By Aleksandr Chandra
I began the conversation by asking Mandeep about his viral “I’m From Driftwood” video. Back in 2013/14 when Mandeep was still living in Philadelphia, a friend of his reached out to see if he would be interested in sharing a piece of his story. What viewers get in the 5-minute clip is a glimpse into Mandeep’s life as a gay Sikh man who has navigated the continuous process of coming out.
In the viral video, Mandeep reinvents the narrative of “coming out” by sharing the decisions he made to be his authentic self and how reconciling his relationship with his faith and his openness with his sexual orientation were important steps in the journey.
His experiences growing up as a turbaned Sikh and his decision to express his visible identity gave him the emotional maturity for coming out and being proud of his sexual identity. While both decisions were made asynchronously, however, both moments form an aggregate impression of authentic expression.
Mandeep said that the decision to reconcile the more visible aspect of his identity was made first. He recounted to me growing up as a traditional Sikh, but one day making the decision to cut his hair. Then came the decision to reconcile the more invisible aspect of his identity. On Thanksgiving day in 2011, Mandeep came out to his family as gay.
For Mandeep though,coming out was a “truly independent acknowledgement,” a process of coming to self-consciously accept his own sexual orientation by coming out, first and foremost, to himself.
Mandeep said, “personal success is always about maintaining highest level of authenticity and about defining one’s purpose and mission in life. As far as professional success is concerned, we should be striving to build a better world for tomorrow then where it was yesterday.”
“Coming out is not a race. It happens when a person is ready.”
For Mandeep, coming out involved a high level of self-initiative and various sources of inspiration. Mandeep was inspired by the many intelligent friends in his life who push him, tell him when he is wrong, and challenge his opinions, because in the end
“A large part of who we are is who we surround ourselves with.”