Saturday, June 21, 2008

Email from a British guy who's ethnically Indian

A wonderful film, and especially interesting I imagine if you're a gay South Asian guyA few days ago I got an email from an Asian guy, which was as follows:

Dear GB,

It's nice to know that there are gay men working within the finance industry in London, especially in investment, and possibly in Canary Wharf. It's nice and sort of a relief to know this because I always thought that the industry was and still is highly homophobic.

What's a guy to do when he dreams of working within such an industry at a top firm when he himself is questioning if he could indeed be straight, bi or gay and yet cannot bring himself to be 100% sure.

I'm a small town guy who has big city dreams, who is trapped by numerous invisible, seemingly infinite barriers. At the moment I only look on and dream of making a new life for myself in London.

But things aren't ever so easy, are they??

I'm an only son born into an 'average' Asian family with a mother and father who are deeply conservative, despite their protestations otherwise. Like a good Asian I'm to grow-up, be educated, get married, have children, carry on the family name and not be gay.

I'm 26, if I go through uni, then by the time I graduate I'll be 29.........Possibly too old to start a career in finance, in London, as a fresh graduate, especially as a Stockbroker.

My relationship with my father is at best strained. If I'm gay, it may finish him as his health isn't amazing, he may cut me off and force me out. I need to hold on until I set myself up. But when?

Everyday I die a little. I suffer from depression, of which I am now just beginning to overcome. I'm single and haven't had any relationships that my family know of. My father hears from some relatives about how their sons are dating, engaged etc. And here I am hiding the fact that I'm bothered about getting old, missed and am missing what are supposed to be the best years of my life and the fact that I'm close to tears, but cannot cry. Everything I do in my life is a precaution, from saving money, making investments, people, education, to learning from others.

If you met me on the street, you'd think nothing of it, the chances are that you'd see someone who's okay, not someone who's falling to pieces deep inside - I sometimes wonder if my performance is worthy of an Oscar.

I've never met you. I've no idea if you really work as a banker, in investment, in London. I've no idea how old you are, which firm you work for, if you are 'out' to all you know. But if you're true, I respect you.

They say that times of adversity are a test of character......But I'm tired and tired of being tired.

I've not really asked any questions in this e-mail. I guess I'm just e-mailing after stumbling upon your blog earlier today, and wondering if you've any advice whatsoever.


It's true that in devising the title for this posting, I made a couple of assumptions. Although he doesn't say so, the email gives the strong impression that this reader lives in the UK. That means that he's probably ethnically Indian or Pakistani, because that's what the term Asian often means here in the UK. I also know that the family pressure to conform in the Indian and Pakistani communities can be enormous, so it's not surprising that the poor guy is under so much stress and suffers from depression.

Having read his email a few times, I think that this reader must find a way to go to university somewhere. Preferably this would be in a town or city that's a long way from this home town, so that he can escape the influence of his family, and try and develop some independence. The goal is to get qualifications so that he can get himself a good job of some sorts, on his own merits, rather than working in the family business. If he can gain some independence, the pressures he feels from his family will start to subside, and he can start to feel more comfortable about working out what his sexuality is.

Stockbroking or banking are good careers, but they're just two perhaps rather old-fashioned careers now that we're firmly in the Internet age. It may well be that at the other end of a university course the reader is more interested in other careers, so he should try to keep his options open. Focusing on whatever he finds most interesting would be sensible, because people are more successful when they're engaged in subjects that they enjoy.

Going to university needs funding of course. When I went to university in the 1980's there was free state funding in the form of student grants, but that's now been replaced by student loans. Even if his family will give or loan him the money that he'll need, he may feel he doesn't want to rely on them for that, in which case he shouldn't be scared of taking a student loan. Supplementing his income with part time jobs while he's at university is another idea.

If he does manage to go to university, I would expect that he'll find it very hard at first and that he'll initially be very disoriented because he'll be in unfamiliar territory. He'll have to persevere, and perhaps keeping his goal of independence from his family firmly in his mind will help him get through the first few months. Once he settles in though, he should try and enjoy himself :-).

Although the reader isn't sure whether he's gay or straight, it's true that London is a good place to be in the UK for gay guys. There are lots of jobs in London too, not just stockbroking or banking ones, so at the end of his university course I would suggest that he thinks about moving to London for whatever career he wants to follow.

Finally, he's worrying about missing "the best years of his life". I've never subscribed to the concept that any particular time in my life has been "the best years" because each new chapter brings new challenges and new rewards. However, the fact that this reader's adult life has been so unhappy up to now makes me certain that if one does think about "the best years", for this guy they're definitely in front of him!

Do any other readers have any further thoughts for this guy?


Anonymous said...

I know exactly how you feel... it's hard work. Firstly whether you choose to tell your folks or not, it's up to you... only you know how it is for your situation. I'd understand if there was no way you could tell them, at the same time, you do need to find your release and be out to at least some of your friends - so you can be yourself, not feel that worry when you check a guy out with people who don't know you're gay.

With life in general... if you are tired and tired of being tired, then you need to move away get your independence, you need to try something new, rediscover yourself. University is always good.. it gives you the social skills, and at the same time aim for a distant place i.e. well away from your parents place, so you can discover who you are, what you like without the hindrance of family commitments.

One thing I learnt, was that I'd damned if I listened to my folks and be that ideal son (which you could never achieve even if you were straight) and you would be damned if you don't and miss out on discovering yourself and who you are. It is hard, and you will probably feel you are carrying this constant burden, but honestly... it's worth it in the end... and you can't give in to try and fill in the shoes that everybody expects from "a good asian son".

