Hospital visits are something that have become a part of our life now – and that will remain. I feel a lot of anxiety visiting hospitals to be honest, depending upon the reason for the visit in the first place. I find hospitals intimidating!
However, I am also comforted by the fact that we will be in safe hands and looked after by Specialists and Experts.
Each hospital is different, each specialist is different. I find myself always stressed and not just because of the health issues. I stress at a deep personal level inside me. Let me share some of the reasons for such stress:
- I have to often ‘come out’ – Every step of the way from the introduction at the entrance to the Specialist we are meeting.
- I am not sure if MY voice will be heard: I am not married to my #same-sex partner, which has its own issues that we have to deal with
- How will it be in case of a medical emergency : I do not know if I would be allowed to give my permission as a partner, should we need to make medical decisions.
- I am often discriminated basis my sexual orientation – this is a constant.
Yesterday was a special day in this regard. We had an appointment at the #NationalHospital #ForNeurology&NeuroSurgery #QueensSquareLondon. There are strict guidelines to follow when one visits hospitals these days due to #covid-19 restrictions. Typically, we are greeted by someone at the hospital entrance, who checks the paper work, you then confirm that you are visiting along with the patient (in my case, my partner) and then they take you to the respective area for the appointment.
The Specialist asked me to leave my partner for assessment and return in two hours. I left the building, did a bit of book shopping (nothing like a book retail therapy – I bought 3 fab books from an iconic book store called ‘#Gay’sTheWord), had a coffee and made my way back, very nervously working out all kinds of scenarios in my head on what to say to gain entry (because I was not the patient) and then how to ensure I navigate through all this.
When I reached the hospital, a young man who was checking the paper work greeted me. I said, ‘I am here to fetch my partner who is upstairs getting assessed‘, He said, ‘hmm, I see‘. This made me a bit nervous. I was thinking of worse case scenarios in my head. I am now so used to the prejudice, the passive homophobia, that it lives in me.
He quickly took me to the reception and repeated what I had said, ‘She is here to pick up her partner‘.
The lady at the reception, without batting an eyelid, smiled at me and said, ‘Oh yes, I remember you and your partner. She is upstairs on the 2nd floor right? Please go upstairs and do what you need to do. It’s absolutely fine”.
Just like that. It was so simple. I stood there waiting for her to add a ‘but..’.
She added nothing but a smile.
See, how simple it is to accept? This is what I mean – if only we can mainstream US (#LGBT) and if only everyone can be this accepting, ‘normal’ towards us, life would indeed be magic!
People have no idea what we go through on a day to day basis. We are constantly on alert. We are always expecting someone to openly or subtly demonstrate homophobia. We have constant anxiety of having to ‘come out’ and explain. We face huge amount of mental health issues that are caused by such homophobic actions.
Educating, sensitising and making us ‘mainstream’ and including us without prejudice is so critical for an inclusive and equitable place for all in this world. After all this world that was created for all!
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Let me start with a story …
My partner and I were invited to a party couple of years ago, in India. The party had people from the events industry, mostly. It was one of those parties where booze and food was flowing. Our ‘coming out’ story had been recently shared on Humans of Bombay and Brut India, both platforms with extremely wide reach in India. We had received numerous messages from our industry colleagues and that story. So we were prepared in a way to get some reaction. We decided to dress up a bit that night – and we walked in to the party to many stares. People hugged us and overall there was a sense of celebration.
Then we bumped into someone who we had known for a while, who joined into a conversation we were in the midst of with another colleague. She said to us, ‘Oh,Raga, Nicola!! You ladies look gorgeous today!‘. We thanked her graciously. In that moment, our colleague said, ‘oh all you three ladies look gorgeous’. Someone else came along to chat to us, and she thought I was distracted and not listening. I heard her say, ‘Oh please don’t include me in with these two! I am not one of them‘.
That’s a FAKE ally! And a pathetic human!
There is this one person I know, who will talk constantly about having gay friends. But, quickly behind their back, refer to them as ‘homos’ or ‘that gay person’ in a derogatory manner.
