Serving Southern California’s South Asian LGBT*Q community since 1997
Personal story from a queer, undocumented man
Growing up, I did not personally know of anyone who was queer. If my friends or family members happened to come across a queer person, they would make fun of them and talk about them negatively. Sadly, I even mocked my queer brothers and sisters and as a result, was pushed further into the closet. For a long time I hated myself for being queer and not fitting the image that my family had for me. I struggled to make sure no one found out that I am gay. I monitored my conversations, my non-verbal communication, and how I verbally spoke. I made sure my hands did not flail in the air, I did not cross my legs, walk too feminine, or have a high pitch in my voice. I basically became a robot. I only talked to people if I had to and made sure that conversations were brief. I find that being in the closet caused me to miss out on key social developmental process. Now that I am out, I feel that I am trying to catch up to those who have already found themselves.
While trying to fit the person my family wanted me to and be as “straight” as I can, I initiated a relationship with a woman because that was expected. Before meeting her I did not get to hone in on my sexuality. I was too busy trying to navigating through college as an undocumented student, my parents constant bickering, and the pressures of being the only Indian boy in the family, and maintaining an image in the South Asian community so that I do not shame my family. I was going to school, I had an amazing woman who loved me, I was working, and I was being the perfect Indian boy for my family. I was making everyone happy – everyone but myself. We moved in with each other in 2010 and I knew that I could not continue keeping up with all the social expectations because I was not being honest or being true to myself. I came out to her and let her know that I like men. I felt liberated. Of course, being with me for so long in an intimate relationship, she did not believe me and suggested that I should talk to a psychologist, I was going through a phase, and that I was just confused. I moved out from our little apartment and made a point to stay true to myself from that day.
After I came out to my girlfriend, I came out to my best friend from middle school that happened to be queer as well. I cheated by telling him first because I knew that he would accept me. Then, after many drinks I came out to my current best friend and biggest ally. Her response was instrumental because she was someone close to my community and a peer. After I came out to her, I started telling my close friends one by one. This process took more than a year.
I threw myself into the DREAM Act movement and started to meet queer-undocumented students who became my greatest support group. As I met queer folks who are living happy lives and are positive influences in their community, I changed my perception of what it means to be queer. Through my network, I gained an understanding of what it means to be queer and came to accept my feelings towards men.
Then, it was time for me to tell my family members. I started with the sisters I was closest to first. I expected the worse and got the worse. I was told that: Indian people are not gay; this was something in my head; I should change; I don’t know what I am talking about; only men who can’t get erection and act like girls are gay; those who have erection have a choice; I don’t show any signs of being gay; I am disgusting; I should not be myself; I should be single my whole life and not tell anyone; and I should just get married and have kids.
Slowly I came out to my other sisters and then my mom. I got the same reaction and from all of them. After a few days everyone pretended like nothing ever happened and avoided the topic. Being the only openly queer person in my family, I have to respect that it will take a while for them to understand and accept my sexual orientation. Soon I will follow up with them and essentially come out again.