I'm out to all my friends, my work colleagues, have a relationship of several years, my siblings know I'm gay but the eldest chooses to ignore it (major drama when it came out in the open) and my youngest sibling is too carefree to think about it. As for my parents, they have found out my current partner, but think I don't see him anymore. They were in anguish when they found out, but like all asian families, there was crying, anguish, and then things were swept under the rug and the finest china was put out on display and things carried on normally as if nothing happened. I even have 3 dogs which is frowned upon in my family's culture. I have since moved well away from them...(the other side of the country), and see my folks at least once every two months...and I choose to keep it that way. It's my life, my choices and I was so so unhappy trying to please my parents and be the son they wanted me to be, but I realised...i could never be that person even if i was straight.

I wish could say something to make it easier, but it's something you need to do personally and find the strength in yourself to push your boundaries and break the walls that culture puts upon us.

Dragonzlad said...

Just a frivolous comment that isn;t related to your posting in any ways .... but I thought the picture you chose is a little strange GB. The Asian fellow seems kinda unwilling to participate, to me at least! :)

Tom Cat from Bondi Beach said...

Life is a shit sandwich sometimes - you just have to swallow quickly and get on with it. Accept yourself for being gay, forgive your parents coz they will probably never accept it and live your life using a harm minimisation strategy. Don't tell your parents [yet] if you are financially dependent on them; do try to live though.

GB said...

If you watch the film, DL, you'll see that both guys are willing participants!

GB xxx

naijalines said...

I don't really have anything to add except to say that I 'empathise' with this guy though I'm not gay. I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to feel you are putting on an oscar performance everyday to cover up aspects of yourself (to other people) that you wish to explore and be true to. I think your advice to him is excellent and I hope he finds his way and happiness... whatever that means to him.

czechOUT said...

Gosh almighty

today mon C got the hotel to do his while I went to the Beautiful smelling Laundry to do mine (though as far as Xfe is concerned it was done by hand. I mean who pays 30NIS for a pair of pants to be washed.

But instead of DDL and the guy who was in Dr Who with Sil, I have the crises of romance between Jew and Arab.

Was there EVER a more dangerous edge I wonder? Yet together these boys are beautiful.

My spiritual conclusion from Jerusalem? Someone's taking the piss. Let love first.

ahoj, or rather Shalom

A rebel all the way... said...

this comment is coming a bit late (and sorry about that), but better late than never..
i am indian, working for a bank in london, gay (or i should say bi, but more towards the gay side) and face the same issues being faced by the guy in consideration....
I can understand when he says that his parents expect him to get married, have children and lead a normal life...I can also empathize completely with his dilemma as to what to do next, the depression, the anxiety, the die-a-little-everyday me, there are a lot many like him who face the same emotions day in and day out...and it IS difficult...
i am not out...i am completely straight acting and nobody has ever even guessed that I might be gay, which makes it even more difficult..cos in that case, you have to put up that facade whenever you are with your family and friends, while all this while your true self is hidden away somewhere in the is suffocating....
and trust me, investment banking IS a hopelessly straight environment...yes, there are some gay people who are out, but overall, i would say it is as straight as it can get...and my own personal feeling is that coming out at a premature stage in your career is not a great idea....
about the options you have....please, i beg you...irrespective of how hard your parents make it for you, DO NOT get would not only be screwing up your life, but also that of your to-be-wife's...i dont think she deserves that...neither do you...
if you really like banking, go ahead by all is also a good option....majoring in something related to finance would make it easier for you to get a job in that field as well...
and don't be depressed...i know how important 'family' is in our (indian) lives...i know the relationship we have with our parents is very very different and at an altogether different level when compared to people from other nationalities....but you would have to live with it...its a fine balance that you would have to one should get hurt...neither you nor your sounds too idealistic, but it is workable...
i wish you all the best and good luck....

Connecticut Yankee said...

Well, stranded late at night because of too many diet cokes, never a good idea. But then I read this post and it made my insomnia seem not so bad.

What to do?

Well, I think pretty much every gay/bi dude out there understands what you are going through. You are not alone. I am sure being from an Asian culture is tough. It ain't easy coming from a Catholic family either let me tell you.

So my advice:
Don't tell your parents until you are strong enough to handle rejection. You don't know how they will react, so assume the worst. In this case, if you are dependent on them, then do not tell them.

Step One:
Move away from home, far away. I am from the North East USA. I moved to Europe, where eventually I felt accepted enough to embrace who I was. This space gives you time to discover you, away from the eyes of your parents.

Step Two:
Education. Why do you want it? What do you want to do? Do you really need it? University is not for everyone. There is a myth out there that everyone must go to Uni and if you don't you are dumb. I say this as a person with a PhD - a PhD does not mean you are smarter than someone with only GSCEs. Now if you want to go into finance, you need to go to Uni. But find the right one. Pick the right course and remember you are going to learn and explore and create. That is what Uni is about and through your studies and experience you will hopefully learn a lot about yourself. And remember, an education is what you make of it. You do not need to go to Oxbridge to be a success.

Step Three:
Find gay friends. A support network is vital and so are people who understand you. Friends are the family we choose for ourselves. Family that won't reject you. So get choosing!

Good luck mate!

glhairyfxxker said...

Go and study law and become a well paid city lawyer instead!

Make sure you get some independence. Just break away gently.

If your parents see you doing well they may back off.

I have continental friends (I can think of two Italians in particular) who feel exactly the same about telling their families. They have choosen to share with their siblings but not their parents.

See what works for you. But don't be a prisoner any more. There is no need for drastic changes, but just push at the boundaries day by day and you will be able to explore.

Good luck!