To My Parents Who Want Me to Hide My Sexuality

To My Parents Who Want Me To Hide My Sexuality

You have to understand that there is so much power in being out and proud.

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When I first came out of the closet in my freshman year of high school, my friends and peers were enthusiastically supportive, but my parents were not. My parents, immigrants from Sri Lanka, feared homophobia from our family members and Sri Lankan friends. So they told me to keep my sexuality a secret, to keep my personal life private. For the first time, I was given the false choice between my Sri Lankan heritage and my sexuality.

I chose to ignore my parents and remained out. I learned more about the LGBTQIA+ community and began to question society's gender norms. In sophomore year, I started wearing nail polish. It was a quiet rebellion; but for me, a feminine gay guy who is also a Sri Lankan American, the personal is political.

My parents have become much more understanding over the years, but tensions still remain. I have to take off my nail polish whenever our Sri Lankan family friends come over. There are still many Sri Lankan adults who don't know that I'm gay. My parents have been worried about my grandmother finding out.

My parents don't personally have a problem with me being gay, but they still care a lot about what other people think and they worry that being out will lead to me facing discrimination in employment. In their mind, I already have one strike against me because I'm not white and now I'm making it even harder for myself by being openly gay.

This is a difficult issue to navigate and I'm still figuring out how to balance my desire for individual freedom with the need to accommodate my parents' desires. I understand where my parents are coming from, but I fundamentally disagree with the perspective of their analysis. I know full well that even in 2019 homophobia exists, but to me, this is the most important reason to be out of the closet.

Coming out is a political act.

The gay rights movement has been so successful precisely because more and more queer people have come out and straight people have realized that gay people are not some abstract Other; we are your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters, your cousins, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers. And it is much harder to deny the humanity of people you know and love. So being openly gay is a revolutionary act and an important tool for fighting against homophobia.

I hope that if and when our Sri Lankan family friends find out I am gay, they will love me as they have always loved me. They may not approve of me being gay, they may not understand it, but I hope that they will still love me because I may be gay but I am still Nimesh. I am gay and I am also Buddhist and Sri Lankan and so much more.

All of these aspects of my identity combine to make me who I am. I want to be surrounded by people who really love me for who I am; so I can't pretend to be someone I am not. I refuse to mold myself into someone else's image of who I should be, and that includes my parents. I'm going to be myself even if it makes people uncomfortable, even if other people don't like it; because this is my life, not anyone else's.

I will not waste my time worrying about what other people will think. I will focus on being my authentic self, being completely honest about who I am and working towards being the best version of myself. If they really love me, they will love me regardless of my sexuality.

I understand that homophobia in the Sri Lankan community is rooted in issues of culture. But as Chimamanda Adichie has so eloquently pointed out, culture is not some impersonal force that makes us. We make culture. If acknowledging the full humanity and dignity of queer people isn't part of Sri Lankan culture, we must make it part of our culture.

Perhaps it is naive or idealistic of me to focus so much on how the world should be instead of how the world really is. Of course, homophobia is a pervasive issue that has caused the deterioration of family relationships and there will be people who don't understand homosexuality, who disapprove of "the gay lifestyle", who see us as fundamentally broken.

Yet I think it is important for us to recognize the horrors and injustice of the world and still imagine something better. We cannot accept the status quo. Once we recognize systems of oppression, we must work to dismantle them. We must dream of a better world and then work tirelessly towards achieving that goal.

I don't think the arc of history will naturally bend towards justice; it is our duty, the responsibility of each and every one of us to help build a more just world. We may be insignificant in the grand cosmic scale of space and time, we may just be a brief candle in the vastness of eternity, but in the here and now we are alive and we can make a difference.

By being our authentic selves, by stepping out of the darkness of the closet and into the light, by living our truth with courage and pride each and every day, I believe that we can change hearts and minds.

