Tag Archives: Acceptance

How I Found The Freedom To Be Myself

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‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ a ninth grade English paper once asked me. It was a 20-mark essay, and I had 20 minutes to earn them. I rolled up my sleeves, and pulled out my cursive best.

The thing is, I wanted to be a great many things.

I wanted to be a chef, I wanted to be an actor, I wanted to be a painter, I wanted to be an astronaut, and for two weeks after I turned 11, I even wanted to be a National Geographic correspondent, if only because my older sister said that she wanted to be one. My essay – and the time allotted to write it – might have come to an end at this point, but my story didn’t. From the age of six to sixteen, I raced through changes. My styles, my sexual leanings and my haircuts changed, and so did my dreams.

Only, what did I never dream of being?

Myself.

All my years of adolescence, I had struggled to find myself, even though I struggled comfortably – I was so used to push my problems under a hypothetical carpet, and pretend they didn’t exist, that I never realized the lies I was hoarding up – little white lies, they wouldn’t hurt anyone, would they? It was an easy, lazy life.

I used this complacency as a security blanket, and wound it around myself whenever thoughts of the future terrified me. What would coming out (as a gay man) be like? Would it be a cakewalk or a walk down the plank? Would I have to talk about my feelings? Would I have someone to talk about my feelings to (a fair question, because I grew up thinking that you were only allowed to talk about your feelings at expensive therapy sessions, sappy book clubs or when watching romantic tearjerkers)?

Growing up was always a mark of independence – no more school, no more staying at home, no more rules, no more restrictions, no more getting worried over your mother’s eighteen missed calls (well, almost) – it seemed like a technicolour dream, being so free-spirited. But honestly, I didn’t know what I would do with all the freedom. Independence (or the mere thought of it) petrified me. What would I do being free?

Would I finally have to be myself?

People are terrified to be themselves, especially when bravery is an option, and not an obligation I’ve been called manipulative, selfish, a coward, a sore loser. Why would I want to be myself then? I’d rather be someone nicer and more admirable; I’d rather be someone else.

And that’s exactly what I did.

Some enjoy the peace that comes with accepting who you are, but most of us waltz on the fence in the middle. Take sexuality, for instance. We can stir ourselves to walk free and fabulous, but we’d rather stay safe and sound in the cage of heteronormativity. I made myself feel at home in the cage till I was twenty-one.

The thing about independence is that it doesn’t come gift-wrapped and express delivered to your front doorstep. It needs to be earned, or fought for.

Coming to terms with your sexuality and stepping out of the closet isn’t easy – especially when in a country like India, where minds can be as narrow as Bandra’s bylanes, even if you are an upper-class well-educated man (and sometimes, especially if you an upper-class, well educated man). Everyday life is a battle. As countless films and American television shows have told us, you don’t just wake up one morning and walk out into the sunlit world. To reach the closet door, you need to push through your woolens, those ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ shirts you bought on an impulse but will never wear, and the odd tangle of smelly socks, greying underwear and smutty novels you don’t want your mother to find. It will be tough, especially if you’ve been hoarding – and holding back – all your life.

And even when you do, it’s a never-ending process – those closet doors that everyone talks about? They are revolving. Week after week, you will find yourself coming out to friends, family, acquaintances, and (occasionally) drunken strangers at the bar. Perhaps one day it will not be the big deal that it is today, and you won’t have to worry whether your words are followed by a kiss to the cheek or a punch to the mouth. Every new acceptance is a fresh slice of independence, and you’ll wolf it all down without worrying about empty calories or complex carbs.

It will be liberating, the way you feel after you’ve survived a last-minute clearance sale. Only this is the clearance sale of regrets.

Fortunately, my personal coming out story reeks of acceptance and Hallmark cards – it happened at the dinner table, one Friday evening back in early 2015, over cups of chamomile and desiccated coconut biscuits. I sat my parents down, and told them everything in a diligently rehearsed 17-minute monologue.

In 18 minutes, it was done.

Questions were asked, hugs were exchanged, a tear was shed (that would be me). My mum went for a walk with her friends, and my dad continued solving the crossword puzzle. They accepted it with a simple shrug (and lots of love and support over the next couple of years, but this is the not a story about that). My sexuality was just another fact.

