I have always been afraid of being hurt emotionally, to the point where I prevented myself from doing things I knew not doing would haunt me for months. I often felt intimidated by the lack of safety I experienced with and around people owing to my sexuality, and this, in turn, has affected the bonds I have formed over the years – meaningful ones born out of being able to open up, and not-so-good ones because of a lack of connection owing to my frequent hesitation to open up. In navigating my life without being able to be at peace with myself, I had wondered many times if there was meaning in living such an incomplete life, in which I was totally unable to experience anything new. Fortunately, I don’t experience such thoughts nowadays.
Since I haven’t been in a stable romantic relationship yet, it has taken me a long time to make sense of the feelings I have for men as well as women. There were periods in my life where I went from labelling myself ‘bi-curious’, bisexual’, ‘pansexual’, to ‘asexual’.
However, I am fully aware that I am yet to reach a point where I am comfortable being completely open about my sexuality. So far, I have been trying to be as vocal as possible about myself on online platforms as these are mostly safe spaces that I hope I won’t garner any negative reactions in, and even if I do get a few, they can be ignored easily. Heteronormativity is so overarching that it feels strange to even articulate honestly any feelings that might seem to deviate from it. Every line you utter might have to be accompanied by immediate clarifications lest the audience misinterprets you. Sometimes the onus is on you to make them understand that you are not what the stereotypes have made you out to be. It’s you who has to break free from the norms created and sustained by years and years of romance and partnership portrayed in books, audio-visual media, and the lot.
I felt naked in front of everyone when I first came out, and I can’t stress enough how much my male privilege has helped me out here. I don’t even know if people found it serious enough to consider it my identity instead of ‘a mere sexual preference’ or ‘a phase’ (always a classic dismissal). For the exact same reason, I held myself back from confiding in other men my emotions, because telling women the truth seemed much simpler and more acceptable. I was yet to understand that the vulnerability which comes out of having an honest conversation could have been a way to accept my choices as valid, and helped me understand myself better.
But it wasn’t that easy after coming out either. On one side were my constant doubts about how I could be gay or straight, and that I had got everything wrong from the very beginning; that I was a phony. And on the other side was the guilt of not being comfortable in my skin sooner, and keeping quiet inside my cocoon when queer lives were being violently oppressed in unimaginable ways. Ironically, I often felt that I was doing the wrong thing by taking up queer space(s) when my identity hasn’t had any significant material impact on my day-to-day life. On top of this, my anxiety made me believe that whoever moved away from me did so because I came out, and that somehow, I was causing shame to the people around me. This made me question whether coming out was the right thing to do after all. I was making everything about others, and nothing about me.
A big chunk of my writings features an unnamed second person, and these are usually the people I have fallen in love with or have developed strong emotions for, be they romantic, platonic, or alterous. My ideas of how relationships work have since evolved, and the lines that separate the kinds of attraction I might feel towards someone have also started to blur.
When I first started visualising relationships inside my head, in ways that are almost impossible to take place in the real world, I noticed a sea-change in the way I looked at my own life. I could peacefully imagine what kinds of connections I wanted to build with people, and I didn’t have to conform to any of the rules set in the physical world to weave my own stories. This resulted in a direct change in the way I was seeking approval from others. I started giving more importance to my own feelings about my body, mind, and thoughts and sought validation from myself before anyone else. Gradually, I stopped feeling the urge to keep even traces of heterosexual relationships in my writings and began considering the need for creating diverse and more original content that potential readers probably might not initially relate to.
I haven’t faced any ‘serious’ consequences after coming out, even though only a few people close to me know me fully.
I have come to the understanding that one need not be ashamed about their privilege entirely (about how they aren’t using their privilege to do better things or help the ‘less privileged’), and also not belittle the importance of their identity because of their privilege. As long as one is cognisant of the privileges one has in terms of caste, class, gender, etc., one can also assert their identity effectively without any harm, as long as one doesn’t take up spaces that are meant for others. And while asserting one’s identity, one also has to consider that it is an act never devoid of politics, especially amplified when it comes to certain, non-normative identities. Asserting one’s identity needs to be done carefully as one’s privilege has an obvious effect on how effortlessly one is accepted and assimilated in shared spaces, and may even be considered as ‘representing’ a particular community more easily than someone with less privilege. For example, as a cis savarna man, it is easy for me to gain access to some spaces and articulate myself clearly and freely.
But otherwise, there’s no one better equipped to express my views and feelings, and there is absolutely nothing to gain by keeping things hidden inside. I realised that it was absurd for me to wait for others to accept me or give legitimacy to my feelings and experiences. For me, writing about myself is a way to ensure that I express myself the way I want to irrespective of what others may feel about it.
Cover Image: Unsplash