My friends would be concerned that I’m still hung up on a boy who said he’d go on a date with me just to play me. But I can’t help it. We all agreed that I would move on, but I still check to see if he texted back. It’s been a month. I know I talked a big game about self-love, but that doesn’t mean flipping my hair until I break my neck. That means being unashamed of admitting it when I don’t.
I looked in the mirror to see myself through his eyes. I had on ill-fitting jeans and a crumpled graphic tee, both bought years ago. My hair was unkempt to no end and could have used a cut. My stomach could be more cut too. Gigantic nose, jutting ears, bushy brows. I noticed I was ugliest when I smiled, and thought maintaining a constant pout was my best bet. Bug eyes through filthy glasses vacantly stared back. I gutted everything human about me in that moment. It’s worth mentioning that the idea that he played me, or that he thinks I’m ugly, are completely made up. I don’t know him or his life. What’s telling is that I thought I did.
My last column was about how an individual can flesh out their identity by defining it in relation to others.
Clarification: not everyone.
There is a difference between embracing a dimension of yourself defined by someone who loves and cares about you, and an imagined one defined by someone you wish would. Even my explosive gay brown identity is atomic — intersections have intersections — and romance has been the means to those ends.
The first one helped me come out since I couldn’t deny my feelings for him. He was straight and brown. At that time, I wanted to express my sexuality by only acknowledging it through him. It made me feel nostalgic for the past and a future that should have been built on it. I wrote about how I stopped being delusional out of newfound self-respect, but I’m back. This next one is openly queer and filthy gorgeous. I didn’t go to Rocky Horror this year because I feel like my presentation will always be read as a bold political statement. The prospect of getting attention from him made me feel like I might actually be beautiful.
Who I fall for is consistently dictated by my insecurities. It’s always been a boy that I thought could drag me away from them. In both cases, I just dragged myself closer to them. My self-destructiveness has forced me to reckon with the toxic phrase “just happens to be gay.” The animal implication is that being gay is a transient condition that only presents when one’s having sex or trying to get it. Not for me. It’s a fundamental part of who I am. It has fundamentally affected my life, and the way in which I engage with the outside and personal worlds. I have known this. Yet, from the pattern I describe, it’s clear that I have internalized the phrase to some extent.
I was gay when I denied I was gay, when I cried over being gay, when I felt like I wasn’t gay enough, when I felt like I was too gay, when I sought out boys to realize my gayness, when I understood my gayness was already real and I’ll be gay when I write another column about how I was wrong about this one. I’ll be gay throughout whatever else happens to me. I’ll be gay when I die.
To this end, the extremes of my gay brown identity aren’t imaginary symbols. They’re real people. Someone in Mumbai married a woman and had children with her. He died old with all of them around him and with love for each of them. Someone in Chennai identified themselves, or was identified, as a hijra, the third gender. They applied kohl to their eyelids, hiked a green and blue saree between their thighs and knew what obscene really meant. They were butchered at an age younger than mine. They both are, as well as countless others, as part of the queer human condition as that white couple covered in rainbow feathers, leading the parade in San Francisco.
I haven’t started, but I’m done with dating for now. The fact that I’m already wrecked probably means that I should get my own shit together first. I’ll try again later because I believe in soulmates, and don’t want to miss out on the one. He’ll come to the edge with me and we’ll explode into nirvana. The only part off limits would be my feather.
Narayan Reddy is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. Reddy, Set, Go! appears alternate Mondays this semester.