September 16, 2020
Parents play an important role. They help and support you to grow as best as you can. They can also sometimes teach you things that you wish you hadn’t learnt. Either way, parents influence the direction you are headed, the stance you take, and the voice you become in society.
When the voices of the LGBTQ community had begun to get louder than before, people across the globe carried rainbows and chanted their heart’s tune to demand normalization and decriminalization of the members of the community.
While some came around to the idea of gender multiplicity and sexual freedom, a few stuck to their older ways of thoughts about heteronomy being the boundary of sexual orientation. But we have learned from our history that we must fight for our rights and our freedom.
The fight and the raising of voices begin at home. The acceptance also begins at home.
The LGBTQ+ community has to undergo various stages of acceptance before they can openly be who they want to be. The first stage is usually, family. Breaking your sexual orientation to your family is intimidating and fairly detrimental to your acceptance of yourself.
And that is why FSOG tried to breakdown the situation in order to understand both sides. I asked the parents of LGBTQ+ children, these questions.
- How did you learn about the LGBTQ+ community?
- How did your child come out to you and your close family? What was your first reaction?
- Do you know of some traumatic incident that your child had to face? If so how did you handle it?
- What made the acceptance easier?
- What do/did you tell your acquaintances or relatives?
- Do you think you are able to completely comprehend your child’s orientation?
- How would you explain to (other) parents of LGBTQ+, the process of coming out and accepting the child’s orientation?
- Any advice that you would like to give children who want to come out to their Indian parents
The replies to these questions allowed me to shed light from a different direction. By asking parents these questions, we wanted to explore the other side of the coin: how do the parents come to terms with what is possibly the hardest conversation they can have with their children: the conversation of coming out.
Anwesh Sahoo, who is an artist, a TedX speaker popularly known because he is Mr Gay India 2016, and entered Mr Gay World at the age of 20! Anwesh’s mother was kind enough to answer all of the questions at 10 in the night without hesitation.
Anwesh’s story is all over the internet, he has spoken about coming out, the challenges he had to face, and his rise to fame. Here is the side of Anwesh’s mother, Kanak Sahoo:
When Anwesh first came out to his mother, Kanak, her first reaction was to brush it off as something silly her son was saying. She could not quite believe what her son was confiding in her. Her journey of acceptance involves crying to herself when she was alone at home, asking god why her son was made that way. Enveloped with shame about why this would happen to him, and doubts about how her doting son seemed so normal.
She knew that there are people who belong to the LGBTQ+ community, like Karan Johar, and was aware of the world. But when the news hit her, she struggled to make peace with it. She says that Anwesh asked her to introspect, get familiar with the world online, and try to understand what it means to be gay. Over a few months, she not only accepted him but also proudly showed him off to her friends and family. They were equally supportive and encouraging of Anwesh, says Kanak.
Anwesh has seen dark times in his life, and he has worked hard to achieve what he has today. His mother attests the statement and says how she and her husband tried their best to encourage him to do his best and not be pressurized. She also speaks about how he began to excel and do better than his sister, who was initially the topper of the family. She laughs and says “I love to dance, and do art, I love dressing up and heading out, and I feel like my kids are similar”.
A blogger, a cosmetologist, a drag queen, a participant on MTV Elevator pitch and the Regional Manager of Mr Gay India took his mother to a ‘parents meeting’ in Mumbai to help her learn about the LGBTQ+ community. Sanket and his family come from a small city with orthodox-conservative mindset. So, when Sanket came out to his mother, Shailaja, she was shocked and so was her family. She was told to advise him against it, and that he was spoiling the family name. After leaving the family home for Mumbai, it took his mother more than six months to come to terms with her son’s sexual orientation.
Luckily, for Sanket, his mother gave him a chance to explain and he patiently told his mother what it means to be gay and introduced her to the members of the community. The experience drove her to understand the normalcy of the community.
When in school, Sanket faced severe brutality and was bullied. He has mentioned several times about the incidents. They used to call him names and harass him constantly which made it harder for Sanket to tackle them in school. His mother, who saw him come home and cry every day tried to ask him and make him feel better, but could not control what was happening at school.
She now says that God blesses everyone differently and that the only difference is my son’s orientation and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. When people say things against Sanket, she defends him and tells them “You either love my son for who he is, or you do not get to interfere in my son’s life at all!”
She now believes that everyone is human, and everyone should be treated the same way. She now supports her son whole-heartedly and is by his side.
Most importantly, she is a part of an LGBTQI+ community called Sweekar- a group of rainbow parents and expresses her belief that sexual orientation is innate and a part of us. This can be considered a huge step towards acceptance.
Lavanya is a blogger, a writer, and also a journalist. She is gender-fluid. She moved from UAE to India because of the strict laws. Lavanya’s parents are still on the edge about her identity and are unwilling to understand.
Lavanya’s journey has been a rocky road, to say the least. But she has transformed her life into nothing less than a spectacle. She started working with a renowned publication as a journalist. Lavanya then moved on to being a senior sub-editor with global mobile advertising and discovery platform InMobi. She also freelances for ‘Arre’ and is a theatre actor to give expression and voice to her creativity and angst.
As a child, of parents who have created hurdles for her than support her through the tough times, Lavanya discusses mental health issues, ways to come out, and braving the world differently than those who have been accepted by their parents. She says that children need to be accepted, and the situation is about them and not about the parents or society. The says that coming out is difficult enough, so the parents have to be supportive.
She also mentions that the child is already struggling to fight the “CIS heterosexual people simply because they love people beyond the confines of heteronomy” and that there is “No excuse to not support your child’s sexuality”.
What to take away:
Pointers so that you can memorize it and repeat it to yourself, other parents or other children.
- Sexuality is not a choice. It is innate and inbuilt. Do not try to correct the children through therapy or corrective rape. It is cruel and inhumane.
- There is no shame about it. We are all human. Sexual orientation that is outside of the heteronomy is normal. You do not get to shame people based on it.
- Educate yourself and others. Unless you make an attempt to read, learn, and interact with the people of the community, you will continue to be regressive and intolerant towards a community that is not intolerant towards you.
- Do not believe information that comes from unreliable sources. Being gay or queer or transgender is not a fad, it is not a phase. There is nothing fake about it. The performance of who one is is the same as a straight person performing themselves.
- Support is important but not everyone gets it. As important as it to come out, it is also important to know how to deal with intolerance. Bullying, violence, and brutality have been used to keep the voices down. Always know where to seek help. Suggest joining LGBTQ+ groups, like Sweekar who can provide a sense of understanding and belonging. There are plenty of Facebook groups and Reddit that you can access. Apart from this, you could also seek help from counsellors.