One of the things I do best is ‘observe’. My favourite thing to do is sit with a a cup of coffee in a cafe and ‘people watch’. It is interesting how much people reveal.
These days, due to lockdown, the past few months have been spent in virtual mode, mostly. These days, I have extended my favourite hobby to ‘people watch’ online. I now realise, we reveal much more of ourselves online than offline!! Interesting eh!
Anyway, that is not the point of writing this. The real point is my observation about those we call allies to the #LGBTQ community. Firstly, thank you for being allies. It means a lot to me, personally and to us in the community. But as we know, the world has real people and then it has the fake ones. The fake ones spoil it for the real allies, right?
How do we spot a fake ally? Let me list a few from my personal observation. Perhaps, you have some more to add to this?
- The are the tick-in-the-box allies:They become visible only during #PrideMonth. Rest of the year, they have other boxes to tick!
- Association by Social Media : They will share disparaging comments about the community behind our backs, but will show their support on social media: You do not have to delve too deep and you will find many such folks! I have known many who have passed snide comments about us and now show their allyship online by sharing their expertise on LGBT. Why? To leverage. Such associations bring more likes, more followers. After all, we are the flavour of the month.
- Free talk please: They will send you a personal message ONLY when they want a free talk from you: These allies will write generous, copious amounts of text telling you how inspired they are by you, and will send you a message and then end it with ‘You are the best, and we need you to share your experiences with us, but, we do NOT have the budget for this’. I am only talking about those from the corporate space.
- Budget hai? They will NOT respond the moment you ask for a budget: They love you until you ask for their budget. Then, they disappear without even having the courtesy of responding. Yes, it’s a true story. I get this all the time
- Most Fake ones will promote themselves, more than the cause: Watch them – they will be sharing how much of a great ally they are, instead of promoting the cause. Spot the difference.
- Allies who support homophobic companies and brands: They say they are allies, yet, they will not call out and openly support a brand that is outwardly homophobic.
If you are true ally, you don’t need validation that you are an ally. Just be. Support others without really promoting yourself – we are not a campaign that you have to promote!
Enjoy the joy of being a kind and compassionate human. Being an ally is all about creating a safe place for all through your genuine actions. All else is self promotion!!
Now ask yourself, are you a REAL ALLY or a FAKE ONE!
P.S: I love those who support us, and I thank all of you who do.
I wake up most mornings to a few dozen messages on my various social handles. Some of them are simply congratulating me on my Tedx Talk enquiries to engage me for talks or to put forward my views/opinion pieces and some are deeply personal messages, often painful to read.
“I don’t know what to do anymore. I think the only option is to kill myself”.
“Sometimes, I feel like my life is over and this is how it will be for me. Darkness”
“There are times, I am tempted to kill my family and end it all. For me and them”.
“I am imprisoned by my own husband. I want out. What do I do?’
I talk, chat, mentor, offer support, find them the appropriate help – but it leaves its mark. Deep marks in fact.
It brings me back to my days when it was painfully, tragically hard when I had come out. I felt alone. I felt this was it, and there would be no light in my life ever again. I felt fear. I felt pain. I felt despair. But mostly I felt, hopelessness.
Today, in 2021 as we all celebrate #PrideMonth and celebrate #ally-ship and celebrate the courageous stories of all our journeys, please do not forget to pray for those who are still struggling or are put through very horrible, inhuman emotional, physical, mental abuse, simply because our loved ones do not understand us and are not willing to educate themselves and accept. There are families who put our community through inhuman #conversiontherapy in the name of ‘curing’ us.
Please hold out a hand to those who reach out to you – by supporting a person from #LGBTQ+ community, you will not become ‘gay’ I promise you.
But, you will make a queer person feel loved and accepted and that would be enough for many of us.
Our ‘Coming Out Stories From India’ series was launched to create positive role models of people with lived experiences. Please do subscribe, watch and share. We need to change this narrative. It is our collective responsibility. One story at a time.