I grew up in a typical patriarchal household where men literally ruled over women. Women were not supposed to know of any matters apart from managing household work. My aunt who wanted to be an author was jeered at, same with my mother who wanted to be part of women’s associations.
However to my mother’s credit, despite dropping out of school, she still managed to learn to read, write and speak English on her own by reading newspapers. Imagine introducing the issue of homosexuality in a household like this...
One late evening, when I came out to my mother in the mid ’90s (I was a late bloomer coming out when I was 27), I had to explain to her what ‘gay’ meant. The simplest explanation was that, being a man I loved another man.
I couldn’t even speak about the personal and political implications. It was unthinkable for her, unacceptable. She cried, blaming herself for a bad upbringing. As the dusk turned to inky night, we both sat there – she crying, and me unable to do anything about it, not even able to console her.
Since then, over the next few years, my mom and I had conversations over phone calls, over stolen moments in the backyard when I visited home (the men in the family should not know about it), over bus rides we took.
She asked me so many questions and I had to answer them patiently – how did you become like this, why did you not tell me before, etc.
Coming out is like peeling an onion layer by layer, until you expose your inner core, and that is what connects to the heart.
What helped was that I have a partner Saagar who is very loving. My mom and he bonded instantly and she has come to love him greatly. I came out to other family members one by one. My father brushed it aside as a phase, but he did accept my relationship with Saagar tacitly.
In their own way, fathers love their children, but fear of society ties their tongues. By now most of my family members and even my extended family know I’m gay.
My young niece drew a picture of our family and included Saagar next to me as part of the family, without of course knowing the implications. Children are like that; their acceptance is unconditional.
With Sec 377 having been read down, it has opened doors for the youth to come out to their families. My word of caution to them is they should take their time, prepare the ground, make their parents formulate an understanding – in a sensitive and loving manner.
You don’t thrust a placard in their faces that you are gay or lesbian or transgender. You have to sit them down and have chats with them to help them understand. Give them books to read, show them films about LGBTQ lives. You have to handhold them, like they did when you learnt to walk.
Surely it has not been easy for you coming out to yourself, it must have taken years of struggle within yourself, so give your parents some time to also struggle to accept you. Don’t rush them.
After I came out and started making films on LGBTQ issues, I felt there was a need to address this issue of parental acceptance, especially about a mother in a small town who is ill equipped to understand the issues of her son being gay.
That’s how our film Evening Shadows was born, and from its womb was born a support group for parents of LGBTQ children – ‘Sweekar – The Rainbow Parents’. This support group formed around two years ago now has 75 member parents across India.
These parents are from different social strata but what ties them together is their love for their children. The parents are trying to formulate an understanding about the diversity of gender and sexualities, through their support group meetings, panel discussions, participating in pride marches. The group is flying the rainbow banner high.
While in the metros parents still have an easy ride, in small towns the struggle continues. Parents still force their children into marriage against their choice.
Political parties and religious heads are still against same-sex marriages, and their intolerance percolates down to the masses. We need to address ignorance and fight intolerance, so all can live in a society that allows freedom to love and live with dignity, whatever their gender identity or sexual orientation. For that we need not a revolt, but a dialogue; not confrontation but conversation.