WATCH: Mandeep Jangi On the Haircut That Gave Him Courage to Come Out

I’m From Driftwood just released its latest video—this time featuring William Way board member Mandeep Jangi. The video offers a fascinating peek into being Sikh, and being forced to adhere to traditions that can sometimes be suffocating. Jangi makes an interesting connection between making the decision to cut his long hair—something that’s frowned upon in the Sikh culture—and how that lead him to gaining the courage he needed to come out of the closet:

I actually went to a salon in Center City, Philadelphia, the first time getting my haircut at the age of 24, I had no clue what I was doing. So I did call ahead, explained the whole situation. They were very comforting.

It wasn’t until she was done cutting my hair and I saw what it looked like for the first time that I realized that the entire salon had shut down. Patrons, employees, were watching. And they just started clapping when I was done.

I would say after cutting my hair, the high that I was riding on eventually went back to that same low energy I had before I cut my hair. And that’s because there was a feeling that wasn’t changed on the inside. There was still that pit, and that pit was being created by the lack of dealing with my sexual orientation and embracing it.

It was September 2011. I was driving from my company back to my apartment, which was out in the suburbs at the time before I moved out to Philadelphia. And I had a really, really crappy day.

And I said the words out loud to myself in my car, “I’m gay.” And that was the first time I’d ever said those words out loud. And it felt amazing.

Jangi goes on to talk about how his family embraced his new do, and his gayness. Check it out in the video (shot by Philly’s Marquise Lee) above, or read the rest of the transcript here.