Stories from Coming Out, Coming Home

Recent findings from a Needs Assessment Survey carried out by Satrang and South Asian Network showed that many of the estimated 30,000 members of our Southern California LGBTIQQ South Asian community cannot tell their stories due to the dangers that come with being both South Asian and out about their gender identities/sexual orientations.

In order to give our community a platform for sharing its voices, Satrang hosted a series of writing workshops in the month of March, 2008. Facilitated by theatre artist and Satrang Board Member, D'Lo, the workshop became a place for attendees to go deep--excavating and crafting their personal stories. The participants shared their stories with the community in May, 2008 at the Southern California Library and called it, "Coming Out, Coming Home."

We share two stories read that day: "Shatterproof" by Sky Kishore and "Founder's Day" by Alicia Virani.

"Founder's Day" by Alicia Virani

Founder's Day. The name holds more substance than the actual Day. The Day itself is full of drunken debauchery from dewy 10 am until a hazy 3 am the following morning. Students get to be kids again, flying around on the carnival rides, bare flesh ripping off sweaty swings; caramel from caramel apples luxuriating in the repositories of their molars for days.

Is Founder's Day actually about finding anything more than that "best high you've ever had" or finding yourself in bed with that person who you never would have slept with and is still passed out as you leave the imprint of sex in the mattress? For me this Day was monumental. Pollen swirled around me, toxic confetti. My lungs were burdened by liquid, my chest rattled every time I breathed in echoing my heart bouncing back and forth from one side of my rib cage to another, anxiously awaiting another sneeze. My body was squeezing out everything it was allergic to through every single orifice, completely rejecting my participation in nature. I was a mess, and yet she still found me attractive. All day, hints of flirtation, a knowing glance sent sliding down a sun ray, catching smiles thrown on a frisbee from across the lawn. A slow, playful, frightening, frolicking build-up of sexual tension.

And then I found myself standing outside of the Acropolis Diner. Neon sign spurting electronica to the off beat. She stopped me there, her hand grazed mine softly, like silk sheets slipping off of a bare shoulder. Then a tighter grasp. I could feel the uncertainty mixed with the lust and confidence of liquor filling the stale air between us. She pulled me in, our eyes locked for a second, and then we were devouring each other. Tongue slipped beneath tongue, lips clung to lips as cars zoomed by. I was kissing a woman for the first time and for all the world to see.

I pulled away, sweating confusion and panting with fear. We ran quickly inside and sat down among the drooping eyelids of our friends. All I could feel was her heart in my hand, she had just given it to me out there on the concrete. I ordered fries lavished with cheese and gravy and tried to taste the scalding, savory, melting disaster set in front of me, but I could only taste her, and it was overwhelming.

7 months later sitting in my mom's car, her question burns me like that gravy, numbing my tongue. "Are you considering pursuing an alternative lifestyle?" Thoughts run across the inside of my forehead like the Wall Street ticker tape. What do I say? Is my lifestyle alternative? Does that night outside the diner, and when she buried her head in my chest with utter joy when I said yes I'll be your girlfriend, and when she came to visit my home as "my friend" and we boldly fucked every night, does that constitute an alternative lifestyle? I looked at my mother's questioning eyes and my own responded with a rush of tears. The salty words came tumbling out, "I already have."

"Shatterproof" by Sky Kishore

"What's going on?" he asks, glancing from road to me, then back to road. I'm leaned over in the passenger seat, gripping the cane he'd carried from this morning's rehearsal, doing my best to stare out the window. But I can feel his eyes.

I want him to know, but I'm afraid to speak. I've found that I can't trust my masculinity with my emotions. I'd rather have him draw the shade to my soul and peer in, without needing me to excavate the bricks and boundaries I've worked so hard to lay. This facade is strangely handsome, I know, but there's so much inside that no one ever sees. And today, I can feel it boiling over again.

"I don't know." I lie and let my mind's eye wander as I wait for him to call my bluff. Squint at the gray-hazed palm trees crawling past us in LA rush hour. If I do it right, they morph the same way as the Bradford Pears which lined the road outside my parent's house in St. Louis. Riding back from school with mom, I'd try to make them blur and stretch as far as I could--a task as elusive as meditation for my 8th grade mind. In the moment, the impossible was possible, but as soon as I tried to witness my own mini-marvel, I'd snap to--fixated on trunk after trunk.

It was the task I took up to distract myself from mom's questions, to avoid accidentally finding myself vulnerable in front of her. "How was your day?" "Fine." "What did you do?" "Stuff." The call and response never changed. Except once.

"How was your day?" "Fine." What did you do?" "I tried to slit my wrist last night." My eyes kept their soft-focus on the treetops as fear burned the tips of my ears and threatened the muscles in my jaw. I hadn't wanted to tell her, but Mr. Jacobi had given me no choice. My "friends" had told him by lunch, and by sixth period, I was in his office, watching his Adam's apple bounce in his throat as he chewed the words with yellowed crowns and llama tongue. "You'll need to tell your parents. I'm going to call home at 7."

