Is it correct on our part to forcibly out someone who is leading a double life?
For some years now, I have been struggling with this key question, that I am sure other gay men have struggled with as well. I am talking here of the hypocritical SOB who will mess around with you when he has the opportunity, but also bitch & whine about homosexuals; the kind who has made gay-shaming his part time profession. The tempation to hit back can be overwhelming. But would that be the right thing to do? I have encountered just such a person during my coming-out phase and have over time learnt to see his assholery as an obstacle course that made me a stronger person.
I have known “J” for a little over a decade now mainly through our shared passion for the outdoors and long road-trips. Handsome, macho, typical “Delhi-Punjabi” boy who has mastered the art of being the diva at any event. Though we became good friends, I never really had any attraction of THAT kind towards him. At some level, I had even “bro-zoned” him. Also in that phase of my life, I was on a very different trajectory, engaged to this wonderful woman. But I guess he knew. Perhaps it was his gaydar that told him. Because on one drunken night on a long road-trip to the Himalaya’s, we ended up sharing a moment. It was my first time, and as these things go, nothing too hardcore, but it was a momentous occasion for me – when I finally confirmed what I already knew about myself! There was no “morning after” guilt either which came as a pleasant surprise. Infact, that first time going so well gave me that initial courage to go ahead with my coming-out. Nothing had seemingly changed in our friendship. We still chatted almost every other day, talked about road trips and other guy stuff. And even though we hooked up a couple of times after, we never discussed those moments. But overall, it seemed to be going well!
Then I heard the rumors. Pretty vicious rumors mainly revolving around the stereotype of gays being sexual predators. Concerned friends who told me about the rumors wouldn’t tell me the source for fear of jeopardizing their friendship with “J”. It was only in 2011 that the source of this rumor mongering was revealed to me in quite spectacular fashion. Turns out “J” was all the while pro-actively calling people to out-me. I was sitting with a common friend at a popular watering hole in Delhi and this friend had checked-into Facebook tagging me. That was apparently enough to trigger this Gay-Shaming call! “J” needn’t have bothered “warning” his friend – I had already come out to the person I was sitting with years back! But it hurt! In the 4 years after I had started coming out, I had endured prejudice and phobic bullying and learnt to deal with it. But to see someone I identified as a close friend indulging in it behind my back was a bad epiphany! I wondered what prompted such behavior?
People often assume that others will behave in the manner that they themselves behave. “J”, like many other macho-types, was the kind of person who boasted about his sexual exploits, often in graphic detail. It was part of what went into his branding! Perhaps he was worried that I might let slip about that one moment we shared years back? That would brand him as a gay man – a matter of great “shame” especially in the testosterone-pumped circle of men we hung out in! That would make him an immediate out-caste! Offence being the best form of defence therefore becomes the mantra. It is for this reason that we see the most Homophobic people are usually the ones who are closeted themselves!
You don’t even have to hookup with someone to set-off the rumor-mills. There is no shortage of people who will seek to pull you down for personal or professional reasons. Sometimes its people whose advances you may have turned down or offended in some other way! It could be someone in your workplace you have a running feud with! Gay-Shaming gossip becomes a useful tool in the hands of such people. And sometimes, even people you have never met will start and contribute to the gossip-mill. You have to be prepared for it!
How do we deal with this kind of Gay-Shaming gossip? Well for one, lets first accept that this is inevitable. You are going to HAVE to deal with it at some point or the other once you start to come out. My thinking on how to handle this has evolved over the years. 2 years back, I would probably go ballistic and call him out publicly! Perhaps even out him! Pay him back in his own coin! Start Gay-Shaming him! Put those pictures he sent you on FB/whatsapp out in the public domain! That will show him! No?
No! That would be like wrestling a pig! Are you sure you want to do that? Lets understand what we are dealing with here! This is not a confident straight man who is playing the field! He wouldn’t be playing the self-righteous SOB otherwise! A closeted man like “J” does what he does because he is inherently of a weak spirit. That mask of confident arrogance is just a show! The playboy image and hyped-up sex talk is a veil to cover up reality. His entire life is filled with self-hatred and a deep fear of being called out! The friends and social life he has so carefully built up stands on the edifice of a completely artificial personality. That edifice would crumble if the mask came off taking with it the only support structure he has – his social network. So now consider the consequences of outing him. Gay-Shaming a person with such a weak mind could send him over the edge. I know someone who attempted suicide twice after being forcibly outed by an office colleague, sadly succeeding on his third attempt. Now, he may be a SOB! He may have hurt you in the worst way possible! But do you really want to be the guy who throws a weakling off the cliff?
Now what if the guy was not a SOB? What if the guy was a happily married, minds-his-own-business, nice guy who is leading a double life? Would the answer change in that case? I mean, he hasn’t hurt you like the other SOB! So why should you hurt him? There used to be a time when I used to be all huffed up on a moral high-horse with little patience for this sort of thing! I mean, how dare he lead a lie! How dare he “cheat” a clueless woman? Etc etc.
Lets understand that coming out requires an enormous amount of inner strength which not everyone has. Some have to work hard to find it within them. And we of all people should understand how difficult it is to find that strength to make that jump!
They do what they do ‘cos they don’t know any better! But those of us who have gone through the coming-out process do! We understand what it took to get there! So lets be the bigger person here and forgive them! You know the challenges you faced when coming out. It seemed like an impossible journey then, but once you found that inner strength you never knew you had, it just became so much easier! Lets give them the opportunity to go through that journey of self-discovery. Of finding that inner strength. They will get there when they get there! And we will greet them with open arms when they do!