The Rainbow Heart campaign was created with a firm belief in the power of telling our stories: stories of acceptance of our queer identity – by ourselves or by others. The first edition of this compilation has eight heartwarming stories: ‘I’m Happy To Announce This Is Not Just A Phase’, by Leo, is the third story in this series.
My journey of acceptance isn’t spectacular or awe inspiring. But it did teach me a lot. I was never comfortable with who I identified as biologically. Looking in the mirror…seeing myself, it didn’t feel right. I felt uncomfortable in girls’ clothes. After a while, I completely stopped wearing them. Even in school, I wore our P.E uniform everyday, refusing to wear the skirt. Eventually the teachers gave up; they were fine as long as I was wearing any school uniform. I- and everyone else- put it away as rather extreme tomboy tendencies. The washrooms confused me for a very long time. My best friends were always guys and crushes, girls. That was too, put away as a phase. But, it had and has always been like that and I haven’t known it any different.
It began with a misspelled username. Instead of finding my friend’s account, I came across someone else’s. Someone who helped me accept myself as I truly am and be proud of it; and eventually became the reason for my coming out. It took me two weeks. Two weeks after finding this person, to find myself. I began visiting her account frequently. I didn’t know what I’d hoped to find there. But this person, she was different. She was out in the open, proud of who she was, and maybe that was what made me realize that this is what I wanted. I didn’t want to hide anymore or have to pretend like this was some phase. It isn’t.
I came out to my closest friends soon after. They claimed they’d always known. I realized that I wanted one thing the most- I wanted to love freely… openly. Without having to worry about what people thought.
That day, I made up my mind and told my mom. I think what hurt the most was the lack of a reaction. There was nothing, not even anger or sadness. Maybe she knew. Maybe she’d known for a long while, but she said nothing. Later that day, I told my dad, too. He put it off as a phase.
I heard them talking as I left the room, and could make out words like “don’t worry“, “abnormal“, “phase”, “social media” ,“western influence”, “unnatural”…
I didn’t know what to do.. I didn’t want to talk to anyone else so I let the day pass. The next day, things only got worse. They said they were open to me being this way and that if I had a ‘problem’ like this… I didn’t care to hear anymore. I just got agitated at the fact that they could possibly think of me, as a problem, as abnormal. I began yelling at them, trying to explain, hoping someone would hear. But they didn’t care to hear- why would they?
A whole month went by where I didn’t say a word to either of them. One day, in a confrontation with my mom, I told her that it didn’t matter to me whether they cared or not (though it did). I was going to lead a life I was proud of.
My mom’s shoulders fell. She almost seemed… defeated. She said that it was hard for her — for them — to adjust to this new side of me when they’d dreamt of me starting a family, of marriage and everything that I couldn’t get, living this way. “We support you now and we always will. We’re your parents, and you mean something to us. Get a good job and get the hell out of this country. It doesn’t matter if they scrap 377. It will take years for the marriage laws, adoption rights to come about and for the people to truly accept you. Go somewhere where there’s acceptance and equality.” I don’t know what I’d expected to hear that day but it definitely wasn’t this.
Soon enough, 377 got read down and we rejoiced. That day, I did something impulsive. I posted something online and dedicated it to this cause as well as to the person who had become the reason for me coming out. I secretly hoped she would see it, knowing that the chances were slim (she did). My friends found out, word got around. People I barely knew were coming out to me, texting me or just meeting me at fests and telling me their stories, confiding in me. This was the first coming out story put up publicly in Powai and I think I’ve more than achieved what I hoped to.
Hearing their stories has taught me one thing – acceptance is strength. And it needs to be self-acceptance first. Talking about the conversation with my mom, the days when I didn’t want to go home and the difficulty with my parent’s acceptance is still a gruelling topic for me to recollect.
I think I’ve had it easier than most, having had accepting friends and family. It is not like this for everyone in the community. However, things are changing, especially after the changes with Section 377. Films are being made on the topic and that’s a huge plus in a country like ours. But there’s still a long way to go. Marriage rights and the right to adopt children still need to be granted. And there is no reason why they shouldn’t be. Maybe one day, we won’t have to leave the country we are born in, to find happiness and acceptance. Until then, we continue to resist.
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