So, some people know my story. I came out publicly in December 2013, and I’ve often mentioned several times that I came out to my dad even before I came out on Facebook. I get asked how Appa (my dad) took it, all the time. I was sharing this story personally with someone I know over chat, and she suggested I might as well share it with a wider audience.Here’s what happened.
It was 2011, my third year of college. I wasn’t struggling with my identity or anything, but I was going through a phase where I felt I was not being loved. I felt depressed to the point of being suicidal almost every week, and I had come out to a couple of friends in college by then. Every time I felt incredibly depressed, I used coming out as a vent to talk about my issues with someone. And it helped me feel better.
At one point, I decided someone from my family should know. It was going to be my mom, sister or my dad. One of them, first. I wasn’t sure about telling my sister then, because she was in college, and my friends suggested it might be too young for her to know about my sexuality then. I also ruled out telling my mom because, at that point, I didn’t want her to be sad about her son being gay. I was already depressed, and wouldn’t have been able to take it if she had struggled to come to terms with it too.
It had to be dad for a couple of reasons. My dad was a very well-read man. He had never been to college, but he spent most of his nights devouring books. I’d sleep off at 10 PM, but he’d stay up till midnight reading everyday. We’ve never watched cricket together, we’ve never gone to movies together, but he’s always talked about history (Soviet Russia!), about people we now consider icons and the like. I just believed dad would understand sexuality better than my mom, hoping he’d have read about it somewhere. While there was a good enough chance that he may have never heard about queer people, my gut feeling was that he’d come to terms with it pretty quickly because he’d surely read enough about people and cultures across the world, and as he’d always taken a specific interest in reading up on these topics.
Although I tend to narrate my coming out experience as something that happened over a couple of minutes, I remember asking dad directly how liberal he thought he was, a few months earlier. He laughed, trying to understand why I was asking that question when we were bored out for two hours waiting to meet the doctor on a random day. I went on to ask him some really irrelevant questions to get an idea of how accepting he would be of my orientation, and I vaguely remember he passed the test, though I don’t exactly remember what I asked him to find that out.
So one day in August, I called up dad and told him I was coming over for the weekend, and that I wanted to talk to him about something important. He asked me for details, I said I wanted to talk in person over the weekend, and asked him to make sure he was available. I went home that weekend, but couldn’t muster the courage to come out. I postponed telling him.
One or two or three weeks later, I went home again. Sunday morning, we were watching TV, and my mom came over and asked me what it was that I wanted to talk to dad about. I shrugged it, off saying there was nothing important, and told her I almost forgot what I wanted to discuss. It was hard for me to lie and hide things from my mom, but I really wanted to tell dad first.
A little later, dad came over and asked me the same question. My grand plan for coming out was to slyly ask him to take me shopping for shoes, but instead take him somewhere else once we’d left home and tell him everything he needed to know.
A few minutes later, I was on his bike and I told him I really didn’t care about shoes, and that I just wanted to talk in some secluded location where no one could hear us. In retrospect, I find it funny that I was so scared about some random stranger finding out I was gay when I was talking to my dad, but three years ago, I was definitely afraid.
So, he took me to a park. And I had my Kindle with me. I had bought it a few months earlier, specifically to read the It Gets Better book. It had stories of LGBTQ people from across the world, and I was scared to read the hard copy in hostel, so I actually ordered the Kindle just so that I could read the book without anyone knowing it. When I was with dad, I had also loaded the Kindle with PDFs of web pages converted from Orinam.net that had resources for friends and parents.
So we sat in the park. I made sure no one was around, and proceeded to tell him. It was all the more tough for me because I had to come out in Tamil. So far, when I talked to friends in college about sexuality, it was very convenient for me because I could get away with saying I’m gay, and I’m attracted to men and a trillion other things in English. How do you actually tell your dad that, in Tamil? Not to sound elitist – just that I haven’t had enough conversations about sexuality in Tamil, and I haven’t read as much about sexuality in Tamil although I’d have liked to.
But I was prepared, though. I had also gobbled up substantial information in Tamil (from places like Orinam.net) and I knew same sex attraction was ஒருபாலீர்ப்பு. I knew the right terms, and I proceeded to tell him my பாலீர்ப்பு was different. I told him எனக்கு பொண்ணுங்க மேல ஒன்னுமே தோணாது “I have no feelings towards women”. To be honest – I was pretty nervous. I did not shiver – but I was definitely sweating. His face turned weird. I told him some of my friends knew and they had always listened to me and stood by me every time I was depressed. I told him there’s no concrete research to prove why people are gay – it could be genetic, it could be environmental. This triggered him to tell me “medical treatment எடுத்துக்கலாம்” (“take medical treatment”) in the belief it would make me straight. I told him this in return: அவ்வளோ easy நீயும் என்னை மாதிரி மாறிடலாமே (” if it were so easy, you could become gay”). And then we talked for about half an hour, and I pushed him to read resources for LGBT parents on my Kindle. He said he was not in a position to read those right then, and that he was happy I read so much.
We didn’t talk much once we came home and I was leaving back to college at night. He just told me to stay safe. Only a day had passed, and he was coming to terms with what I told him and I could totally understand. It was a bit too much to get him to understand everything quickly (my friends were pretty quick), but I was sure we would get there. The next time I came home and I raised a topic that was close to these issues, I always spotted a tinge of sadness in his face. It has been three years now, and things have changed drastically. A couple of months ago, I saw him sharing pro-gay stuff on Facebook. He knew I attended the Pride March, he knew I went to the Chennai International Queer Film Festival, and he’s getting very comfortable about talking about my sexuality with me.
When I was depressed, I went for a counselling session and was told that I had done the right thing by disclosing my orientation to my parents in college, and I’m so glad I did it then. I can see things falling in place right now: I’m getting out of my bouts of loneliness and depression, attending queer events, and generally feeling a lot better in comparison to that day three years ago when I struggled to tell my dad everything he needed to know about me.