The day before I turned thirty last December, I felt my heart crumble in my chest. India, my motherland, had trebucheted itself back into the dark ages by declaring that being a queer person was “against natural order.” It seemed so arbitrary — why now? Now, a judge in Michigan has just finished hearing arguments on the same-sex marriage ban that more than two million voters passed back in 2004. The scales could tip to make Michigan the 18th U.S. state to pass marriage equality. It’s just a few months after my thirtieth birthday and here I am, thinking I’ll be able to marry the man of my dreams and raise a family with him in the very state where I grew up if I wanted to — but that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to take them back to the land where generations before me made their homes.
My hometown is frozen pizzas and basic cable. It’s piano lessons and SAT prep classes. It’s routine. It’s comfort. It’s easy.
Growing up in Troy, Michigan, a town that’s an easy drive up I-75 from Detroit — was easier than growing up in other parts of America — say, Huntersville, North Carolina, where, for a year, my family was the only Indian family around for miles and we drew the racist ire of neighbors. In the tidy suburb of Troy, the proverbial “melting pot” is very much on display; there are families of all cultural backgrounds co-existing, living together peacefully.Troy is a suburb that’s cut into 1×1 square-mile grids by strip malls, banks, big box stores, and chain restaurants. None of the trees are too old; there is no randomness to the geography of the city. It is very much a planned community. It is too big to have any “small town charm” and too small to have “big city grit.” The most exciting thing about Troy is an upscale mall that houses retailers like Apple and Burberry.
There is a sign that’s posted when you cross into its city limits: The City of Tomorrow…Today! But after you enter city limits, you immediately become aware that Troy, Michigan is simply one of a large number of pre-fab communities manufactured on a larger assembly line of American Dreams. It is clean. It is easy. It is laid-back. It is a place you move to when you want to have kids, when you want to buy nice things, and when you want a house in which to store both of those things. It is just like the town from Ghost World.It’s simply one of a large number of pre-fab communities manufactured on a larger assembly line of American Dreams.Troy is not a place to be an other; when I was growing up, it was not a place to be a queer man or woman, or to be someone who wanted to pursue art professionally. It is a desert of ideas; it is for people who want the nuclear family, the big house, and the flat-screen television sets.
No one will ever write legendary Homeric verse or rock music about Troy. It is not that kind of place.
It is meant to be forgotten.