We come out everyday. All our lives. To ourselves, to our surroundings, to the world.
We may be gay, straight, cisgender, transgender, masculine, effeminate, boy, girl, intersex, or a beautiful blend of all these identities.
And then we intersect them with more labels. After all, we all are multifaceted. I’m brown, Punjabi, Indian, a temporary resident of the United States, young, gay, activist, outgoing, borderline agnostic. I keep forgetting some of these and keep adding more every day.
Growing up in a conservative society like my middle-class Punjabi neighborhood was not an ideal setup for the appreciation of diversity. In fact, the more you fit into the mold, the more you were celebrated as being the “perfect son.” I grew up being surrounded by all these stereotypes feeling lost, feeling isolated. I felt like the only one who was different.
In years of struggling with my identity and accepting myself for who I am, I struggled with conflicted feelings. I pushed myself into studies; I isolated myself from any gay friends I’d made; I dressed up in clothes that I couldn’t associate myself with; I pushed my feelings deep inside.
No matter what you do, where you go, what you wear – you can’t change who you are. My parents always taught me to never lie. Even India’s national emblem has the words “Satyameva Jayate” (“Truth always triumphs”) written on it. As a proud Indian, and as an honest and loving son, I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I kept lying and living a dual life. It took me a lot of time, but I finally did come out.
Everyone’s coming out process is different. It takes different amounts of time, and the reaction of people to it varies. But one thing is true – it does take a great deal lot of courage. Things have become better in the last four years after coming out. Work is still in progress, but today I can breathe and live a life of happiness and truth because I know I don’t have to waste my energy in trying to remember the web of lies that I used to surround myself in.
Coming out for me was like learning to love myself again. I began to appreciate myself; I began to see how beautiful life is. I learned how to help others learn to appreciate love, and I got love back. The most unexpected people look at your happiness and start questioning their own objections and their own prejudices. And things do get better!
Coming out today might not be ideal for you, but coming out is essential. Confide in a friend, or a sibling, or someone you trust. But most importantly, come out to yourself and learn to love yourself for who you are. And trust me, even though it might be slow, it always gets better.
Don’t ever be afraid of love, and loving yourself. Love conquers hate. Always.
Picture courtesy Anubhav Agrawal: Mumbai Queer Pride 2013