To be or not to be.. “Out”
It was interesting to see such a diverse response to the documentary on Muslim Drag Queens on Channel 4. Some people loved the Queens, found them brave and inspirational. Others loathed them and said it was inappropriate and too brazen. But the fact is, South Asian LGBTQ people exist. Aside the entertainment factor, whether this is for laughs in a movie, or a Queen on the screen, there is a reality in which our own family and communities suggest we are all better off hidden and back in the closet?
Back in the 90s when the so-called “Gaysian” scene emerged, clubs like Shakti and our own night, Club Kali were established due to need to create an alternative safe space for LGBTQ people from the Asian subcontinent. A place where alternative or ‘Black’ Queer identities, were valid and we could meet like minded folk, make friends and find love and feel we belonged. Pre-Grindr and pre-internet, these clubs were the hub to meet, connect and establish support systems. Perhaps they were a foundation to where we have reached today where young boys, including Muslim are prepared to go on terrestrial TV and declare who they are in all their colourful glory.
Along the way, some Queer folk were outed, others decided there was only one way, to finally come out. Consider Ellen Degeneres’ watching her career disintegrate after she came out in 1997 and, George Micheal arrested for “lewd behavior”, followed by public shaming in 1998. Perhaps because of these incidents, LGBTQ people develop the courage to fight on for equality and fairness. Only two years later, the revolutionary TV show “Queer as Folk” aired on terrestrial TV, followed by queer characters in soaps such as Brookside, Hollyoaks, Corrie, EastEnders all of which enable debate and visibility of LGBTQ people in general.
So where are we now? Well big names in film and sport started to come out. Wentworth Miller, Neil Patrick Harris, Jodie Foster, Ellen Page and even Dumbledore. The western world is certainly more open to alternative identities today. As we take one step forward, how many steps back are taken in terms of our racial profile. This time not just by this same western world but also by our own family and communities, still unable to comprehend our sexuality and gender identity? Is it worth coming out now even though it could mean death threats, forced marriage and if you’re in the wrong country, stoned or thrown off buildings for acts of love?
Here, now, with more human rights, Equal marriage and such, coming out is thankfully more a cause for celebration than ridicule. But how many dare come out in Bollywood? With the county’s U – turn in queer human rights, one famous director refuses to discuss this aspect of his life, let alone his circle of queer friends. Considering the experience of Bobby Darling in Bollywood, her treatment by the media, and the state police, is it any wonder the Bollywood closet remains tightly shut. Did Aamir Khan’s TV show Satyamev Jayate, an episode about accepting queer identity as normal make any difference? Because news flash: normal is exactly what it is to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or straight.”
As they say, the only constant is change. Hiding behind ignorance, or culture, or religion, or a past keeps those closet doors shut. Every small step in our collective past as LGBTQ people is evolution, sometimes at a price. Each step shines a light on our existence, we are here, we are queer, and this is our life. Together as a LGBTQ community, we, the Kali community are a huge leap forward, uniting differences in faith, genders and sexualities into one queer community. We know being “out” is an extremely difficult and personal choice. That ability to choose comes from a long and painful journey of acceptance of our self. Only after passing this milestone, then reaching a point of self expression and freedom to be who you are, can we choose a destination ahead. Sadly there’s always one too many casualties along this journey, when charities like the Naz and Matt Foundation pick up the pieces.
Some days, we survive, others we live. We wake up each day battling, not with the world, but with our inner self.. Do I come out today and be who I am, or not?