**Disclaimer—real names have not been used in this post
All the Christian communities I’ve been a part of value stories: stories with a dramatic conflict that conclude in tested, steadfast faith. These are important. They show us something about God’s character, and they paint a picture of a world that needs Christ’s redemption. Still, there’s something to be said for incomplete testimonies. For the longest time, I didn’t think my story was meant to be told yet, because it’s far from over.
I spent the summer before my senior year of high school away from home doing research at a large university. It was probably the first time I was tasked with making friends away from my family, and I met a lot of people. One of them was a brown boy, Adi, who grew up in the same area as me. We had similar interests and spent a lot of time together. At one of my last weekends, he asked me to dance at a university-sponsored formal event, and he confessed his feelings for me.
At the time, I still wasn’t out to anyone I cared about, but I often got unwanted attention from men. I let him down gently with my default answer: “sorry dude, I’m a curly fry.” He laughed it off.
Later that night, Adi invited me to a party at a friend’s place nearby. A group of us from my research program went out after dark. At the party, I sipped a beer and talked to people I’d never see again about inconsequential things. When I got tired, I sat on the couch with Adi and chatted for a while. Eventually, he left to mingle, and I retreated to my phone.
Later, an older white man, someone I’d seen loitering around local liquor stores near campus, came to the door. He was wearing a gray Jansport bag and holding a bottle of Hennessy--his ticket in to a college party with a dwindling supply of alcohol. He made his rounds with the younger people at the party. I saw him talk to Adi for a while before I fell asleep on the couch.
I woke up to Adi on top of me, pulling my clothes off. Fighting off entitled drunk boys seemed like an inevitable in this world, so I didn’t think to scream until the party’s newest guest duct-taped my mouth shut with a roll of tape from his backpack. Eventually, the two men took turns r****g me as Adi angrily whispered homophobic slurs. I couldn’t breathe through my mouth, so I focused on fighting back tears so I wouldn’t suffocate.
Obviously, this experience f***** me up. I thought it was my fault. I’m over that, but I still have a hard time with exposing skin. Three years later, I continue to have nightmares and intense emotional and physical responses to things that vaguely remind me of that night. I can’t sleep on couches. Sometimes, when I cry, it feels like I can’t breathe. I didn’t want to report, and I still haven’t. I live in a country where someone like Adi can be appointed to the Supreme Court. I know that if I told my parents, they would either blame themselves or me. I can’t deal with either of those outcomes. If I told people at my Indian church, they’d pray about the wrong things.
This is important. I’m a queer, female, South Asian survivor, and I’ve never had a way to live as such, all at once, in the South Asian and/or Christian communities I grew up in. Most of the Christians I’ve come out to assume that homosexuality is the central struggle of my faith journey. Some of the people who know about my trauma think forgiveness is. Some of the people at the center of this Venn diagram think I’m confused about women because I’m afraid of men.
The reality is that I’m very secure in my sexuality. I knew I was gay well before high school. Given my experiences with the South Asian Christian community, I’m sure a bunch of people reading this don’t “agree” with my identity. tbh I don’t really care, but I do ask y’all to think critically about where and who your views come from, who they’re hurting and why, and what they leave out
As for forgiveness, I’m still searching for healing, and it’s ridiculous to ask me to forgive before asking my attackers to repent. What happened to me was an act of homophobia, sexism, and all kinds of hatred. I don’t have an uplifting twist that makes it more palatable. A lot of the conventional wisdom that gets passed to me, the idea that I should remember that God is always with me and that his heart breaks with my own, feels like it’s coming from people who have never suffered. I am painfully aware of God’s presence in my life, that he let these people wrong me. I will never understand why, and I struggle with doubt and anger towards God all the time. Intellectually, I know that God can use suffering to accomplish good and that what he has promised his followers is so much greater, but no one who is hurting wants to hear that. I don’t want to hear that right now. Anger towards oppressors is righteous anger, and I will continue being angry towards the individuals and groups that are complicit in this kind of violence by twisting God’s words and by being less that welcoming to queer folk and other marginalized groups.
Maybe, years into the future, I’ll be writing about finding peace and comfort in Christ. At the moment, I’m more about letting rage fuel action against injustice. Jesus’s ministry was one of liberation. The Indian church has some stuff it needs to figure out.
Note: Adi isn’t his real name. There are also some other fudged details for the sake of anonymity. I’m doing all right now; I’m receiving professional help, and I have amazing people in my life that show me God’s love in their support and kindness.