5 Obstacles I Overcame To Come Out
The hoops I jumped through as a South-Asian trying to fight against the world.
At 19, I just knew that there was no more running away.
It was the time when my family was having month-long weddings and I’d be hiding away from everyone in the corner or in the car park.
I was in the conflicted position of having eaten some of the best food of my life. Shout out to those of you who know what Biriyani is:
And I was yet in the position of a shrinking feeling in my stomach, a feeling that I knew I wasn’t like the others and eventually, something had to give way.
My Asian family were not going to stop the conversations about marriage plans.
Neither were they going relent in their plans to matchmake me with the “perfect, educated, fair-skinned woman”
Look, coming out is not easy for anyone. But South-Asians have a unique hill to climb.
A large part of their culture is built around weddings.
The entire bollywood industry is about this very subject. It’s one of the reasons our weddings take so long.
The journey was long and hard, and though I can’t go through the whole thing, these are 5 obstacles that I had to go through internally to get to a place of love and acceptance.
Obstacle 1 — Your Own Denial
A well-to-do Asian woman at the Walima catches your aunty’s eye and they start making plans.
“What do you think of her? Come on don’t be shy na! She knows how to cook as well! It’s time you start thinking about your future plans!”
Denial is a funny thing. How do we as human beings manage to do it over and over again? I was in denial and perhaps the most significant thing about denial is that it denies itself. It simply didn’t matter because I didn’t look at the root cause.
So I looked away and refused to pay attention. I carried on under false pretences because that I believed that was the easier path.
“Maybe if I do it the right way. Maybe if I marry the right woman then she’ll make me happy. I can make everyone feel proud.”
This is not only a psychological denial but it’s a denial of the right of your ability to make yourself happy, on your own terms.
When you see someone who is coming out, understand that it may have taken years for them to come out to themselves first. To deny denial itself.
To overcome denial, you have to remove all the places it can hide.
Obstacle 2 — Your Fear of Others
Whenever a big change is coming up in our lives, it’s the fear that grips us the most.
What I felt was the most terrifying thing was the idea that the people around me would have to re-learn me all over again.
That in a way, they didn’t really know me and that I had willingly taken part in an active lie that didn’t reflect how I felt on the inside.
We do this all time. I used to do this all the time.
Fear is perhaps the most potent paralysing agent available to the mind.
It’s the instinct that makes us double-check and triple-check before crossing road, it’s what keeps us safe.
But it’s also what keeps us isolated.
Questions like, what will they say, what will they think? How will things change?
Will I dishonour my family?
A mix of calculation, suspicion and detail-obsessing are the ingredients of the fear-toxin.
To overcome fear, you must answer your empty questions with the truth.
Obstacle 3 — Your Shame That You Feed Yourself
This one’s a tough one. Because shame is a part of our diet.
There’s the shame you feel when you look into every TV program, film, series or overheard story and realise that you are not in it.
You’re an extra on the sidelines who had no part in the story of boy-meets-girl and they are whisked off into the sunset with dancers on the hills.
There’s a shame involved when you ask your heart what it wants and it responds with something people hate you for.
When I walked through the streets of Soho in London and saw men happy, men embracing each other and men in spite of themselves.
Yes, perhaps one day I could learn to cast away the shackles of shame and be as free as they were.
But the mistake was thinking I could remove the casts of shame entirely. But you can’t remove something that you did not place yourself.
To work past shame, you must acknowledge that it is somebody else’s property.
Obstacle 4 — Your Desire For Peace
You don’t get anything worth your time through diplomacy. You have to fight for it.
And this is true of identity and your place in the world too.
Though the message of the LGBT+ movement is largely around love, peace and acceptance —the unspoken truth is that you need to fight for it.
I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy but I didn’t realise how much conflict was involved.
If you’re always on the defensive, you get edged towards the cliff.
Sometimes you need to understand that while we do live in a more accepting world, that doesn’t change the fact that you need to be ready to fight.
Physically or otherwise.
Because you can only love if you own the battleground you’re fighting in.
Obstacle 5 — Coming Out Is A Daily Exercise
While the idea of coming out has a tone of finality to it, it really is a project that you have to do every day.
It’s reminding yourself that you’re OK. You’re worth doing all of this for.
The work is never done. As the saying goes — “we are all unfinished projects.”
It’s the reminder that life is not a Bollywood movie, as much as we may want it to be. Real life is much more boring than the film-grained dreams of my childhood.
I have to admit it’s tempting to move away from my heritage and as I’ve fully embraced the freedom that the west has given us.
I can leave the weddings, the aunties and the films behind.
But the real memories, the real dreams remain.
I’m sitting down in the morning with my lover and a box of fresh mangoes.
Feeling the dancers emerging from the hills.