What about the war of words I had been expecting? The emotional bloodshed? The years of torment at the hands of society? They never came, even though the history books said that they would. Times are changing, and somewhere over pop culture references and more inclusive media representations, my parents and peers had changed as well. The history books had it wrong.

What they did get right was this – freedom felt liberating.

The freedom to stay single. The freedom to be a sexual deviant. The freedom to wear a skirt (if you are a man) or a jersey (if you are a woman). The freedom to wear both. The freedom to wear neither. The freedom to never find your way back home. The freedom to stay in for the night, with Netflix and a bottle of wine (that would be me again).

What do we do with the freedom then? Do we let it consume us? Terrify us into never seeking it out?

We do neither. We simply unwind and enjoy it with a cup of tea.

Preferably chamomile.

 

 

 

 

The Guysexual’s Guide to What Happens After #PrideMonth

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#PrideMonth is finally over today, boys and girls.

Which means that as you read this sentence, thousands of companies are taking down their rainbow flags and pushing their glitter glue supplies back into their office store rooms.

But it doesn’t end here. 19 years ago, on 2 July 1999, something revolutionary happened. The country held its first Pride March in Calcutta, and India walked on the streets, out and proud for the very first time.

And it hasn’t stopped ever since. See, 2 July is a day that is important for many reasons. It also marks the ninth anniversary of the historic judgment of 2009, which decriminalised gay sex by reading down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

Which makes today (almost) Indian Coming Out Day.

I’ll tell you something: Whether you are 14 or 40, coming out can be an ordeal, but that’s a story for another time. If your friend is lucky, everything will go well, and the two of you will be downing shots at the bar later tonight.

But if it doesn’t, you – yes, YOU – owe it to him to make his life a whole lot easier. To help you in ‘your’ journey of acceptance, here are a few things you shouldn’t say when a friend (or a sibling) comes out to you any time soon:

1. “Oh that’s amazing, dude. But wait a minute, you won’t hit on me now, will you, ha-ha?”

No, because you clearly aren’t my type. If you were, we would not be friends in the first place – I’d just be gushing about you to my best friend.

2. “You know what? I always knew it.”

When someone comes out to you, it’s an exhilarating feeling – it’s full of the giddiness that comes with riding a rollercoaster. Telling someone that you already knew (even if you did) is like pulling the handbrakes.

3. “Maybe if you only started playing more sport, you never know…”

This is when I make a list of all the sportsmen in the world who are gay. Stop with the stereotyping – it wasn’t cool back in 1966, it isn’t cool in 2018.

4. “Haha, is this just because you’ve not had a girlfriend yet?”

Ditch the biology book when you are wondering what your gay friend does behind closed doors – love has nothing to do with how things fit, because it’s not the big 5000-piece jigsaw puzzle that we all assume it to be.

5. “I don’t really know what to say right now, bro.”

If you don’t, sometimes a hug would do – there’s nothing worse than radio silence. Be normal, the best reactions aren’t even worth remembering because they felt so natural.

6. “So, are you the guy or the girl?”

Get out.

7. “Whoa, when did you decide you want to be gay?”

The same time that you decided to be straight.

8. “But bro, do you have AIDS?”

Let’s get it straight (pun intended). AIDS is not a gay disease. On the other hand, sir, you suffer from something far worse: ignorance.

9. “Well, duh!”

Read point number two, but only slap yourself around your head this time.

10. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

Making someone’s coming out process about you is usually not the best idea. Focusing on them and their experience instead? Let’s get out those medals of honour.

11. “Man, now you can help me with my shopping!”

The fact that gay men love to shop is probably the worst stereotype that ever exists. That, and the jazz hands.

Just wear what you want to, you’ll look great.

12. “No, you are not.”

Do you know what you are not? A nice person.

13. “Let’s go hit the clubs, mate!”

Yes, thank you. But that’s not why I just told you something this important, right?

14. “Are you really sure about this? Maybe it’s just a phase, you never know? Remember, back when I was younger and I…”

Being able to finally feel comfortable in your skin is the best feeling in the world. Someone wanting to share that feeling with you is like wanting to share a large ice cream sundae on a hot summer day. Cherish it.

15. “You mean you are bisexual, right?”

No. Gay. G-A-Y. Get that?

Now that you’ve finished reading the guide, how about you go help your friend with the closet door instead? Those shackles can be tough to pry open, and they could use all the help they could get.

Move along.

But make sure you do it with pride.