We had been really good friends for years. This one day, out of the blue, he calls, “Can we go out for lunch? I need to tell you something.” I replied without any thought, “Yes.” He looked visibly nervous that day. What followed was at least twenty minutes of random talk. When I finally lost my mind owing to the curiosity, I came forward from my seat with a clenched fist, and demanded, “Dude, will you tell me what’s the matter?”
He took a pause and said, “I need to tell you something. Please hear me out and promise that this won’t affect our friendship.” This could mean a thousand things or nothing at all. I said, “Nothing will affect our friendship, I promise. Tell me.” And he said those three words.
“I am gay.”
I heard those three words, took a second of pause and said, “Okay…Great…(pause, smile)…But.. why would you think this would affect our friendship?”
A smile broke out on his face and the nervousness instantly vanished.
“What? What did you expect me to say to you when you’d say you are gay? Something like ‘dur ho jao meri nazron se’?
“Yaar. I just didn’t want to lose you.”
“When did you first come to know?”
“It’s been around 1.5 years. I soooooooo wanted to tell you but could not.”
It felt like a dagger in my chest. Had I not been a good friend? Why did he have to hide it from me? I must have made him uncomfortable in some way.
“Did I ever make you feel that I would be disapproving of this?”
“You have been one of the nicest friends. And I have wanted to tell you all this while because you’d be such a support! But I remember this day we went to Zen and you had casually joked about someone around, “I think he’s gay.” It’s silly, I know. It was casual and not even shaming but I didn’t want to lose you for this.”
“Oh. When was this?”
“Around two years back. This was the time I was starting to face my sexuality.”
My head almost touched the ground. My hands on my face. I was ashamed of myself. I couldn’t believe that such a “small” thing could have such a big impact on someone. Just for that, my friend had gone through the struggle of dealing with this without me by his side.
It’s been years since this incident. Since then, I’ve had so many friends coming out to me. I’ve consciously resisted making even casual remarks about sensitive things. It still happens, but I try. And I’ve tried my best to be the most supportive, not freak out, not gossip or spread rumours. Coming out, sounds like a weird word, to begin with. Why does someone even have to come out? That’s something only the person who has had to suppress their sexuality will understand. For heterosexuals, it would help to imagine, what would it feel like to be told that what they are feeling for the opposite sex is unnatural?
We make very quick judgements about gender and sexuality. If a guy is a little effeminate, we label them as ‘gay’ (as if being gay is a bad thing). While they might really just be effeminate and not gay. If a girl appears to be a tomboy, we label them as ‘lesbians’. While they might really just be a tomboy. And what if they were even gays or lesbians. Anyone that is a part of nature, with consent, is natural.
Most people also confuse gender with sexual orientation. Gender is Male, Female. Sexual Orientation is Heterosexual, Homosexual, Asexual, etc. Facebook has introduced an option to select from 63 genders. It’s understood that this is quite confusing. But we live in a world that’s increasingly becoming complex because we are not ready to accept the people coming out. There are people who are GenderFluid: A gender fluid individual does not see themselves as male or female but may identify as one or the other depending on the day. There are people who are gender non-conforming: Gender Non-conforming is a person who either by nature or by choice does not conform to gender-based expectations of society. This identity goes along with a lot of the ones above. Learn More here.
How To React When Someone Comes Out to You
- Acknowledge: In a world that we live in, it is actually a big deal if someone comes out to you, especially if you not homosexual. There are a hundred fears attached to saying those three words, and when someone does that, the least you can do it, take a pause and acknowledge. Keep it a secret if they want to.
- Do Not Joke: It’s not funny. If you don’t understand how it feels, do not speak but try and not crack ugly jokes.
- Resist the Questions: You have heard different things and you have all sort of fantasies about homosexuality (how to you really have sex, how to get attracted, etc) but resist asking all sorts of questions right then.
- What to say: To begin with, say that you love them. Say that it doesn’t matter who they want to sleep with and it will not affect your love for them. The nicest thing to say is, “I’m glad you shared this with me. I just want you to know that I love you. And this doesn’t affect our friendship.”
- Do not Freak Out: When you freak out, you ask mean questions like, “Omg, what will you do now?” Would you say that to someone who’d say, “I am passionate about Math”? You won’t. It’s that simple. Nothing is to be done about it. The person is just sharing it with you.
- Do not be Awkward: There’s nothing awkward if the person if of the same sex as yours. They could be a friend/brother or sister. But you don’t need to creep out. Don’t think that they “like you that way” just because they are homosexual or queer. Just like every heterosexual person doesn’t like you! Do not run away from them.
The list is unlimited. It’s a sign of a really good person if someone comes out to you. It means that you made someone feel that comfortable that they could tell you such an intimate detail about their life. Yes, sexual orientation and gender are complex matters. But just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t mean it is wrong. You don’t know how to fly a spaceship, do you? So, do not be an ass****.