Your daughter broke the news that she is gay and you are here trying to figure out, why, when and how. Before we proceed, allow me to say, Thank You.
Yes, Thank You for taking time out and trying to understand the “situation”. By trying to learn, you are showcasing that you care about your daughter and this act alone makes you a better parent over the remaining fifty percent who will abandon their daughter after learning about her same sex orientation.
I understand you have questions. You are confused, overtaken by guilt, shame and anger. But believe me when I say, you will get through this. Your family will get through this and one day when this particular aspect of your daughter’s life is no longer an issue, you will realize that your relationship with your daughter has changed only for better. Maybe you will get there in the next couple of months or in a couple of years, but as long as you are trying, you are being an amazing parent.
In my experience, parents even the most intellectual and liberal ones, face tough time accepting their daughter’s homosexuality, and this is partially because in Indian society we have never openly discussed about same sex orientation. To us, it seems like a foreign idea, something that happens in the west. But it is not. No, homosexuality in India is as ancient as our civilization (if you are interested in learning more about homosexuality in ancient India then I would recommend reading: Same Sex Love in India: A literary history by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai)
Being homosexual is not a choice.
Across the world, gays and lesbians are bullied, denied human rights, beaten up, raped and in some cases forced to committ suicide. If you think about the general homophobic attitude of society, you will realize that if it was a choice, no one would choose to be gay. People are born gay. Some are born heterosexual, some bisexual and some homosexual. A person’s sexual orientation is determined at birth and one can’t alter it. Like one can’t force someone to be taller or shorter than her height, similarly you cannot force your daughter to love or to be attracted towards a man. Please do not be angry with your daughter. Do not forsake her. Do not force her to marry a man. If you are scared, she is hundred times more scared.
Having same sex orientation in not unnatural.
Scientists have documented over 1500 animal species who exhibits some kind of homosexual behavior. Homosexuality is very prevalent in nature, and it is as natural as nature can be. People who condemn homosexuality because they think it is not natural are ignorant. And it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice your daughter’s happiness over someone’s ignorance.
Being a lesbian is not an illness either.
The leading psychiatricts world over agree that homosexuality is not an illness and they don’t advocate any treatments. The Indian Psychiatric Society on 6th Feb 2014, posted the following statement by Dr.T.V.Asokan, President, and Dr. N.N.Raju, General Secretary, on their website “Based on existing scientific evidence and good practice guidelines from the field of psychiatry, Indian Psychiatric Society would like to state that there is no evidence to substantiate the belief that homosexuality is a mental illness or a disease. IPS will issue a more detailed statement in due course of time”.
Please do not force your daughter to see a psychiatrist in the hopes of “changing her” or force her to see any religious preacher/leader. If you force her into any alternate treatments or marriage, you are just hurting and damaging your own child.
It is natural to be worried about society’s reaction. Worrying about society’s reaction is something that is deeply ingrained in our social behavior. You have worried about society’s reaction when your daughter scored less marks than expected or when she wanted to live alone in a different city. You are worried because you think you are alone. Let me assure you, as far as homosexuality is concerned, your family is not alone. It is estimated that there are 8 crore gays in India (7% of 1.2 Billion people in India as per March 2014 population record). So there are 16 crore parents who are going through what you are going through. If you were to come forward and talk to your closest friends/relatives, you will realize that most of them will have a story or example to share. Yes, homosexuality is very common. So start talking about it. If you find it difficult to talk to anyone you know then you can always participate in online forums and chat with parents who are going through the same experience.
Also society cares as much as we give them power to care. Chances are if you are comfortable and don’t give society any power over you, then society is not going to react. If you are accepting about homosexuality, people around you will not try and ruffle you, and even if they do, you will have courage to ignore them and choose your daughter’s happiness.
Now that you have some understanding about homosexuality and realize the hardships your daughter must have gone through before coming out to you, please do not ask her if she is sure about her sexual orientation or if it’s just a phase. The fact is, if she has come out to you, she is certain that she is a lesbian. From this point on she will need your support, guidance and love.
Show her your support by reading and increasing your understanding about homosexuality, give her guidance on how to stand strong against homophobia and validate your love by being part of her identity. Try and meet her gay or lesbian friends. Participate in her life. Maybe its early to meet your daughter’s girlfriend. There is no rush. If your daughter wants you to meet her girlfriend and you are not ready, tell her you need some time. It is OK to take some time and process this new aspect of your daughter’s identity.
You are not alone. Being gay is OK.
Your daughter is the same wonderful individual you raised her to be and one day when you and your family have crossed over, you will realize everything is gay again (pun intended). Till then, stay strong and love your daughter, unconditionally.
About PS : PS has been diagnosed to suffer from bouts of extreme curiosity and has been accused of feeling too much. She tries to be jill-of-all-trades and daydreams of a world where society perceives gay dating and relationships in a positive light. When she is not pondering over the meaning of life or giving relationship advice, she is probably flying paper planes.