I believe coming out is a lifelong process. You may come out to your friends and family once, but you are never quite done with coming out to the rest of the world (N.B. I speak for people who’d rather come out than be oddly mistaken for ‘the straight girl that hasn’t found the right guy’). I believe that is one hefty price to pay for occasionally choosing to network outside your known boundaries.
For me, fortunately, the process of self-discovery was very organic. I guess I always knew. I do not have any conscious memory of ever having sexual feelings for any men. On the other hand, I could recall obsessing over countless women (both reel and real) throughout my entire adolescent life. The first mortal kiss was at 13 (to be honest I was surprised it took me that long); albeit unforthcoming, it did sanctify which team I played for ☺
School was definitely the highlight of my teenage years, for good reasons and bad. I am alluding to the bevy of beauties when I say ‘good’. The bad part was – most of our teachers were bullies and it wasn’t really a safe space for anyone who’s questioning their sexuality. Aside from getting a lot of attention from girls, I invited some teachers’ wrath as well. I remember vividly, someone from senior class vehemently crafted a dodgy story about how some of us ‘tomboys’ (an overtly popular term back in the day) were always running after girls, thereby corrupting the moral of the school. What followed was an unscrupulous profiling and witch hunt for days together. I was identified as one of the miscreants and therefore asked to ‘behave’. Instead of broaching the critical issues of gender and sexual orientation tactfully, they chose to ignore the big elephant in the room. The school principal took it up a notch; she called the entire school and took us all through a morbidly long lecture about how ‘science’ denounces the idea of ‘homosexuality’ and homosexual people are nothing but ‘an unnatural order’ – the usual trope. A lot of these girls who experienced this backlash went back to pursuing the ‘lesser evil’ – that of a full-fledged hetero-normative life.
By the time I was in high school, I knew I was a distinguished member of the minority. It’s easy to figure that out when everyone else in your class is gleefully talking about ‘boys’ and you are the only one reading Sara Waters or mulling over classics such as Sophie B Hawkins’ ‘Damn I wish I was your lover’, Linda Perry’s ‘What’s going on’, K. D. Lang’s ‘Constant Craving’ or contemplating refuge in the alternate universe of The L Word, or even Shakira’s hip snaps. Music was my sacred space and it got me through puberty, heartbreaks and college.
Upon finishing college, I decided to move out of my parent’s house and move in with my girlfriend at the time who was living in a different city. I wasn’t out to my family up until then. When I told them my plan, they were terribly upset; my father was infuriated and my mom just sat there and cried. I was at my wit’s end, I didn’t know if they were upset that I was leaving home or if it was the revelation that I was in a relationship with a woman. Or may be it was both. It’s been a few years; my parents have since accepted my reality. But ‘queer’ words are still off limits.
‘Coming out as who we are’ is not just personal, it has political implications as well. It is an act of solidarity that helps us reclaim our space in the dominant hetero-patriarchal narrative, making sure our identities are acknowledged and validated across the board. By remaining silent, we’re indirectly perpetuating the delusion that ‘hiding’ is a far safer choice for our emotional well-being. We also have a fundamental obligation to all those who are less privileged, who cannot contemplate ‘coming out’ as a viable option as they do not see enough of queer folks around them. Twenty years from now, I would imagine kids would have an easier time at school, not feeling like they are a minority. Sounds largely optimistic. But what do we have to lose?