Coming out: would you ever be late to your own party?

A few years ago I read a book called Be you, change the world by Dr. Dain Heer. In one of the chapters he talks about would you ever be late to your own party? I would say it’s a pretty good way to see what’s real and true for you when you decide to come out of the closet. Let’s look at this in the context of our country. I can start by citing my own example, being the firstborn of my parents and the first of the next generation, the eldest of all my younger cousins, etc. I didn’t know that my grandmother dreamed of marrying me the day I was born.

At first these projections and expectations seem trivial and over the years you are meant to go on autopilot to get married and start a family because the default is not neutral, it is heterosexual. In my teens, as I became aware of my sexuality, confused by different desires, attracted to boys rather than girls, I noticed that whenever we received an invitation for someone’s wedding, it always led to discussions about how grand my wedding would be and how much jewelry my bride-to-be would receive and what not. At best I can say that I lived in a three-pronged enigma called my life throughout my teenage years, pretending to adhere to normal (straight) standards, hiding my outbreak of ever-explosive homosexual desires, and terrified that there was no one to talk to about it.

Luckily I’m from a generation where the internet and computer had made their way into schools and homes by the time I was in high school and that’s when I started getting more information about identifying as gay, chatting with random people online and reading certain articles. That’s how I found out what the word gay meant and there was something called LGBTQIA. Later I discovered that there were parks as meeting points in the city to flirt or meet people and I gradually found these other safe spaces where very brave people had conversations about sexuality and that there was nothing wrong with being gay. It wasn’t until I met people in the flesh that my mind became peaceful. These are lawyers, historians, artists and teachers we are talking about. From then on, I started caring less and less about my sexuality and took it upon myself to raise awareness in the community and achieve success in life.

Fast forward many years, of course, we live in a different era where the LGBTQIA+ community has gained mainstream exposure through popular culture, movies, soap operas, media to name a few. It may even seem like going out now is an easier process or that there is a good time to do it and so on. But is it really true? The reason I am sharing a detailed account of my personal story is that every LGBTQIA person, young or old, has to deal with some version or flavor of the same layers and dynamics. It is not yet common in India to leave one’s parents’ home to start one’s own life at the age of 18. Family involvement is a culturally important aspect and many of your personal choices are intertwined with the rest of the immediate family members and yours and theirs intersect with the rest of society. For example, after the initial shock, my mother’s most relevant question was: what should I tell neighbors and family? I had to deal with their initial hesitation and gradually we came to terms with my different sexuality.

If you’re personally considering coming out, here’s what I recommend you consider.

Be clear in your own mental space: You need to understand very clearly in your own way that you are not wrong or doing something wrong or even going against your family/society. You are different and you have different choices available to you. This is what lays the foundation for a future, where you create your life without doubt or guilt. If you are not mistaken for this choice, no one else can, not even God.

Only make the choice when you are ready: There is no correct timeline. It is not an event but a process in which everyone must evolve at their own pace. You and you alone know what is best for you, follow your instincts and never put pressure on yourself. And remember, no matter how it is received by others, you still have yourself and there is nothing wrong with you.

Have your back: Homophobia is a silent and invisible killer. He pops up when he does and that’s it. Family background, education, etc. have nothing to do with their point of view.

Some parents and families support the different choices and some do not. If you have a supportive family, that’s wonderful, keep the conversation going and do your best to invite them into your world – talk to them about how you feel. In case you encounter skepticism, give it some space and time.

If you are being bullied or abused, know that it is up to you to put up with it or not. You are not alone and support is always available if you reach out.

There is absolutely no reason for you to tolerate abuse, which is why having your own back is paramount.

Secret ingredient: Create your life, be happy and successful. In the long run, it’s only a problem if you do it that way. The best gift you can give yourself is to do what it takes to succeed in life and not use your sexuality to victimize yourself.

(The author is an activist and life coach.)

Joseph K. Bennett