Editor’s Note: The views expressed here are those of the author’s and don’t necessarily represent or reflect the views of MangoBaaz.
My first crush was on a girl in sixth grade.
She was smart and funny and everyone liked her, except for me. I didn’t have a reason for it, except that every time I saw her, I felt anxious and shy. I felt a pull toward her that unsettled me, and I coped with this by convincing myself I disliked her. I remember catching myself staring at her in class, the drone of the teacher’s voice fading into the background, as I noticed how pretty her hair looked in the sunlight filtering in through the classroom window. When I’d realize what I was doing, I’d look away quickly, glancing around to see if anyone else had noticed, and tell myself to snap out of it.
I had other crushes on girls as I grew up, girls I found distractingly attractive and around whom I felt a mixture of exhilaration and unease. I felt simultaneously drawn to them, because I was attracted to them, and repulsed by them, because that attraction confused and scared me. I was a girl and I knew girls couldn’t have crushes on other girls.
Then, when I was ninth grade, I watched a TV show in which a gay character is almost fired because his sexuality is found out by his boss.
He sits outside in the dark, defeated and resigned to his fate, when another character finds him and tells him they support him and don’t think there’s anything wrong with him. The man, his face pale and tired, stares at her like he’s never heard anyone say that to him before and breaks down in tears. It startled me that I empathized with him so deeply. It was the first time I heard an alternate view on homosexuality and the first time I’d seen a gay character portrayed in a supportive way. It shook my entire world view and I realized that maybe being gay wasn’t wrong.
I became an enthusiastic straight LGBT ally. I’d research issues and share articles and follow LGBT love stories in TV shows and books, but I wasn’t ready to accept that I was part of the community.
This year, however, I finally accepted that I like girls.
This realization has had good and bad consequences. The good has been that I finally understand my childhood and the blurry confusion of my relationships for what they were. I feel an intensity of love and loyalty towards people like me, a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself, something I want to protect and contribute to. The more I interact with LGBT people online and learn about LGBT history and activism, the more I realize how vast and diverse this world is.
The bad consequences include how the wall of separation and safe distance I felt from the LGBT community when I was a ‘straight ally’ has disappeared. When I’d hear something homophobic, I’d feel angry and hurt, but I’d suppress it. Now homophobic slurs aren’t being directed at a community I’m not part of, they’re being directed at me and there’s no wall I can hide behind. I have no support mechanism except for distant online friends, and this makes me feel alone and trapped.
Sometimes I consider coming out to my family and friends but they’re explicitly homophobic and I don’t want to risk my safety.
I wanted to write this article because maybe some confused gay Pakistani like me will read it and feel less alone.
I wanted to write this article because maybe some confused gay Pakistani like me will read it and feel less alone. Pakistan is not known for tolerating deviation from religious and traditional norms and it’s hard to unlearn hatred that is ingrained in us by society. But a kid in sixth grade who has a crush on her friend doesn’t deserve to feel abnormal and disgusting. I don’t deserve to have to listen to close friends tell me being gay is wrong and that LGBT people will never be accepted in Pakistan. We need to start letting go of our black and white version of morality and realize we can’t force everyone into identical, claustrophobic boxes and then throw a violent tantrum when they don’t fit.
Cover Image via: Huffington Post