Posted by Kaushik
Queer or not, we all have our closets, just like we all have our skeletons. They are just labelled differently. Sometimes they are built for us by someone else and we are forced to live in them; sometimes we build them ourselves. Very often, we even have multiple closets that we are familiar with. Irrespective of the kind and of the history associated with any of them, coming out of the closet is a daunting task. The magnitude of time, energy and emotions associated with that first step outwards, is nothing short of an achievement that one should be proud of, for there are a million people who would just love to slam that door back onto your feet just while you are stepping out.
My experience was no different. Growing up in a strongly cis-gendered, heterosexual society, while being repeatedly told I was not eating enough, I had my fair set of closets to deal with. When there is such a heavy external presence of uniformity in terms of behaviour and expectations, it is difficult to know oneself better as an individual entity, and not as a product of social norm. In the absence of a safe space in my immediate environment, I needed a space of anonymity where I would not be afraid to experiment and to get to know myself better. For me, I had this opportunity as I left abroad to continue my studies. After series of experimentation, I understood that unless I was at ease with myself, no one else could be.
I had to come out, first of all, to myself before I could come out to others.
Once I had achieved this milestone, there was no turning back. No more apologizing, no more self-deluding, and most importantly, no more self-shaming! I realized now, that me being at ease with myself, made it easier for family and for friends to accept me as a whole.
Of course, I am still experimenting, for we constantly evolve as people, but knowing myself just makes the whole process more streamlined. I know now, for example, that if I had bought that turtleneck yesterday, I would regret it in a week from now.
I also knew, five years ago, that if I didn’t write to a gorgeous red-haired French boy, I would regret it later. Five years later, I look back at what has been, and I recently wrote the story below, dedicated to him, as a short testimony of my coming out to myself.
The fountains had frozen, and the ducks had cold feet. People claimed to replicate Jesus by walking on water, frozen though it was (cheap trick!). And I felt a million tiny shards of ice plunge into my cheeks as I made my way to the railway station. I had a date, and I too had cold feet, literally and metaphorically.
Uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable in my shoes. I was uncomfortable with my professor’s techniques. I was uncomfortable being so far from home. I was uncomfortable with my sexuality. I was uncomfortable with my frail arms, tiny wrists, sweaty hands and my fat nose.
I was, also, uncomfortable with the thought of another date going awry.
At the station, there you stood: red-haired, long gray coat, gorgeous burgundy shoes and taller than I had imagined. You bent forward to greet me with the customary three pecks on the cheek. I bent forward awkwardly to follow suit.
Here I was, once again, putting my heart out there on the public pin board for decent bidders. The last two had returned it back to me (“It is pretty but doesn’t sit well with my furniture. It’s not you, it’s my furniture.”). Three strikes and you’re out, right? You were the carefully chosen third.
I fumbled through the whole evening. I tumbled through the whole evening. While Jack might have only broken his crown while tumbling, I was breaking all hope of ever seeing your thick red-haired beard ever again. The evening was like a game of pinball where each post is a blunder and you should just let the ball fall through hitting the least number of posts; except that I was scoring a personal high score having bumped into the posts verbal diarrhea (repeatedly), unimpressive cooking, infantile choice of film, and the worst of all, un-sexy sport clothing shopping. As you left me the next day, I decided to drown my lost hope (and celebrate my high score) on a fatty-fat-fat cheese cake.
That was five years ago.
Five years have passed and I am clearly a different person now. I’m less uncomfortable. I spend a lot of time (and a lot more money) on clothing. I speak French fluently, and I am more rarely lousy at cooking. I revel in my imperfections. In fact, now, I even care for and nurture them like they were vital organs in my body. Even my thinning hair doesn’t seem so disastrous. I not only wear my oily skin, I own it!
Two days after you left, you wrote back to me. I couldn’t understand why. You said, “Ça va être dur d’attendre deux semaines” (“It will be hard to wait another two weeks”). I still couldn’t understand why. But of course, I acquiesced. I would get to see and feel your thick red-haired beard again!
And months later, as we held hands in public (a first for the both of us) on that sunny, windy autumnal day on the bridge over the Rhone, I let myself go. Ironically, I had never felt closer to myself. And since then, I have only grown closer; to you and to myself.
Kaushik is a jack of many trades, including scientist, cook, writer, musician, street fashion enthusiast and photographer. He doesn’t wear these feathers in his hat though, they make him sneeze. He does show it off though on his Instagram account @mushikkk.