So, Mom and Dad, I'm sorry but I'm not going to keep my sexuality a secret from anyone. I will be openly gay with the hope and faith that the people who love me will still love me for who I am, with the belief that people can change their opinions.

People can often be ignorant and hateful. But I believe people are fundamentally good. So here's to believing in our better angels and building a better world.

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9 Queer Pride Flags That You Probably Didn't Know About

The rainbow flag is certainly the most recognizable, but it isn't the only Pride Flag there is.
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It's Pride Month yet again and fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies are celebrating. Normally around this time of year, we expect to see that all-too-familiar rainbow colored flag waving through the air, hanging from windows and sported on clothing of all types. Even when not strictly a flag, the colors of the rainbow are often displayed when showing support of the larger queer community. But what many people do not realize is that there are many, many pride flags for orientations of all kinds, so Natasha and I (Alana Stern) have created this handy guide to some others that you may not yet be familiar with:

1. L is for Lesbian and G is for Gay

The most recognizable letters of the entire acronym, L (Lesbian) and G (Gay), represent the homosexual people of the LGBTQ+ community. Homosexuality is defined as being exclusively sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Again, although the rainbow Pride flag is easily the most iconic and recognizable, there is a Lesbian Pride Flag as well. Specifically for "Lipstick Lesbians," this flag was made to represent homosexual women who have a more feminine gender expression. Here are the Lesbian Pride Flag (left) and Gay Pride Flag with the meaning of each stripe (right).



2. B is for Bisexual

Bisexuality is defined as the romantic and/or sexual attraction towards both males and females. They often go unacknowledged by people who believe that they cannot possibly feel an attraction for both sexes and have been called greedy or shamed in many ways for being who they are, but not this month. This month we recognize everyone and their right to love. Here is the flag and symbol that represents the big B!


3. T is for Transgender (Umbrella)

Gender identities are just as diverse as sexual orientations. Transgender people are people whose gender does not necessarily fall in line with their biological sex. That is to say, someone who is born male may not feel that calling oneself a man is the best way to describe who they are as a person; the same can go for someone who is born female or intersex (we'll get to that in a bit). Someone born female may feel that they prefer to be referred to as a man. Someone born male may feel that they don't mind being referred to as either a man or a woman. And someone may feel that neither term really fits. Identities can range from having no gender, to multiple genders, to having a gender that falls outside of the typical gender binary of man/woman, to anything in between. The colors of the flag are blue (the traditional color for boys), pink (the traditional color for girls) and white (to represent those who are intersex, transitioning, or have a gender that is undefined).


Okay! Here's where we get into the lesser-known letters of the acronym. You may have heard of some of these before but didn't quite know what they meant or how they fit into the larger queer community, or you may not have heard of them at all. Either way, we'll do our best to explain them!

4. I is for Intersex

Intersex people are people who are have a mix of characteristics (whether sexual, physical, strictly genetic or some combination thereof) that would classify them as both a male and a female. This can include but is not limited to having both XX and XY chromosomes, having neither, being born with genitalia that does not fit within the usual guidelines for determining sex and appearing as one sex on the outside but another internally. It is possible for intersex people to display the characteristics from birth, but many can go years without realizing it until examining themselves further later in life. Here is an older version of the intersex flag which utilizes purple, white, blue and pink (left) and a more recent one that puts an emphasis on more gender-neutral colors, purple and yellow (right).


5. A is for Aro-Ace Spectrum

The A in the acronym is usually only defined as Asexual, which is a term used to describe people who experience a lack of sexual attraction to any sex, gender, or otherwise. People who are asexual can still engage in healthy romantic relationships, they just don't always feel the need or have the desire to have sex and are not physically attracted to other people. If that's confusing, think of it this way: you are attracted women, but not men. You may see a man and think, "He's kind of cute" or "That's a pretty good-looking guy," but you still would not feel any desire towards that person, because that's not what you're into. Asexual people generally feel that way about everyone. That's the "Ace" half of "Aro-Ace."

