Why being out matters

Thursday, June 24th 2021

I'm gay. I want you to know that.

Some ask me how this matters, that being publicly and vocally out should be unnecessary. Ideally, yes. But here's why I want to --

After graduating from my undergrad, I joined PayPal in India. After a few months, luckily, I got to work on Node.js projects. Node was a few years old, and NPM was still brand new. PayPal was in the early stages of adopting Node and working towards a major overhaul of their payments and user experiences, both backend and frontend.

Being a brand new ecosystem, everyone was excited. There was plenty of buzz and trends on Twitter, HN, other social media platforms, and slack communities and chats to follow and participate in.

It so happened that NPM's founding members, and a majority of its staff, identified as LGBTQ+. The public Node.js Slack channel was inclusive. PayPal's internal Node.js Slack channels and core-team were inclusive. Perhaps because of this, I felt a generally positive and inclusive atmosphere in the Javascript community. Whether this was actually the case or not, I don't know. Maybe I felt that because that was what my unconscious wanted, I'll never be sure.

Overall, that was new and unexpected for my closeted alter-ego. It was drawn to observe and participate in conversations with them, though not as much as I would've liked; it was very self-conscious and quite reserved.

Seeing other engineers and people I worked with in Tech, being gay, and existing in ordinary office and social settings was a game-changer. It's not like I was lectured about being gay or queer. They just had a mention of their identity, sexuality, and pronouns. The conversations were nothing extraordinary, just the usual technical discussions, politics, memes, casual trends, etc. They were normal human beings.

My closeted brain had never made the connection that I could be gay and lead a normal life. For a long time, it was either-or. A choice. And that feeling wasn't a conscious one which I was aware of either. There were these two very distinct personalities in me -- A closeted gay one and whatever "normal" self I was back then.

It's not like things changed overnight. It still took a while before I came out to friends and family. It helped me to eventually come out to myself first. All anyone had to do was let me know they're gay also and simply exist.

Much of my admiration and inspiration were @aredridel and @seldo. I'll always be grateful to them, and many others.

I'm writing this not for those to who it doesn't matter. But for those to who it does, even if they don't realize it.

Representation matters. Being out matters. Happy Pride 🏳️‍🌈!