My face was hot with embarrassment. Home, I thought it rang distant, but familiar like the Lord's Prayer I'd picked up from West County Basketball League. This word that was supposed to give with comfort struck rigid like a taunt. Maybe he could see through me--through my fitted jacket and scratchy plaid skirt--maybe he could read my mind through my eyes like some Buffy villain; maybe he knew that I'd never been home. That in pre-school, I went looking for my penis; thought maybe mine was an "innie" that I could coax "outie." That in 4th grade, I was dubbed a "dyke" for playing with the boys; didn't know its meaning, but it made toasted ravioli taste like wet chalk. That in 6th grade, I pretended to like a boy to make my best friend, Molly, feel safer about being my friend. That at the end of 7th grade, I caught my reflection in the restroom mirror, realized my bulky collared shirts could no longer hide my c-cup breasts; knew I read "queer," not "boy." And that by 8th grade, I'd learned to dress this flesh in pink and pearls the way my family strung Christmas lights each winter--self-conscious performances. Empty rituals to keep the neighbors happily believing that our insides matched the exterior. I watched him only from angles, just in case.

Mom didn't speak. For the remaining three blocks, as the trees swirled into sky, into brick, into muck I held the ache firmly in my throat. Door popped open; slammed shut; keys scratched each other and lock; strip of light seeped from beneath kitchen door, and I watched it in silence.

"Talk to me, Thambz." He tries again. I can feel it cracking in my chest now. Collapsing in. Pulling down from center and stealing back control. My mouth opens despite contrary instruction, and air pushes through.

"I've just been feeling sad." I confess. As the words come, I try to divorce myself from their truth. I refuse to turn towards him, instead dropping my eyes to my thumb, which moves along the cold brass contours of the horse-head cane. Its teeth catch the orange light of the setting sun, summoning its features into familiarity. I've seen this face before in a memory. In a hallucination.

Two years prior, locked in a room without shoelaces, or belt, I had seen this face. Outside, there were nurses, pills, and a humming TV set. Beyond that were lanyards of fake evergreen and fat, colored lights lacing the corridor; they began at a slab of windowless steel that could be opened only from the outside, and ended at double glass doors that swung out to the sharp winter air.

I'd seen it there, inside the glass doors, inside the slab of steel, inside the belt-less, shoelace-less room as I lay awake again and praying for sleep or death to find me. Over on the tray by the shatterproof window, I had seen it rise from a rag, Dripping with blood from its severed neck, eyes bulging as it turned to ravage the strange woman in the bed next to mine. I knew it wasn't real, but I wanted to believe my eyes. And I hoped that when it was through with her, it would come for me.

The night before that, I had lay awake in my parents house, witnessing evening turn to night, turn to morning again, haunted by a different set of images. A body hanging limp from the ceiling fan; one floating face-down in the tub; corpses sprawled and pale--pills scattered-- blood pooling on the beige carpet. The bodies were mine--all of them. "Home" for only two nights, and I felt more a stranger than ever before, desperately wanting my parents to know me, and fearing that they would rather not see the truth.

I had tried to remove my breasts earlier that week. Snipped them like the skilled surgeon my parents wished they'd raised. I had hoped to make this body more hospitable for the young man that I was becoming.

Today, in the car, my breasts ache. Not from cuts or scars, but from the weight of existence. "Can I tell you my theory?" he asks, exiting from freeway to downtown street. When I don't respond, he continues, "I think this is about your move. New job, new apartment--you just need to get settled in. You know, creating a home space is a big deal. People don't always realize"--

"I feel so alone." I tell him, looking out the window again, pressing my tongue against the ridge of my tooth to keep the tears from falling. "I feel like I can't do it anymore."

He reaches out to squeeze my shoulder, and the tears fall anyway. Dropping with added weight from my drooping head. "I'm trying to be the best man I can be," I pause to stop the tears, but they keep coming.

"It's alright, Thambi, I gotchu."

"I just can't do it in this body... I feel trapped...I want to be strong. I want to be brave and giving, and I want to do right by my family, but I feel trapped in my own body. And I don't know how to free myself. I can't afford for my mom to need me and to refuse to see me."

As the car slows, in front of our destination, I still can't face him. I want to tell him that I'm not ready to say goodbye. That I'm not ready to lose my family but that I can't keep living in this skin. That I want to slice it open sometimes because I feel so trapped inside. That I fight myself to keep living and breathing and moving every day. That I'm tired of fighting and that I feel like giving up.

But instead, I swallow it. Instead, I worry about preserving my manhood, worry that he sees me as weak. I feel myself crumbling, melting, discombobulating, and I need to be held or I will fall apart; but I don't tell him. Instead, I puff up my chest and dry my eyes.

Comments

This article is something that will help me with my class assignment. It helped me to better understand another aspect of this topic. Thanks. Landscape Contractor Marietta Ga
http://www.lasertekservices.com/ Students get to be kids again, aerial about on the carnival rides, bald beef ripping off bathed swings; caramel from caramel apples luxuriating in the repositories of their molars for days.
http://www.lasertekservices.com/Students get to be kids again, aerial about on the carnival rides, bald beef ripping off bathed swings; caramel from caramel apples luxuriating in the repositories of their molars for days.

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