About 5 weeks ago through a mutual friend, I met a couple. They were sweet and very much in love and oh did I mention they were two females? They invited me along to tell their stories about being gay, South Asian and coming out.
This is one half of said couple’s story, in her own words of her experiences growing up, realising she were gay and the subsequent reactions.
- What did you realise you were attracted to girls?
I realised I was gay at 15. It dawned on me when my family members (sisters) would talk about guys as young girls do, how fit the guys they had crushes on were, from celebs to real life boys, I didn’t contribute much as it didn’t feel right and I didn’t feel the same way.
At high school, I had three best friends (Asian girls) who did the same. They would talk about their boyfriends and as girls do at the age of 15 swoon over them, again I didn’t fit in with the conversations they were having as I couldn’t relate. When I had to participate, as I would often be asked about my opinion on boys, I would brush it off or quickly change and the subject.
When I first started ‘dating’ a girl I would contribute to these conversations by making ‘her’ a ‘he’ and never allow them to meet the person I was talking too. I wouldn’t even let the girl I was dating meet them casually for fear of being outed.
As I headed to college, I knew these friends of mine had their lives mapped out. The boyfriends they had would ultimately become their husbands, as young Asian girls your lives are pre-destined for you. So, to try and ‘fit in’ with my peers I dated a guy.
In the beginning it was fine, it was going well, but after the initial ‘honeymoon’ period it was apparent to me that I wasn’t happy. I felt like I was cheating on him, he genuinely cared and had fallen for me and my attraction to girls meant I was lying to him and the mental strain of it was too much, I couldn’t cope.
I purposely argued with him all the time, being mean so he would end it with me. After a few months of unhappiness I had to end it as the mental strain was too much. It wasn’t easy as by this point my friends and family had met him and assumed (as would any Asians) that we would get engaged and then married. I made it out that he had changed his mind.
After it ended, I decided to focus on myself and carry on with my life. The town I lived in was so small so everyone knew each other, I kept my head down and worked hard so I could be financially independent and buy things to make me happy.
At 23, with my sisters getting married and my friends moving onto the next phases of their lives I decided to date another guy, so I told my family as it felt like the best thing to do at the time to stop any societal pressures.
It felt worse than before, it was like a constant dark cloud following me. The pressure I was putting on myself to ‘fit in’ to my society and culture was hiding who I really was. My work was suffering and I no longer had a sense of being and didn’t want to be here anymore.
I left this relationship too as it destroyed me more than the first time.
Again, I decided to give myself space and once ready started dating girls. Even if it wasn’t serious I was much happier than I’d ever been when dating men.
At this point I decided I was ready to come out to my family. Unfortunately at that moment I’d discovered some devastating news about a close family member, so I stepped back and carried on as I was, it wasn’t the right time.
Even though I carried on as I was dating girls, being happier and not having to hide who I was in that respect, there was still the Asian societal pressures and questions of ‘when are you getting married?’
But at this point in my life I had moved on from the mentality of people pleasing and was putting myself first, so didn’t engage with these questions or always brushed them off!
I was still being introduced to guys by family members though. Obviously I wasn’t interested, so I’d make up excuses of ‘I’m not ready’ and if using every excuse I had didn’t put family members off, when I met the guys in question I’d put them off by telling them I worked at McDonalds and they were put off by my job regardless.
- Coming out
I met a girl I liked and was serious about. I decided to come out to my brother and one of my sisters. They were both really supportive, my brother couldn’t wait to meet my partner and the three of us went on a night out, she was even my brother’s wing woman!
He accepted it quickly, no questions asked. My sister who I told had an inkling based on my lifestyle choices! Mostly, I was worried about my brother’s acceptance as he’s the one person I’m closest too and we told each other everything. So keeping it from him wasn’t easy for me.
My sister accepted and was calmer in her response, she’d gone thought a lot in her own life and understood judgement from the community so was really supportive as long as I was happy.
I was definitely more confident as an adult and since being in my relationship and seeing this change in my mood I think helped them accept quicker as I was happier than I’d been before.
The three friends from school were equally as happy about my coming out to them and very supportive, admitting they already knew!
- Religion and being gay
I grew up in the Sikh faith, but I wouldn’t say that I was overly religious. I’ve seen a lot of people sprout the lines of ‘God is one’ and that it shouldn’t matter who you are with but in reality that’s not the case. Religion isn’t a factor in my life. In a way I was pulled away from it from a young age as I was accepting of everyone and those in my religious community weren’t so it made me distance myself.
- Going out in public
More so in Asian communities our relationship isn’t quite accepted. We’ve heard things like ‘who’s the guy in this relationship?’ predominantly from other men. With girls they mutter ‘disgusting’ under their breath when they see me and my partner out.
There are certain areas we feel comfortable to be ourselves, hold hands, be affectionate like any other couple but the heavily Asian populated areas of where we live we’re more careful.
It’s frustrating not being able to publicly hold the hand of your girlfriend because we’re not a straight couple and it’ll be a long time for acceptance and less judgement.
Mentally I’m much stronger than ever. My experiences have shaped me. I’m in a better position and in a happy, loving relationship. There are still issues, societal that will take generations, sadly, for full acceptance.
Most of my friends and family have seen how supportive my partner has been and through a recent family bereavement I couldn’t have asked for better support, that’s all they care about.
NB…Being gay is hard enough even in today’s society, where pressures of judgement from others are high, imagine doing all this and belonging to a South Asian community. The pressures already exist in terms of South Asian culture, predominantly marriage and kids straight out of university, but what of acceptance for your daughter who doesn’t like men?
Have a good day xo