If You Are Out There

If You Are Out There
Fashion designer Wendell Rodricks. Photo: Francois-Matthys. Models (below) walk the ramp during Feronia Fashion Nights in Indore

The need to be accepted is in direct proportion to the anxiety of outing oneself

The LGBTQ movement, like in fashion, seems to have its own trend cycles. Topics range from rights and unions in LGBTQ chatter as varied as colour forecasts to changing hemlines in fashion. What’s in, what’s out. The new “it” hot trendsetters. People that are “on point”. Celebs who endorse a point of view on the red carpet or for their campaigns on social media. The influencers and icons. For me, it’s a blurred world. Fashion and LGBTQ.

One of the topics that began a decade or less ago in LGBTQ was “Outing”. Youngsters and elders alike would ask me how to “out themselves” to their loved ones or friends at work. The need to be accepted is in direct proportion to the anxiety of outing oneself. Being out, proud and accepted is at the core concern of a person from the community. For most, immediate family is of utmost import for consolation. Friends and work associates trail closely next. Finally, acceptance by one’s religion and society at large.

I was born in a middle-class family, which, in turn, inculcated strong middle class moral values. Being truthful was one of them. I did not lie or hide my sexuality. Of course, one suffers the initial fear of being different, of being caught out or discovered. The pain, fear, ridicule and dread of being alone with a deep, dark secret is incomprehensible to a person living in mainstream heterosexual environs.

Fortunately for me, I was born in a family that was supportive and kind. Not that it was easy to just go “out” to them and gain acceptance. All parents want the same for their children: a good job, financial stability, a partner, a family, happiness. It is the latter three that concerns them when it comes to an LGBTQ child.  “Will they be lonely?” is the key concern of parents. “No Mom and Dad”. Not in today’s world with social media awareness and the victory of Article 377 last year. The LGBTQ community is more aware and know that we are not alone. That help lines, counselling and medical treatment are a click away on the net. Sometime back, we did a fashion show in second-tier city Indore organised by Feronia, an international modelling and talent agency that specialises in LGBTQ talents. Imagine...Indore. Not Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata or Bengaluru. It was a great show and totally “out there”.

So, what is on?

What still ails the community with this “coming out” longing and phobia.

When asked how they should navigate through the dreaded coming out, I tell them quite simply “Don’t”.

Really. Don’t! It’s not like three decades ago when the LGBTQ topic was unheard of, swept under the carpet or simply not discussed. Today, the community is out in every sphere of the media. Thanks to a supportive press, we are in newspapers, on television, in films, on fashion ramps and on line. That too with iconic respectable faces and personalities that the public can identify with; not some imaginary sex starved devils with horns haired freaks. 

So, yes. Don’t come out. Just be yourself and be honest. Don’t hide behind lies of having a girlfriend/boyfriend, ruining a girl or man’s life by marrying just for society and then suffer the rest of your life for being someone you are not. Family, friends, colleagues at work, strangers and the general Indian public is not stupid. They can see through if you are fake or lying. So, take your friends home, make it truthful and dignified. Live with grace and responsibility. The rest will follow. There is no need to come out. I never did. A few years down the line, parents and family accepted me, my partner and are genuinely happy for our happiness. 

What if you want to feel accepted and don’t want to come out? Join a profession that is more open-minded: the arts, theatre, dance, fashion, music, advertising...The list is endless. If you want to feel truly liberated and feel that migration to a big city or overseas is the answer, just do it.

We have won the Article 377 battle. This is no time to moan and get depressed over one’s sexuality. It is truly a time to celebrate and express yourself jubilantly. For young millennials, older baby boomers and post millennials, LGBTQ discrimination is a thing of the past.

Fly that rainbow flag high in whatever way you choose to and let the celebrations begin on the first anniversary of the decriminalisation of Article 377 in a new India.

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