'I Had To Break The Wall Of Shame To Come Out As Non-Binary & Pansexual'

Sexuality used to be a term I feared, even to think about. Growing up in a Christian family as a person assigned female at birth, I felt like I was brought up in an invisible box where we are unknowingly restricted to think about a lot of things like sexuality. Even if you do, you are taught to be ashamed for having sinned. 

So to identify myself as a non-binary pansexual person, I had to do a lot of unlearning. I had to break a huge wall of shame and fear that I had built up for over years by suppressing and masking myself for the comfort of others. 

When realisation dawned 

Being the ‘fat kid’, I have grown up with stares and silent judgment. I was so scared of judgments that I wanted to be invisible to stop people from staring. 

During my school days, I remember I wasn’t only attracted to the opposite sex. That realisation made me feel ashamed. I did not want to be different from the rest of my peers. I had no idea about different sexual orientation, gender identities. The only terms I had heard were gay and transgender which people around me mostly used in a negative context. Even though I knew it wasn’t wrong I pushed the thought away. 

I also did not identify myself as a woman. I knew deep inside that I did not want to be one. Nor was I a man. I was just me, and felt I am somewhere in between, yet I tried to fit in. For, I was living around people who feel unrest with the slightest change I make in my own appearance; l was under constant scrutiny if I cut my hair or wear something I like. So I wore things I hated, grew my hair and tried to be as 'normal' as I could. I hated myself for a very long time for that.

Feeling like belonging 

By the time I graduated, I was still confused and trying to fit in. Art has always been my go-to space every time I had a breakdown or felt distressed. In 2018, a while after my graduation, I got an opportunity to be a part of an art exhibition, and for the first time I felt I belonged somewhere.

The exhibition had an array of queer participants, talks and discussions on the LGBTQ+ community. It was there that I learned about and met people like me, whose stories I could relate to. I heard stories from around the world, from my own country and state who had to suffer and were still suffering. 

Listening to them made me feel like I have let down their effort for the queer visibility as I was still trying to fit in, not even accepting who I really am. It gave me courage to allow myself to accept me and break free of the shame.

Further learning

I remember looking up 'different types of sexualities' on my phone to find out mine sometime after the exhibition. I distinctly remember the moment when I saw the word 'pansexuality' for the first time. I read what it meant and everything made sense. 

I was always attracted to a person, and not their gender. It was a huge relief to know that there were people like me. That my feelings were valid. I explored more about pansexuality on social media and it made me feel less alone.

Growing up, I did not find representation of people like me in the media. The queer community was incorrectly and wrongly portrayed, villainised with so much hatred, both direct and subtle. This further isolates us and pushes us to be ashamed of who we are. 

Being myself

I haven't connected much with people in my spectrum, nor have I openly talked about my sexuality before. I felt what was more important to me was to know myself. I always felt lost and out of place until I knew my labels. So coming out to me was the biggest step. 

Looking back, I know I lost a lot of my childhood trying to be someone I am not and not allowing myself to love and know myself. I am so glad I did, at least in my early 20s. 

Being a fat queer person I still get the stares and silent judgment when I walk pass people. Yet today, I identify myself as a non-binary pansexual. I don’t feel the shame that I was taught to feel as I know what is right and what is wrong. I understand now that love is never wrong, and being yourself is never a sin.

Rishma Mariya Johnson (They, Them) is an artist based in Kerala. They completed their bachelor's in design from Punjab and are currently pursuing fine arts from West Bengal. They navigate and express through various forms of art. It excites them to be in the process of exploring art subjects; learning to inculcate and contribute to the same. They identify as non-binary pansexual.

Related Posts