Coming Out When Queer and Brown

Not all South Asian experiences of coming out involve hysterics, disownment, or a return to life in the closet.

Michaela Stone Cross

November 30, 2020

Coming Out When Queer and Brown
Nidhi Shukla with girlfriend Jadzia Moran. (Nidhi Shukla)

In 2015, when Nidhi Shukla from Montreal began preparing herself to tell her parents she was dating a girl, her internet research yielded bleak results. The only ‘Coming Out to South Asian Parents’ videos on YouTube were pranks, where young men would tell their parents they were gay, and film the reactions as a joke. “You just see parents being upset and yelling and then being relieved,” said Shukla, who now runs a YouTube channel with over 13,000 subscribers targeted predominantly at a queer Brown audience. “What do you think that does to people who are actually trying to live through this experience?”

Log kya kahenge — what will people say? When it comes to South Asian queerness, we assume what rejection from one’s parents can look like: hysterics, disownment, permanent life in the closet, or worse. Overwhelmed with depictions that make queer life sound like one dreary tragedy, the LGBTQ+ community often struggles to find positive stories of representation — and the Brown queer community even more so.

“When I came out, I just assumed I’d be rejected,” said Anaïs Ahmed, a trans lesbian in tech who grew up in Bangladeshi community in Austin, Texas. “I just didn’t have a template for acceptance.” Although she identified as trans early on, she always assumed acceptance was impossible. “My plan very much was to not tell them ever and just slowly fade out of their lives. Or maybe I would tell them eventually, and then it would just all be over. But I didn't expect anything remotely like acceptance.”