Editor’s Note: The author of this piece has opted to remain anonymous due to having not come out to all family and friends at the moment.
“So do your parents know?”
Immediately, a wave of fear came over her. Her dark eyes widened to the point where we could see her whole iris and the sclera surrounding it. Her hair bounced into her face in every direction as she violently shook her head ‘no.’
“Oh, NO. NO, NO, NO. No. Appa would- no.”
The rest of us laughed over her sentence as she tamed her hair back to the way it was but deep down, we knew there was nothing to laugh about. She trailed off with “Appa would,” but we didn’t need to hear the rest to know what the end of the sentence would have been.
“Appa would kill me.”
“Appa would disown me.”
“Appa would be so disappointed in me.”
There was no way that sentence would end with her Appa being proud of her or accepting of her.
Recently, a friend came out to me and another one of our friends.
I saw myself in her. The softened, mellow tone of her voice as she uttered, “I’m gay.” The immediate “NO” when our other friend asked if her parents knew. The “Appa would…” unfinished sentence.
For me, only one of my siblings knows. For my friend, no one in her family knows. There’s a sense of guilt that clouds our minds whenever we’re asked, “Does your family know?” We feel ashamed. We’re afraid of the very people who gave us nothing but love and nourishment growing up yet simultaneously shy away from bringing ourselves to share our truth with these same people.
From personal experience, many of our non-Desi friends that are also a part of the LGBTQ+ community have been able to share their sexual orientation to their families and have even been given responses like “Oh, we knew it!” and “We’re so proud of you.” Meanwhile, many individuals like my friend and I fear responses like “You’re a shame to this family” and “You’re on your own” (financially and otherwise). We hide our pride flags in our backpacks when our parents come to visit our rooms. We collect pride pins and stickers and have to remember to take them off of our backpacks and binders so our families won’t see them.
So that’s the conundrum – how do we go about sharing our truth to those we care about, knowing that the repercussions could be devastating? My personal plan is to wait until I’m financially stable. My friend’s plan is to “cross that bridge when we get there.” But these plans take years. Even if we do wait until we are financially stable or at “that bridge,” would we still want to risk losing our families and their love and support? How much longer do we sit in silence and scroll through our social media feeds to see our non-Desi friends attending pride parades and posting pictures with their partners? How many more close calls can we afford in hiding the pride flags in our rooms and pride buttons on our backpacks? I wish my friend and I could say “It’s gonna be okay in the end,” but truly speaking, neither of us believe that as of right now.
There is one thing we do believe though, and that’s the idea (rather, fact) that we’re not alone. My freshman year, I went to my first Pride festival. There, I saw so many other Desi people proudly waving their pride flags, decked out in rainbow shirts and accessories. More and more, I saw my Desi friends post LGBTQ+ Instagram posts on their stories. Even just seeing a pride pin on someone’s backpack helps me realize how big the community actually is, and that there shouldn’t be shame or fear in having these accessories adorn my belongings. It helps me realize that the battle of coming out to not only our families, but even our friends in the Desi community is a battle we don’t need to fight alone.
As we wrapped up our conversation for the night, my friend made a remark:
“You know, I didn’t realize how big the community was until I got to UMich.”
“There’s so many of us,” I responded.
We both let out the only sigh of relief that night after unpacking all of our emotions, but that was the best note we could have ended on.