"Aro," or Aromantic, is a term used to describe people who do not experience romantic attraction. Aromantic people still have healthy platonic relationships, but have no inclination towards romantic love. The reason Asexual and Aromantic are together is because they are very heavily entwined and oftentimes can overlap. Underneath that spectrum are also other variations of asexuality (including but not limited to people who still feel as though they are asexual but experience sexual attraction in very rare circumstances, or only after they have a romantic connection) and aromanticism (including but not limited to people who still feel as though they are aromantic but experience romantic attraction in very rare circumstances).

Below are two versions of the Aromantic Pride Flag (top and middle) and the Asexual Pride Flag (bottom).





6. P and O are for Panseuxal and Omnisexual

Pansexual and omnisexual people are not limited by gender preferences. They are capable of loving someone for who they are and being sexually attracted to people despite what gender their partner identifies as. The word pansexual comes from the Greek prefix "pan-", meaning all. Pansexuals or Omnisexuals will probably settle for whoever wins their heart regardless of that persons gender.


7. But what about the Q?!

The Q can be said to stand for Queer or Questioning, or both. "Queer" is more of a blanket term for people who belong to the LGBTQ+ community or who identify as something other than heterosexual or cisgender (a term that has come to describe people who feel that their gender does fall in line with their biological sex; i.e. someone born male feels that he is a man). It is also possible for someone to identify as queer, but avoid using it to refer to specific people unless you know they are okay with it; some people still consider it insulting. Questioning means exactly what it sounds like: it gives a nod to those who are unsure about their sexuality and/or gender identity or who are currently in the process of exploring it.

There's no one flag specifically for the letter Q, as all of the above sexualities and identities technically fall underneath this term.


This list is hardly comprehensive and there are a number of other flags, orientations and identities to explore. Pride Month is still going strong, and there's always more to learn about the ever-changing nature of sexuality as a whole and the way we understand it. It's a time for celebration, but also a time to educate and spread the word.

For a more in-depth description of different types of attraction and how they work, click here.

For more complete lists of gender identities throughout history, click here or here.

For a general list of commonly used words in the LGBTQ+ community and their definitions, click here.


Now go grab a flag and fly it high--you've got a ton to choose from!

Cover Image Credit: 6rang

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How I Came To The Realization That I Was Bi

Sometimes you don't always know who you are, but when you know, YOU KNOW.

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Growing up, I knew that I liked boys and I never had to question that. I remember my first crush, my teen heartthrobs, and even my odd obsession with Brendan Fraser. Maybe it was because I thought that was what I was "supposed" to feel. When you are a little girl, you are constantly asked what boy you had a crush on or if you had a boyfriend. It's like society is embedding in you at a young age that you have only one option.

It wasn't until I got to college that I started to question whether boys were my only choice. It started off like most cliche college movies do, with a party. I saw a girl kiss another girl and I was jealous. I wanted that to be me and I didn't know why. I always thought that girls were pretty but I never thought anything more of it. I never tried to think anything more of it, because I didn't think it was a possibility. Not until that night. You see, you never think something is possible for you until you see people like you doing that thing.

I found my eyes lingering on girls a little bit longer than usual and truly admiring them as I did boys before. At parties, I would make out with girls just for "fun," because that's what everyone did. That was until finally, I met a girl that seemed to really like me. I pursued her, thinking that she actually was interested in me. It was exciting and I was feeling a way that I never felt before. Then after a while, she told me she wasn't really gay and I felt heartbroken, betrayed even. I've never felt the sting of unrequited feelings from a girl before. I knew then that I was bi. I knew that what I felt was real and a few days later, I told my friends and then I told my mom. It felt as though I was finally sure of who I was and what was possible for me in life.

I still struggled with figuring out who I was after that and constantly found myself sliding up and down the sexuality spectrum. Though as a grew older, I realized that it's okay to be bi. It's okay to feel whatever I am feeling because that is me and I am just fine the way I am.

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