Despite laws, society keeps people from coming out

“Why is straight the default?” — Love, Simon.

We live in a world where IPC section 377 — which states that states that “whoever voluntarily has carnal inter­course against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished” — has been abolished. Similarly, the Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2063 [2007 AD], protects and guarantees the rights to freedom for the LGBTQIA+ community. So, why don’t people feel safe to come out?

Being homosexual is not be a crime in the eyes of the law, but many societies in South Asia still consider individuals of the LGBTQIA+ community as criminals or even worse, as “psychological cases” who need to be treated.  

The idea of homosexuality being unnatural has been engraved into people’s minds for centuries. As disgusting as this sounds, people believe that homosexuals are going through a phase that can be “fixed”. It’s frightening to know that these societies are willing to hurt — physically and mentally — anyone that identifies as LGBTQIA+ because they believe that it’s sinful. This is what stops LGBTQIA+ from coming out not, only to others but also to themselves.

Someone who is trying to accept their sexuality will feel that they will be targeted and not accepted so it is better to stay inside the closet because that’s what society forces them to do. To be fair, it is scary to stand against something you have known your entire life, so isn’t it just better to not put yourself in that position at all? Especially, when you don’t have anyone by your side or anyone to look up to?

Manisha Dhakal — a transexual woman — wanted to change that by becoming someone others could look up to. She was determined to help people who were in the same position as her. She built enough courage to stand up for herself and many others. She joined the Blue Diamond Society, an LGBTQIA+ support community in Nepal. However, her story of coming out wasn’t easy at all. When Dhakal’s family found out about her work with the Blue Diamond Society, she was forced to stay at home for three days.

In her article “I Grew Up Trans in Nepal, Then Became One of it’s LGBTQ Leaders,” Dhakal remembers the tears running down her parents’ faces, how they refused to listen to her when she tried to explain what it meant to be LGBTQIA+. It’s unfair that she had to explain her identity, and yet, all she got was “tolerance rather than full acceptance.”

Dhakal’s story of tolerance helps us recognize a tiny step forward in the society, but in no way justifies the isolation her family put her through. To me, plain tolerance isn’t enough, the LGBTQIA+ community needs to be fully acknowledged and accepted, everywhere: our society, our families and our own school.

Earlier this month, my friend Alisa, a high school senior, was really frustrated with the recent decision of canceling Love, Simon, a Hollywood movie about a high school gay romance. Later that night, she was talking to her father on the phone like she usually would, but she couldn’t control herself and told him she is queer.

Her dad was shocked but continued by stating that it would be okay, it was just a phrase, and she’d probably be “perfectly straight” by the time she got married.

Up until a few years ago, she was not exposed to other sexualities — besides being straight — which made her uncomfortable talking about it.

Don’t you think that if different sexualities were normalized to individuals like Alisa, by giving them exposure by accepting them, or even mentioning them, it would have made a huge difference? It would give them a sense of security.

If this topic is taboo in our society, then we won’t be able to understand our sexuality let alone feel accepted, making it wrong to be something besides straight or cisgender. In South Asian families being homosexual has been eliminated as a possibility which creates the lurking fear of never knowing how your family and the society might react.

“I guess I didn’t come out to my dad for so long because I was dreading his reaction so much,” Alisa added.

We all understand what it’s like to build scenarios in our head. Nonetheless, there is always a possibility of these made up made up situations, like, your dad disowning you, your mom kicking you out of the house or being sent to conversion therapy, to come true — as overwhelming as it sounds — you could lose a relationship. Nobody wants that.

“I value the relationship I have with my father and I was willing to give that part of my identity up just to keep that relationship with him. That is probably why it took me so long to come out,” Alisa confessed.

The law isn’t what’s keeping the LGBTQIA+ in the closet, South Asian societal pressures are. The fear of being rejected by family is just a lock to the closet. If we accept being queer to be “normal’ and “natural,” maybe, just maybe it would be an easier journey for people to come out.

Edited by Suhana Metha

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