Coming out

So, on 14 December 2013, I came out on Facebook. More than a thousand people liked the post, and over a hundred people shared it. I often tend to take impulse decisions and in February 2014, I deleted the post from Facebook because of an internal emotional outburst. I’m leaving it here, just for archival purposes. 

This is my privilege, and my burden. So, I’m going to do it. Like a boss.

So, it’s time. Many of you are going to hate me after I write this up. Some of you are not going to talk to me after this note, but that’s just fine. Some of you bigots are not even going to like this post. Some of you are just not going to care — thanks, you’re the kind of people I want to spend the rest of my life with.

I’ve been meaning to do this for quite a long time — I’ve contemplated over the last few years about public disclosure of what I’m going to tell you now, but a professional counsellor, my friends and my Dad advised me against doing it.

But I believe in the words of JK Rowling. She says this to 2008's Harvard Graduates:

“But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people’s lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. […] The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.”

I’m no HBS graduate, but as a 22 year old, I think I should do this in the best interests of the LGBT community and everyone else at large.

So yeah. I’m gay. Don’t stop reading — can you spend a couple of minutes listening?

It’s been three years since I came out to my Dad. All my best friends — that includes Narasimman, Suraj, Asifa, Sukanya Krupesh, Ajay, Mowshimkka, and a ton of other people know I’m gay.

And no one has really treated me differently. Not a single one of my closest friends. I’ve spent countless hours contemplating suicide, depressed (to a point where I had to take the help of a professional counsellor), and I’ve read hours and hours about sexuality and the psychology of being different in this straight-dominated world.

What really annoys me is when the rest of the world — well, at least some countries — are talking about treating gay couples the same way straight couples are treated — we’re still debating about gay sex.

For those of you who don’t give a shit, stop reading. For those of you who are confused:

1) Being gay isn’t unnatural: Yes, it really isn’t. Ask yourself this question: when exactly did you choose to be straight? Dec 20, 1995? Feb 18, 2006 — when you attained puberty? I’m not asking you anything about your earliest sexual experience, but I have a rather simple question: when exactly did you choose to be straight?

No one wakes up some day and decides he’s straight or gay. As simple as that. Just like being straight and getting turned on my that pretty girl down the street is your ‘normal’, this is my ‘normal’.

Watch this video. I wasn’t given a choice to be gay or straight. I just knew it, just like you knew you were straight from your eighth standard or for the late bloomers, eleventh standard.

2) Gay couples can’t raise children because they’ll turn out be gay too. Bull shit. My dad and mom are heterosexual. I’m gay. I hope it makes sense. Your parents’ sexuality almost never influences your own, unless there is concrete research to prove and pinpoint otherwise. And that isn’t there.

3) You can convert into a heterosexual, if you try. This is what my Dad told me when I came out to him three years ago.

I told him in response:

“Sure, I’ll become a heterosexual if you can become a homosexual”.

Should work both ways, right?

If only it were that easy. I’m sorry — just like you can never become gay, I can never become straight. Get that on your head.

4) Pedophilia is not the same thing as being gay. Gays are perverts. Nope. Nope. Nope.

I mean think about it: when I love someone, I love from my heart and soul. I don’t like that dude on the street just for what he is physically, just like you don’t love your wife/girlfriend for you know what.

5) Gay people aren’t going to turn the world gay. Seriously, everybody has a job. I have my passion, and you have yours. No one’s going to evangelise homosexuality. I have never seen someone do that.

6) Being gay is just another factor as my hair colour and pupil color. Will you straight people stop giving a shit? If you don’t make a fuss, everyone is going to lead their lives normally — finding people they love, working jobs they love, without troubling you for having sex with women. Yes, seriously. Gay people don’t go around the world troubling straight people, do they?

Yes, there have been instances of men groping men and if your idea of being gay is that, I’m sorry. There are adorable people in the LGBT community that you may not be aware of. There’s Neil Patrick Harris, there’s Chris Hughes (Co-founder, Facebook), there’s Sarav Chidambaram. All of them doing wonderful work that makes the world a better place.

Please stop giving shit about gay people having sex. If you think being gay is all about having sex, you really don’t know enough.

These days, it’s cool to be not on the side of mainstream. You’re cool if you like that thing or person that the majority hates.

That’s not the reason I wrote this note today.

There are a bunch.

1) I like getting done with things once, once and for all. Doing things in scale. I came across this post on HBR a few years ago that resonated with me very much. The post talks about how coming out is a process, rather than a one-time event.

True. I want to make that into a one time event. I’ve spent countless hours telling my best friends what being gay means, and I want to get done with this forever. The next time someone makes a stupid statement, I’m going to point them to look at this post. My mom still doesn’t know I’m gay although my Dad does, and if word is going to get around, I’m okay with it. She has to know some day anyway.

2) Changes do not happen in society unless the majority thinks changes should happen. If straight people don’t trust, believe, and support the LGBT community, nothing is going to change.

I’m no Harvey Milk, but I want to recruit you (heh, yeah). If you’re in your twenties, or thirties, or whatever — no, I’m not going to ask you to come out to the streets and fight — you’re probably too busy to do that. It really isn’t necessary.

Just step back and think. There’s enough I’ve said above. There’s Google to learn everything. The next time you come across a gay teenager, support him. Or a lesbian girl, for that matter. Or anyone else who is unsure of their sexuality.

That’s probably the biggest service (cliche, I know) you’re doing to anyone. Had I not had awesome friends around for talking at 4 AM in the morning, I’d never really be here typing this out.

Assuming that at least 1-3 out of every 10 individuals is gay, there’s a gay teenager in your classroom, men in your workplace, men in your neighbourhood, who’re going through things that you’ve never gone through. If that person comes out, be with him (or her). Thank you.

3) Governments — what’s in it for you? If you pride on inclusiveness and equality, I needn’t explain. If your representatives keep talking about being on the other side of sexuality as a ‘disability’, as an abnormality, there’s enough research out there for you to decide.

There are papers, if you’re ready to look, on Google Scholar and elsewhere. It’s very sad to see Rajnath Singh comparing homosexuality to prostitution. Read up, Sir.

4) Corporate India — what’s in it for you?

Four points, and we’re good to go.

1) Equality brings money. Yes. “Corporations learned long ago that equality is just good business and it’s the right thing to do”. Read more or be left out.

2) “If we want to recruit and retain the best talent out there, we have a responsibility to make this a place where everyone feels comfortable”. It’s bloody true. An out employee will add more value to your company than someone who is closeted.

3) Also from HBR: “Further, LGBT workers who feel forced to lie about their identity and relationships typically don’t engage in collegial banter about such things as weekend activities—banter that forges important workplace bonds. Some 42% of closeted employees said they felt isolated at work, versus only 24% of openly LGBT employees. These factors may explain why 52% of all closeted employees, but just 36% of out employees, believe their careers have stalled.”

4) The real cost of closeted employees: “Being in the closet is not just painful to individuals; it’s also an enormous talent drain for their employer”

You’re leaving money on the table if you don’t have an LGBT policy at your workplace. I can’t tell you more. Hire a consultant, or just use your intuition to do the best thing possible. Everyone from Google to Apple support gay rights. You should, too.

You’re really going to be on the wrong side of history if you don’t respect people who are different from you.