Editor’s Note: The names in this story have been changed to protect the sources’ identities
When they were roommates, Prity Kahn and Lisa Bei were so close they would often joke about being in a relationship. But when they first met, Kahn was unsure if they would ever get along.
“I thought, ‘Oh man, are we ever going to laugh together when I’m living with this person?’” sociology sophomore Kahn said. “This person isn’t making any facial reactions to what I’m saying, and I’m the type of person that feels like they have to compensate with loudness if the person they’re talking to is quiet.”
Kahn and sociology junior Bei are a gay couple who met in 2014. Both had put off finding roommates until the last minute and were desperate to find someone. Despite first impressions, they moved in together. As they got to know each other better, they discovered they shared many common interests to the point where it felt uncanny.
“Sometimes I would even lie about my interests because I didn’t want it to seem like I was trying to appeal to her,” Kahn said. “I had to ‘fess up because it got so hard to keep track of what I liked and didn’t like.”
Bei said she recalls hearing her friends complaining about awful roommates and being unable to relate. Bei and Kahn shared a special intimacy others just didn’t seem to have.
“It was a constant sleepover every day,” Bei said. “We’d talk really late into the night eating cookies and things like that.”
As the school year progressed, both began to wonder if their friendship could be something more.
“We would joke about [becoming romantic] but then it got awkward because we both realized that maybe it wasn’t [a joke],” Bei said. After months of confusion, both finally admitted that they had feelings for one another.
But Kahn and Bei soon realized being together as a gay, Asian-American couple also has its difficulties. Kahn, who is South Asian and Muslim, said she’s felt enormous pressure to keep her sexuality from her loved ones.
“There are people in my life who, because of religious or personal beliefs, would tell me that I was doing something wrong,” Kahn said. “This was coming from a person that I thought was a good friend. It hurts. There are a lot of South Asians out there in the gay community [who] can’t come out to their parents because of cultural and religious standards.”
Coming to terms with being queer wasn’t an easy journey for Bei either.
“I went to an all-girls [school] and everyone would talk about crushes, and I just didn’t get it,” Bei said. “They would [talk] about all these ‘hot men’ and I was like, ‘They’re alright.’ I realized I just didn’t feel the same way.”
Despite homophobia and parental pressures, Bei and Kahn try to focus on enjoying each other’s company. Kahn said her favorite thing about being around Bei is her spontaneity and adventurous personality.
“We’ll just throw our cares into the wind and go to the park, look at the stars and enjoy the air,” Kahn said. “We take our cameras and explore Austin together. She pushes me to do that. I think it would have taken me a lot longer to get off campus and explore Austin if I hadn’t been with her.”
At the end of the day, Bei and Kahn can’t imagine not being together with their best friends: each other.
“She dares me to push beyond my comfort zone,” Bei said. “We feed off of each other.”