There wasn’t really a guide on coming out to your immigrant Sri Lankan parents. There was nothing on YouTube, as far as I had searched. Growing up, I only saw a very specific brand of coming out narratives portrayed in media, and I felt like I needed to do the same. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to reach out to. I didn’t know any gay cousins – I’m pretty sure I was the gay cousin. While I can probably talk about what it means to be non-binary and queer in English, I can’t articulate that very well in Sinhala. This makes coming out to my family a little less straightforward.
I’m still not out to my parents, coming out in a brown immigrant family is a lot more complicated that I had imagined. To be honest, at this stage I still don’t know how it will go but it’s something I no longer put pressure on myself to do.
“Being queer isn’t very Sri-Lankan” is a sentiment I’ve heard and been told many times.
This is unfortunately more a byproduct of colonisation rather than an intrinsic part of Sri Lankan culture.
European imperialism played a significant role in establishing cis heteronormativity as the “civilised” way of life. In many colonised lands, histories of gender and sexual diversity were erased to fit these “new” values.
As a consequence, a 135-year-old British law still criminalises homosexuality in Sri Lanka. Sexual and gender diversity is not a new or solely Western concept. Queer people have always existed and have always been part of many cultures across the world.
I’m still on a journey of discovery and acceptance when it comes to embracing my culture, gender identity and sexuality. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and connect with other queer people of colour in Perth and in Sri Lanka, and it has brought me so much joy. A lot of things in my life are still a work in progress, and it will be this way for a long while. But that’s not to say things don’t get better – they certainly have, and I’d like to believe things will continue to get better. No matter where you find yourself on this journey, you are seen, you are real, and you are loved.