• I moved to Brisbane almost five years ago. ((Instagram, @NaaviKaran))Source: (Instagram, @NaaviKaran)
There is nothing more empowering than being accepted and celebrated by your own, especially with someone who was an integral part of your childhood.
By
Naavikaran

15 Jul 2020 - 8:45 AM  UPDATED 15 Jul 2020 - 6:05 PM

The hardest thing about coming out over social media is that you often don’t know whether the people you love and care about still feel the same about you. 

I moved to Brisbane almost five years ago. I came out two years after that over Facebook to more than 4,000 friends, only to find radio silence from my family and friends in India.  

Last year, a friend of mine from India moved to Melbourne and invited me to come hang out with her if I ever visited the city. I was nervous and excited. She and I had grown up together as close friends. We were both professional swimmers and had spent a lot of our childhood and teenage years at the pool, swim-meets and summer training camps. Our families knew each other quite well. Why did she want us to meet? I hadn’t heard from her for many years.

Since coming out, I’ve noticed a pattern of old friends from school, college or the swimming team messaging me on social media after years of no contact. 

Since coming out, I’ve noticed a pattern of old friends from school, college or the swimming team messaging me on social media after years of no contact. 

“I want you to know that I am gay.”

“It would be nice to hang out…after all these years”

“I think you’re really brave.”

Growing up, I was feminine (much less than I am now) and extroverted (unlike I am now thanks to traumaTM). Being bullied and fat-shamed was a common experience in my childhood. I made up for the shame by trying extra hard at academia and sport only to feel frustrated and trapped.

The fact is, I do feel privileged when people feel safe enough to come out to me. For a lot of non-queer or closeted queer Indians, even spending time or talking to someone who is openly queer can be often challenging. On the other hand, I can’t help but wish that these friends were there to speak up for me when things were hard — even though I am aware that they too might’ve had their own shame and socially conditioned self-hatred to contend with. 

There is still so much stigma attached to being Indian and LGBTIQAP+, especially to the majority of Indians where the challenge is to also navigate poverty, lack of access to health care, acceptance by family and community, challenges with faith and the lack of healthy representation. I brought these issues with me to Australia in my overweight suitcase.  Migrants like me still find it next to impossible to find capacity and strength in often white communities to be safe and come out (in which ever order) and lead a healthy life. 

I once got asked by a white radio host to explain to her the importance for queer people like me to find acceptance and safety.

I was taken aback. Whilst I think it was a genuine question, it’s also time we moved away from having to justify our basic humanity.    

Popular LGBTIQAP+ discourse in Australia is led by white and cis-gender (non-trans) people who often don’t understand the depth and complexities involved in the various identities, cultures, histories and struggles that people within the acronym experience. 

Among these challenges are pressures to assimilate within white Australian culture, fetishisation of coloured skin and racism on dating apps. Those who move overseas either to study or work are already up against a plethora of struggles and unknowns in addition to their own queer identity. And there are people who are here to seek asylum and have their additional set of roadblocks. 

My own challenges with navigating my bi-sexuality, transgender and Indian identity within a mainly straight, patriarchal country is a hot mess.

My own challenges with navigating my bi-sexuality, transgender and Indian identity within a mainly straight, patriarchal country is a hot mess. From being told to go drive a taxi to navigating education and employment industry, to having zero access to health care, I still struggle even though I am now quite confident in who I am. I am “dirty”, “wild” and “obscene” and a mere sexual object based on the historical stereotyping of brown and black people being perceived as “less than”.  Leading myself as a queer and brown person is an extremely lonely road, and it’s often less than Pride that I feel. 

So when my friend from India who lives in Melbourne asked me to come hang out with her, I was nervous and excited. She asked me to wear my heels from my Instagram posts so that she could check them out up close. When I did rally up the courage to hang out with her in Melbourne, she bought me lunch and told me that she believes in me and is there for me. There is nothing more empowering than being accepted and celebrated by your own, especially with someone who was an integral part of your childhood.  

The radio silence I experienced when I came out was hard because it led me to believe that the “queer” aspects of my identity is a “western” phenomenon and that my coming out as a way to signal a moment of successful assimilation into a white system. It has led to a lifetime of internalised racism, trauma and queerphobia and made it even harder to see my brown and queer self as valid parts of myself that can co-exist. 

We have a long way to go in our fight against racism and acceptance. But I am hopeful. I am positive in our capacity to thrive, find connection and community. I am extremely proud and grateful of the anti-racist work that is happening across the world, especially spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement. But most of all, I am indebted to the people in my own life who allow me a galaxy of space to grow in my own, many ways.

Naavikaran is a spoken word artist, dancer and community activist, you can find them on all social media platforms @Naavikaran.

 

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