimidated to reach out towards the queer community because I didn’t see myself represented within it. I’m now within 6 months of being done with my undergraduate studies, and I’m none of those things. I’m confident that I can reconcile all of my identities into being a complete, happy human being.
And yet, I’m gut-wrenchingly nervous about agreeing to be on the official Pride Panel.
For one – I’m still not out to the campus desis, which is almost hilarious at this point, as I’m sure the campus desis have figured it out. I mean, I’m not going to insult their intelligence by thinking that not a single Indian had seen me with my (now ex-)girlfriend, looked at my formerly dykey hair and general gender non-conformity, and added those factors together to find me distinctly non-heterosexual. And if even one person figured it out, I’m sure it was campus gossip within hours. And that’s not something that worries me, per se – after all, if everyone knows, then it saves me the effort of telling them, right? But if I sit on this Pride Panel, and openly confirm that yes, I’m queer, I feel like that would be so much of a bigger deal. Like the desi community I use denial as a coping mechanism for dealing with the first-generation children who are anything besides tennis-playing, dal-making, heterosexual-arranged-marrying doctors/engineers. Openly claiming my queerness would mean forcing others to deal with my sexuality, and I don’t know if I’m ready for that.
Then there’s the issue of being the token “queer person of color”. I wasn’t born yesterday – I know exactly why I was asked to sit on this panel. The current panel is predominantly male, gay, and Caucasian. The other few female members are also Caucasian, and also firmly identified as lesbians. Obviously, I’m neither Caucasian nor strictly homosexual. My story is completely different from everyone else’s. However, my story is also not representative of any of the minority groups to which I belong. I don’t want to be the tokenized queer, the tokenized brown girl, or the tokenized anything.
But then I remember what life pre-Gaysifamily felt like – it felt like I was the only one. I remember being insecure in my identity even as recently as last year, searching “desi it gets better” videos on youtube, and finding nothing. I don’t want other young desi queers to go through that.
I’m nervous that by accepting this position, I’ll become the face of queer people of color on this campus. Which is an honor, to be sure, but it’s not a responsibility that should be given to anybody. There’s a big difference between being a representative and being a role model. I’m only okay with being the latter, and I hope that is enough. Even though it’s sometimes lonely being a desi queer, as stated in Trikone’s It Gets Better video, “there are a lot of us” – and it’s our responsibility to be there for others when we’re in a position to do so. So I accepted. My first presentation is next week. I’m intensely nervous, but also hopeful – if I end up reaching out to someone, anyone, whether they’re desi or not, it will be worth it.