Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Coming Out Ib: coming to terms

Wild Reeds had an interesting post recently about an event they organized in Mumbai to get together parents and relatives of gay and lesbian people and discuss various related issues with them. The post has detailed transcripts of these discussions.
The post reminded me of the time I came out to my parents. I really wished there had been a support network for them, like PFLAG, that would allow them to talk to others like them. After all gay people have been living with their knowledge of themselves since their adolescence, and even then we take a lot of time to get to terms with ourselves (if at all), while when we come out, our poor parents are suddenly confronted with an often unpalatable truth. In the ensuing discussion with Wild Reeds, I promised that I'd blog about my coming out to my parents, and that seems to fit well as a sequel to my previous post about HRJ. But I'll discuss my whole coming out story, and this'll be long. So I am dividing it into three posts. The first (this one) will be a continuation of the HRJ story. The second one will be about coming out to my friends, and the final one, about coming out to my parents.
Ever since puberty, or probably even before that, I have been aware of my attraction towards guys, and an almost complete lack of it towards girls... the exception being HRJ. Probably like every kid, I used to develop curshes and fall in love very easily. But unlike other kids I could never talk about them to anybody else, not even to my closest friends. On the contrary I had to pretend. Pretend to be interested in girls, to fit in, to be like everyone else. I even invented code words to describe girls during my BSc (1991-1994)... the lengths to which I went to kinda reminds me of Woody Allen's film Zelig.

It was a lonely life. I did not know anybody else who felt like me. Visibility of gay people in India and in the Indian media is rare, and was non-existent then. Probably the only figure I knew was homosexual was Oscar Wilde. Although I had read his sole novel, his fairy tales and The Importance of Being Earnest, I wasn't even a big fan then (I am now, since I rediscovered his works some seven years ago).
I desperately hoped I'd be bisexual.

Then Pune happened. I had been selected in both JNU and Pune Uni (at that time Poona Uni), and was in a dilemma which one to join. I knew about JNU and had lived in Delhi and even visited the campus, but I knew nothing about Pune. At my father's suggestion I went to consult a cousin who had lived in Bombay and was familar with Pune. The cousin said Pune is a nice place and the uni is good, but he warned me he had been recently reading about homosexuals there. My heart skipped a beat and added a bias in favour of the city. Later on I visited Pune-- the beautiful Bombay-Pune train journey and the lovely campus made my decision very simple. But I digress. Unfortunately I didn't meet any of the homosexuals that my cousin had been apprehensive about, instead I fell in love with a girl, but at the same time that made me become clear about my sexuality: gay, not bisexual. Even while I was at Pune, I had big crushes on two other guys, friends of mine. Pune was good for me in several other ways. I used to be introverted, underconfident and terribly shy. That changed. I was also introduced to mountain hiking (we called it trekking) and Indian classical music (mainly Hindustani) and fell in love with both. I digress again...

At my next stop, two years in IISc, Bangalore, I desperately fell in love with a close friend, H. My being in love with him complicated our friendship and this complication exists to this day, although I have moved on. Once in a Developmental Biology class, the professor talked about Alan Turing, the British logician/mathematician. I had read an article about the fascinating Turing Test in a book about the mind. Prof N. told us about Turing's fascinating contribution to Developmental Biology. He also mentioned that Turing had done an amazing amount of work in solving the Nazi codes during the World War-II but was nevertheless persecuted and prosecuted because of his being gay and ultimately committed suicide. Here at last was a multifaceted man, a genius, who had been unashamedly gay. I had found my "role model". [For more on Turing, check out Andrew Hodges' excellent biography or website.]

H. moved to Berlin, and I missed him really terribly. I decided to move to Germany too, and got a position in Tübingen. These three years were really when I started accepting myself as gay, started coming out, started looking at life as a gay man, possibilities and perspectives of life etc. This process was terribly slow during the years in Tübingen (Nov 1998-Sept 2001) and picked up pace in Heidelberg (Oct 2001-Jan 2003). I am finally comfortable in my identity as a gay man in Vienna (Mar 2003-).

I am not out to everybody, because I don't like being gay to be my identity. It is an important part of who I am, but it is not who I am. I am not out at work (or I think I am not) but I don't lie. I don't laugh at homophobic jokes, in fact especially if it is an Austrian or German making the joke, I ask whether they prefer putting a pink triangle on the targets of their jokes and send them to concentration camps. When people are suprised at the vehmence of my reaction (any suggestion that anyone is emulating the Nazis, is understandably considered vehment in Europe), I say I have a lot of gay friends, and I certainly don't like them to be insulted like this. I use gender neutral terms when it comes to my personal life, and I don't care if people catch on or if they don't. Amazingly enough most people don't catch on. If I had a partner, I wouldn't hestitate to take him to official parties as my partner. But for that I'd have to have one first! Since coming to Vienna, I have attended all the gay parades here, and this year, I walked the whole stretch with a rainbow flag sticking out of my bag. I don't know if anyone I knew who didn't know saw me and I don't care if they did.
It is so nice to finally be me.
This is the first part of a three-part article. Check out the second part.

No comments: