Saathi IIT Bombay
Stories of Campus - 6
Today’s Coming Out Day, you say? Pfft, what’s so special about dedicating a whole day just for coming out? Well, it’s special to me because in my case, it also happens to be the day I first came out, 3 years ago. (Coincidence? Nah.)
When I was in school, I knew I was attracted to people of my gender, but it seemed not more important than academics to me. I was okay with subconsciously shrugging off a whole part of my identity. Fast forward to when I came to insti:
A starry-eyed freshie, I was exploring everything that insti had to offer. Never had I expected that I would soon have to deal with the approaching sense of a disgruntled self-identity. I started to realise that I had to consciously deal with surges of emotions I began experiencing. Do I like that girl from class, or is it just infatuation? Do I like guys romantically, or is it just physical feelings? In my sophie year, I started thinking way too much about my future and whether I will be accepted at home. I ended up depressed and it affected my academics too.
That’s when I learnt about Coming Out Day. For quite a while, I knew a friend who was openly supportive of the LGBTQ community as he was involved with Saathi. On October 11th, it was probably around midsem time and I was studying in the CS building, when I decided I *had* to do it. I finally came out to that friend over text. I ended up getting very emotional but I felt relieved.
The cushioning of support that my friend gave me helped me slowly come out to my other good friends, one by one. I felt a burden ease, little by little. I was enthusiastic to make sure my friends know and acknowledge this facet of me. Much to my relief, (and my choices of friends,) I was accepted wholly by most of them. It wasn’t always easy, though. Sometimes I came out on chat, sometimes on call. The first time I came out to someone in person, I couldn’t pull myself together and I tried my best not to be a mess (though it’s totally okay to be so.) I once had an awkward conversation with a well-intentioned friend where I had to explain that I am gay, not trans.
I slowly built a circle of friends with whom I could just be like any other normal person. I talked about my crushes, got to whine about society, share memes, and ultimately made buddies to fall back on.
What I *didn’t* expect was the effect of my coming out on my friends in return. At about 3 or 4 am one morning, in a vulnerable phone call from one of my friends whom I came out to, they said they were also gay. That feeling was incomparable. I am proud of my friend for having taken the courage, and happy that I was able to help them.
I ended up learning about the identities of several of my friends -- and I realised that people from different corners of the LGBTQ+ spectrum are everywhere around us.
I am not out to my parents yet, but it has always been an evolving journey for me. I am incredibly lucky to have some of the most empathetic people as friends who provide me a safe space - one which helps me keep sane in this patriarchal world.
To those who are closeted, please don’t fret about your future. Times are changing. And don’t put pressure on yourself to come out. Just ask yourself if you are at peace with how you are now, and let that guide you. Remember: your friends might be willing to change their views once they know that being queer is not something that exists on the fringes of society.
To people who don’t absolutely hate the LGBTQ community or you don’t care: It may sound simple, but even one visible sign that you are an ally, be it using gender-neutral pronouns/not assuming someone’s gender, being vocal about minority issues, or even a small rainbow - can greatly boost a closeted person’s trust in you. Spare a few moments to reflect: do you want to be there for someone who may be desperately trying to seek help?
This coming out day, I request you to play a more active role in making sure no friend of yours thinks you will discriminate against them.
Ultimately, having to ‘come out’ should cease to exist.