“Coming Out as Queer to a Traditional Family”
- This anonymous writer realized they were queer in middle school.
- Though not conservative, their father and grandparents are immigrants from India.
- They’d rather hide their full identity than lose their relatives or mess up the family dynamics.
Editor’s note: Insider has verified the identity of the writer, but they asked to remain anonymous to retain their privacy.
When I first realized I was queer, I was in sixth grade. At the time, I didn’t have the proper language to explain my identity to others, especially my family. So I chose not to. However, over time, I started to negotiate with myself and express my queerness to those who were close to me: friends, teachers, and other members of my ever-growing chosen family.
Now, as a 22-year-old, I realize that “coming out” to my blood family doesn’t have to be part of my journey for my queer experience to be full or complete. I don’t need to let my family know that I’m queer to experience the whole scope of what that part of my identity means to me.
My family’s love may be silent, but I’d like to believe it’s unconditional
I grew up with three parents: my father, my paternal grandmother, and my paternal grandfather. But my grandparents really raised my younger brother and me. My grandfather did most of the grocery shopping, while my grandmother cleaned the house; my grandfather picked us up from the bus stop after school, while my grandmother prepared plates of rotli and shaak; my grandfather cut up fruit for us before bed, while my grandmother oiled our hair.
Like many immigrants of their generation, my grandparents demonstrate their love through small but consistent gestures and actions rather than words. For them, love is the homemade achaar my grandmother sent me to university with and the small collection of magazines in which I’ve been published that sits on their living-room coffee table. My grandparents’ love may be silent, but I’d like to believe it’s unconditional.
I realized I was queer early in life, but I barely had the language to explain it to myself — let alone others
I came to terms with my sexuality in middle school, as I found myself having crushes on all kinds of people, regardless of their gender assignment. My attraction to people has always been rooted in their energy and who they are as a person. Even as a kid, I liked anyone that I could easily laugh with, be honest with, and feel safe with. At the time, I didn’t know about terms like “pansexual” or “queer,” so instead of trying to shove my identity into one of the few labels I knew, I just went off of how I was feeling. It was empowering to do so and still is.
When I was 21 years old, I came out as gender fluid. Though I’m not completely sure what my gender is, I know in my soul what it’s not. So I changed my pronouns and proudly identify as a queer, gender-fluid person.
I’d rather hide my queer identity than lose my family
In middle and high school, I always felt like I was less queer or my identity was somehow invalid for not being able to “come out” to my blood family. But as I grew up, I realized the dominant coming-out story involves a young person who is usually white and cis.
They sit their family down and tell them that they are and always have been queer. And whether their family supports them or not, this person has “come out” and is finally “living their truth” — regardless of their family’s feelings about their queerness. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do this; I can’t relate to that scenario at all.
I think families of color, particularly immigrant families, deserve more grace and more time. My grandparents grew up in Gujarat, India, where they, against all odds, became doctors, fell in love, and raised my dad. They came to the US for more opportunities and to support their son who wanted to go to college in America. They didn’t realize the burden they’d later take on, as my grandmother couldn’t find work, and they both ended up spending their 70s and 80s raising two more kids — my brother and me.
Though my grandparents are in no way politically conservative or hateful people, I can’t predict when we may run into emotional and generational differences.
I don’t know for sure how they’d feel about my queerness. Honestly, I don’t think I want to find out. I’d rather keep my love life private from them than possibly change our dynamics or, in the worst case, lose them in some way.
For me, coming out is about self-reflection
For me, “coming out” isn’t a one-time thing that determines the rest of my life as a queer person.
Rather, it’s a constant process where I check in with myself about what parts of my identity I want to reveal — and to whom — and then decide what parts I want to protect.
Coming out, to me, is about self-reflection. It’s about contemplating what my queer identity means to me and learning how to live on my own terms.
I don’t need to put myself in a potentially traumatic situation. I’d rather continue to expose as much of my identity as I can — the friends I’m making, the relationships I’m forming, the career I’m building — and let my family acknowledge who I am through those bits and pieces.
Not everyone can, or wants to, come out to their family, and so I don’t need mine to express acceptance — or rejection, for that matter — to be my authentic self. I’m not suppressing my identity or living a “closeted” life. I live openly as a queer person. I’m just protecting that part of myself when I’m with my family.
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