I am not a person who finds it easy to express myself. I was since my earliest days a distant kid. I didn’t like to be held or hugged and I definitely did not voice my thoughts. To make matters worse, I realized I was different. So, instead of questioning myself or trying to understand what I was feeling, I threw myself into reading novels and a million other articles until the time I gathered the courage to guiltily start collecting pictures of women from various magazines and newspapers. Since I collected pictures of men too, I thought that meant I was not gay. I was so ignorant at that time that I believed that there was only homosexuality and heterosexuality.
Then in college I met a woman and we fell in love. It was more than love and friendship. She opened me up to myself. I realized that I was bisexual (“Duh!” I thought to myself at that time), like her. I was newly 18, madly in love and I couldn’t share my joy, sudden fear and confusion that came from facing my emotions. As usual, I locked it up in me until I thought was going to burst a vein in my head if I didn’t die first of a heart attack. I became moody, sullen and withdrawn and that scared my mom who knew that as usual I was terribly bothered by something but not talking. She asked me many times at various occasions if there was something I wanted to talk about but I always said no.
One late night when my sis was asleep (my dad, an army officer, was posted to north-east at that time), she called me, asked me to sit in the dining room and there, in front of me, she began sobbing. “What’s bothering you? For god’s sake, confide in someone!! If you don’t wish to tell me, talk to your dad. Just talk! It’s impossible for me to watch you like this, and to top it all you don’t even talk. Tell me or talk to Dad now. Call him up. He’ll listen. Don’t keep it in you. Whatever you have to say, say it. Don’t let it eat you up.”
Watching her tears of frustration, I broke down and came out to her. Watching me cry (I don’t cry in front of people, not even my parents), she was shaken up. She hugged me and rubbed my back while I poured my heart out to her. I told her everything. I told her that I was in love with a woman. She held me tight and said it was okay and that everything was going to be all right and that she loved me no matter what. I felt strangely light as the burden lifted from my heart. She wiped her tears and said: “Growing up, kids often feel like you do. It is not something new. All you have to do is to stay away from girls for some time. Don’t hold hands. Don’t sit too close to them and do not give them a lift on your Scooty and you’ll be fine. You must not tell your husband about it once you get married. Men don’t take such news well.” I couldn’t believe my ears! All of my coming out and confessing was a complete waste of time. I was fortunately too exhausted (physically, mentally and emotionally) to kill myself out of utter frustration, so I wept some more and then slept. But now I feel coming out to her was not a complete waste. She was right about loving me no matter but she was still bothered about my attraction to girls.
And of course, there was an issue she couldn’t face – my girlfriend. For years we tiptoed around the subject until this year when I was going to stay at her house in Hyderabad with my girlfriend. We had a heart-to-heart exchange of letters. Anger, fear, pleading, frustration flowed from both sides and then she wrote: “If you are going to that girl’s place [note the lack of word girlfriend or lover or even her name], don’t get physical.” I snapped back with: “My bedroom life is nobody’s business but mine.” And then she stopped. She didn’t talk to me for several days but now she seems more accepting. Baby steps are okay as long she is moving toward acceptance.
Then there’s my younger sister to whom I wished to come out. She was worried that I had no love life because I was shy. I came out to her on Instant Messenger because I knew I wasn’t going to see her for a long time (she’s studying in Hyderabad and I work in Delhi):
Me: I got to tell u something really personal…
Sis: ya. Tell.
Me: remember u told me that I should go out on dates and meet ppl and to allow romance into my life?
Me: I didn’t have guts to tell u then but I have been dating mostly girls usee…
Sis: that’s gr8! Double dates make things more comfortable for some
Me: I don’t think u read it right. I said I DATED GIRLS…
Sis: are u a lesbian?
Me: bisexual is more like it.
Sis: all these years I knew u were not str8
Me: ridiculous!! U never knew a thing
Sis: I do observe u know.
(Lots of conversation and details better left censored here.)
Sis: u think u cud get married and…er…u know, do the married stuff?
Me: I’m attracted to men too. I will manage a marriage if I do get married in the first place. For now I wanted to come out to you. U seem ok with the news. I’m surprised.
Sis: lol…I’m not a kid anymore. I’m fine with the news. I have many gay friends so I know how it must be for you.
I am happy to say that my sis has been an amazing (and a surprisingly strong) supporter ever since.
Then of course there’s Dad to whom I have not yet come out. But I have a feeling that he either knows (through Mom) or suspects. He did ask me once, “so, how’s life without a wife?” but then maybe it’s wishful thinking that he just knows about it already and will save me the trouble of coming out to him. I know I’ll break his heart with the news that his darling first-born is queer (when my mom was pregnant with me, my parents went to holy places asking for a daughter because my dad wanted one. At least his first one, he prayed). I’ll need strength to break this news to Dad. I wonder when my next breakdown is going to be. Soon I think. Soon.
I read somewhere that coming out is a continuous process. It never really stops. I am out to all my friends and I keep meeting newer people to whom I reveal the fact once they become good friends. Coming out has been liberating on so many different levels. I now quite like being myself though not everybody accepts or understands. I just go on being myself and ‘educate’ straight friends about homosexuality and bisexuality along the way.
Menon is a 29-year-old woman who has never let her sexuality be her identity. She works in publishing. In her off-work hours, she forms multiple crushes every other day and like any girl, dreams that one of these crushes leads to a happy long-term relationship.
This story first appeared on http://orinam.net/menons-coming-out-story/. Orinam.net is a bilingual website (Tamil and English), with information on alternate sexualities and gender identities. It is reprinted, with minor edits, with permission of the author.