by Nadira Kharmai
EDITOR’S NOTE: National Coming Out Day is October 11. Since its inception in 1987, it continues to promote a safe world for LGBTQ individuals to live truthfully and openly. This is Women’s Lifestyle Magazine’s inaugural article in a quarterly column devoted to people who are homosexual; not because they are different, but because they bring an important perspective, a needed voice in our community. Women’s Lifestyle represents all women. Yes, we can always do better. And we will. This is just the beginning. We are providing a safe platform to express views, experiences, silly anecdotes and serious musings. So without further ado, please join me in welcoming Nadira Kharmai and her first story, “OUT!” in recognition of Coming Out Day. – Jennifer Wilson
It takes a heart full of courage and bravery to come out to your family; particularly your parents.
I know this first-hand because I’ve done it myself. Actually, I came out twice. Yup, twice; because the first time I was sort of shoved “back into the closet.” I came out in 2008 when I was a sophomore at Grand Valley State University studying broadcasting, and my parents weren’t happy with the news at all. My family was amazingly generous paying for my education. Since I was technically “under them,” (and without a big savings — yeah, I was that spoiled kid) I felt obliged to play down my sexuality.
Fast forward a couple years: In 2011 I came out again; this time as an independent woman who was well out of college and had a wee-bit of a savings in case World War Three were to unfold. My parents weren’t happy about it back then and they aren’t happy about it now. Now, it’s not just my Indian culture that I’m challenging, but more so I’m challenging Biblical interpretation and societal acceptance with my sexuality.
My parents are devout Christians. My mother is like a cute little modern version of Mother Theresa. She helps third-world children come to the States for free correctional medical surgery. Yeah, can you imagine how livid she was? My dad too. Okay, but this isn’t all about me: It’s about you. Whether you’re gay, straight, bi, transgender, lesbian, queer — however you identify — this is about you.
Now, as I write this column with Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” blaring in the background, I feel the need to tell you this: Although it’s extremely liberating to come out (no matter what form; on paper, over the phone or face to face, (huge high-five if you can do it this way) you must be prepared for the response. This is not to say that your family or friends won’t be accepting (only you know them best), but this is just a cut-and-dry warning for you in case you have a conservative family like mine. Be prepared. Schedule an appointment with your therapist or counselor the day after you come out because you’re going to want to process it all with him/her.
Perhaps your coming out isn’t a surprise at all, and/or your loved ones are completely accepting. In that case, be grateful and savor the acceptance. Whether your announcement is taken successfully or not-as-much, it’s always beneficial to have more than just your close friends ready and waiting for your call. Have your pastor, mentor, siblings, or other accepting family members close by to hold you, hug you, cheer you on, or take you out for a glass of vino.
I’m not an expert at coming out, and I sure have never been kicked out or shunned by my family, but I do know a thing or two about harnessing patience and trading anger for gentleness. Does that mean I never blow up when I ‘debate’ with my parents about homosexuality and the Bible? No. But it does mean I’ve learned to hold my tongue back, swallow my pride, and try to ‘agree to disagree.’ If your family is not accepting of your so called ‘lifestyle,’ you can do one of two things 1. Embrace the journey or 2. Whine about the journey (please do not do this forever, it will only bring you down and turn you sour). Yes, it’s extremely hurtful and heart-wrenching to have your own flesh and blood disapprove of who you are and/or the wonderfully amazing partner you are with, however; you will eventually learn to accept whatever form of love and tolerance your family gives. And if that’s not enough, with enough openness and a little more bravery, you’ll find comfort, love and acceptance within other family cultures.
I have an incredible group of friends and mentors at my church (Genesis United Methodist) who are like family to me. They didn’t just fall into my lap. I had to seek them out, and in return, friendships blossomed and healing started.
Remember in the beginning when I said ‘this is all about you’? It still is. Please remember that. This is your journey of self-acceptance and self-actualization. Until the whole world wholly accepts each other as equal brothers and sisters, this whole ‘coming out thing’ will always be a big deal. One last tip, don’t be scared! You’re beautiful, strong and have the power to make positive strides for equality.
“It always seemed to me a bit pointless to disapprove of homosexuality. It’s like disapproving of rain.”
- Francis Maude
To learn more about the lives of LGBTQ Americans, visit the Human Rights Campaign at www.hrc.org. And, to learn more about National Coming Out Day, visit http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/the-history-of-coming-out. If you haven’t heard about our local initiative, you should definitely check out Until Love Is Equal at http://untilloveisequal.com/.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nadira Kharmai owns and operates Empress Productions; a production company that specializes in social media video. Kharmai is also a lifestyle model with the Matthew Agency. She loves the great outdoors, playing with her puppy, and spending time with family.