By Pranati Narayan Visweswaran

For our first-ever Free and Equal Society story, we collaborated with Friend of FAE, Pranati Narayan Visweswaran, to bring you a sensitive and insightful thought-piece on her queer experience in 2021. We hope this helps you remember that you’re not alone and that every persons’ story is unique and valid. Enjoy!

Recently, the concept of being “in the closet” has piqued my interest on a personal level. For most of my life the closet was just the place I hung my clothes. But the physical closet does more than that- it carries a sense of identity, ways by which I can express what I feel through the clothes I wear, whether it is happy or sad or just really gay. And the metaphorical closet? Well, that’s just the place where a part of my queerness dwells.

In this year 2021, I have no problem confessing to absolute strangers that I do not sit on the ladder of heteronormativity. Most of my friends know I am queer, and I don’t try to hide it on social media either. I find myself surrounded, both in the digital and physical world, by people in similar situations, or those allied to the cause. And if they’re not aware of what being queer holds, I try to explain it to them through my subjective view of this colourful world. 

I consider myself to be a loud and proud queer person. I define queer as being non-heteronormative. However, I don’t entirely subscribe to the idea of using a label to identify myself, because a label would only put me in a box. I exist in multitudes, and I am not sure there are enough boxes in the world to hold all that I am. I go by queer as an act of solidarity (and to be perfectly honest a sense of pride to be a part of such diverse vibrancy). I am quite comfortable penning this down today to share with all the readers here, even though I probably don’t know most of you personally.

While in the public realm I choose to adorn myself with rainbows, follow figures like Alok Vaid Menon, and celebrate Pride month (a.k.a. every month in the year) with as much joy as I can muster, my private life isn’t as queer as it may seem. This is where I lock the doors of my metaphorical closet- I haven’t come out to my family.

I am from an upper caste, upper middle class family; privileged with access to resources, and whose opinions have seldom gone unheard. They follow traditional values, but to an extent. My mother has probably been the one person to fight against tradition more than the others. She considers herself a feminist, and has often fought against family norms for her rights as a woman. However, she does not seem to understand the world on the queer spectrum. I, on the other hand, have been exploring this world since I was a young 18 year old college student. Up till even the 10th grade I had always heard the word “gay” being used as a slur, “Justin Bieber is gay” being one of biggest insults you could make at that time. By the 11th grade I knew on a base level about what being queer was through my exposure to tumblr; but once I got to college my eyes were opened to my own identity. At a seemingly liberal space, meeting others from the LGBTQ+ community, and seeing them embrace themselves, I also began to question my identity more and more, and develop this concept for myself. I even co-founded a queer society along with one of my friends.

My parents are aware of my activism for the community but we have never discussed the subject. I know that they believe that being openly queer impacts my chances of professional success, but I would sooner leave a job that wasn’t pride-friendly than stick around for a promotion. My sister is aware of my queerness, however I have never explicitly said “I am queer” to her. I know my parents will always love me as parents should their children, but fear holds me back. The big “what if” – what if they don’t understand? What if it changes everything?  Even now as my dad has walked into my room to say hello to me, I hide this writing faster than you could say “closet”.

I don’t know how many of you share positions similar to mine- a paradoxical existence of exuberant pride and closeted reality. This situation has made me ask myself many questions- How do I navigate the space of a semi-traditional Indian family while being queer? Why is it a requirement to say the words “I am queer” to come out? Can I really consider myself being openly queer if I am not ‘out’ at home? How am I supposed to figure out who I am if I have to hide it from those of my own blood? These are not easy questions, and make my thoughts spiral.

I do know this- there is no single ultimate answer. It is not easy to hide from family, but it is also not easy to change their understanding of life, however incorrect it may seem to me. I am happy to be surrounded by people who do know and understand, those who are a part of my chosen family, and who I can always count on for support. But I do hope that one day, all facets of my life can be open to each other, and I can finally bid adieu to all my closets; well the metaphorical ones, I will probably still need the physical one to hang my clothes in.

About the Author: Pranati Narayan Visweswaran is a graduate from the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, where she co-founded @queer_qrew - a queer collective for the students of the college. She is a musician, and currently works in research and content. Hit her up on Instagram @pranatinv 

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