Coming Out of the Closet

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COming Out

-Bharathi Raghul

I just knew that they needed to know. I felt they had a right to. I felt it was wrong to hide a radical aspect of mine from them. Above all, being a thirteen year old, the realization that I was gay had not dawned all that suddenly and I needed to share it with someone. Being in boarding school from the age of seven, I looked around for someone to confide in but I sensed that even at the tender age of thirteen, most of the young minds around me were poisoned with homophobia. Telling a teacher was out of the question, for you can never gauge their reaction. So, telling my parents seemed to be the only option I had.

After all these deliberations I convinced myself to let them know. Then came the question of “How?” I decided to write a nice long letter to them.

Being in a boarding school was in one way an advantage. I didn’t have to face them during the time it took for facts to sink in. I sat down in a corner of the class and wrote in an inland letter paper that I was having feelings towards people of my own sex. I apologized for the unnecessary worry I was adding to their busy lives. I also remember asking them to arrange appointments with a psychiatrist to help me become “normal”. Not that I believed in the least that homosexuality was a pathological behavior even at that young age, but I wanted to change myself ,if possible, at least for their sake. I also remember asking them not to open the topic with me when we met in person unless I did.

I wish I had a transcript of that letter preserved for you all, but I think my parents have destroyed it and I don’t remember the literary details of how I had broken the news in the letter. But all the same I wrote and posted that letter.

Although I waited in anticipation for their reply, I was not scared. A few days later a huge heavy envelope landed on me with their individual replies. It was full of all kinds of soothing words. My father went to the extent of exaggerating that there were a number of his college mates in his under-graduate days who were like “this” but later grew out of “it” and are now leading happy families. Probably it is true, but I still don’t buy it. My mother had put in her share of words. Both of them asked me to pray and have faith in God (an advice they needn’t have given because ever since I remember, I have been a very spiritual person).

I wanted to preserve those two letters but owing to the fear of boarding school life, which has no regard for other people’s privacy, I had to shred it finely three weeks later.

Now that the initial phase was over, uneasiness over the next phase set in.

The real challenge was facing my parents after this new revelation. I knew things weren’t going to be the same and it wasn’t. Two weeks after the exchange of letters came a parents’ visiting weekend. Parents were allowed to take their children out on the evening of Saturday and return them to the hostel the next evening. That particular weekend was declared a long weekend and so parents could bring back their children on Monday evening. What normally would’ve been a boon was now a bane.

The thought of facing them alone was sending chills down my spine, leave alone spending two nights and two days with them. For three days prior to the weekend, I was filled with a melancholic mood of dullness and an indefinable depression. The day came and the first meeting happened in the safe confines of my beloved school. It sure was awkward. That night and the whole of next day very few words passed between us. Although my parents were trying their best to keep things casual, the “uneasiness of knowing” was weighing down upon us and more heavily on me. We were staying in a two bedroom suite in a hotel. My mother and I were using one of the bedrooms and my father was in the other.

But for little hushed conversations when I seemed to be out of earshot, nothing about the matter was verbally brought up. Saturday night and the whole of Sunday, there was nothing much said or done. We went for walks and had meals in our room but nothing of significance happened. The weather seemed to be mirroring my emotions and deepening them by being extraordinarily chilly and windy, aggravating the melancholic strains my heart was pursuing. On Sunday night, while in bed, it happened.

My mother, unable to hold herself any longer, opened the topic gently and asked me if I was alright. I replied in the affirmative. Then she went on to explain that being doctors both of them had come across many similar cases as mine. She said that it was just a passing phase in my life and that I need not worry about it (and many more of such green lies) to soothe me. And throughout I listened. I listened without contributing to her monologue. I just listened to my mother talk!

Her verbal exertion was lifting the weights on both our souls and I listened very gratefully. Then true to her parental instinct, she asked me if any of the guys were troubling me and I told her that it was not the case.

Finally, she ended the conversation with a hug. The warmth of that hug, seven years ago, I still feel and cherish in my bosom.

The next day, although it passed in a much similar fashion with very less conversation, there was a faint air of ease about us after the conversation with my mother the previous night. As for my father, who is the most non-verbal person I know, I think he was only happy to not have to do the talk which my mother had done.

My parents think it is a passing phase and probably even think I have straightened out by now. But that really is not my concern. It was my duty to inform and I did it.

Perhaps I was too young to fully grasp the magnitude of the action I had taken, or my deep seated desire to express and share the new found truths about myself which overcame the fear of “coming out”. Maybe the credit lies with my parents for building in me a confidence in them or it was the confidence I had in their academic disposition which, I was sure, would make them understand. Whatever it was that gave me the confidence to come out, I came out and I’m happy that I did.