Although the specifics of this story are unique to me, facets of this coming out narrative are shared by many, be it the rejection, discomfort in biased or superficial acceptance.
I was in my early 20s when I came out to her. Gay, independent and content, living with my boyfriend at the time and our two cats. She - a Catholic, Indian woman, raised in a world where men marry women and save themselves for marriage, where God is real, and if you don’t repent you will burn in the fires of hell. As early as I can recall, the looming expectations and subtle reminders were ingrained vividly in my mind. Secondary to playing the role of the only son born after three girls- to carry on the family name.
Toronto, February 21, 2012- it was a Tuesday. The day when any ideation of me and heterosexuality and the relationship between woman and son began to crumble. A short, gut-wrenching, phone-call from work that seemed to have lasted hours, when realistically, it lasted a mere twenty minutes in a cold “quiet room” at the office. Sick to her stomach, austeric tones and self-loathing tears, all for the loss of the conceptual; a visceral reaction that many LGBTQ folks have to suffer through when coming out. Suffering, born out of liberation, from a predictable response. It wasn’t a rejection of my physical self. Stripping me of any labels, she accepted a static pseudo-form of myself that exists only in her memory. A form, that if she prays hard enough, will someday change in both religion and sexuality, meeting a woman that will guide him out of living in sin. Unable to break from the attachments of generational hetero-normalcy and cultivate an attitude of acceptance, she silently rejects the entirety of my being- my queer being.
8 years later with a five-hour flight separating us, we tiptoe around personal subjects of relationships, men, happiness, and most of all love, playing an aggressively passive game of telephonic tug of war. The calls are shorter than they used to be, yet they still feel like an eternity, whilst harboring so much resentment and unease. It’s all just small talk now. Sometimes the wall that separates my mother and I is briefly torn down, only to be re-plastered and cemented, brick by brick. It’s in these short moments when we create the space to smile, and pretend like everything is OK, conforming to expectations and no longer striving for full acceptance and approval. She is, after all, my mother. Coming out to the anchor in my life has been shattering and draining. However, there grows ease in meeting others- strangers, and revealing the most vulnerable details of myself to them.
The daunting experience of coming out becomes one of effortless security and innate
ease, particularly when meeting strangers. And the more we encounter another in our own fully realized skin, we become adept at breathing into, rehabilitating, and inhabiting our own body. Transforming both our superficial and innermost selves, and our relationships, from strangers to friends, and to a chosen family; the self becomes no longer alien to us. The same cannot be said about our mothers.
Being surrounded by like-minded folks and immersing myself in a community that understands the tribulations of feeling nothing but ‘other’ for so long has been my sacred healer. The power of inclusion and its impact on the quality of my mental and bodily health continues to root itself into the foundations of my emotional dialogue and outward expressions. Within the walls of a safe space among our chosen families, I (we) no longer have to pretend. Inclusivity is the mother of my remedies.