Rainbow Parenting: Through The Eyes of Indian Mothers 

Motherhood is a journey of unconditional love, acceptance, and unwavering support. For mothers raising LGBTQ+ children, this journey takes on a unique and sometimes challenging path, fraught with societal biases and personal doubts. However, their resilience, courage, and open-heartedness shine through, creating a beautiful tapestry of acceptance and celebration. As we honor Mother’s Day, we celebrate these incredible women who have embraced their children’s identities – whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or non-binary – with open arms, reminding us that a mother’s love knows no bounds.  

Fifty Shades of Gay collaborated with ‘Sweekar: The Rainbow Parents’ – a group formed by parents of Indian LGBTQ+ children to support accepting one’s child fully. Together, we brought forth the heartwarming journeys of real Indian mothers and parents who have embraced their LGBTQIA+ children with unconditional love and support through every step of their journey. 

Meet the Moms  

Meghna Kulkarni, 50 years young, and her spouse Prasanna are parents to 24-year-old Shreesh, who is queer and non-binary, and 19-year-old Rit, who is trans-masculine and non-binary. They live in an extended family with Meghna’s 90-year-old father-in-law and 60-year-old brother-in-law in Mumbai, where they are Kannadigas.  

Meghana Kulkarni, with Rit and Shreesh. 

Naina is 47 year old medical professional. She is from Mumbai, and is a mother to a child who identifies as a transman. 

Shilpi Rastogi is a compassionate individual who loves to travel, make new friends, and help people. In her family, Simran’s husband is a consultant, and her child, Stan, identifies as trans-masculine and is pursuing a B.A. (Hons).  

Shipli Rastogi and Stan 

Dr. Simran, is a retired Principal, from Maharashtra. Her family consists of her son, who identifies as bisexual, and her late husband who was a well-known social worker.  

Padma Iyer, a 66-year-old homemaker from Mumbai, is the mother of 45-year-old Harish Iyer, a renowned Equal Rights Activist. Harish first came out to her as a survivor of CSA (Childhood Sexual Abuse) and later as gay. He has been very vocal about his abuse and his identity as a gay man in the media and on national television. Padma has accompanied Harish everywhere, as she could see him blossoming in her presence. She also has another straight son who is married, and she currently lives with her husband, 93-year-old mother, and Harish.  

Padma Iyer and Harish Iyer  

The coming out story:  

“I realised quite early that my children are neurodivergent. Shreesh is autistic and Rit has ADHD and Bipolar Disorder. However, it was Rit who told us about their queerness when they were 15. I had mixed feelings. But Rit, the old soul that they are, took me through their journey very smoothly and gradually.” – Meghana Kulkarni  

“It came as a complete shock when my child told me he is a transman. Didn’t even know what it meant. Was totally confused and upset for a few months. Took me a while to accept.” – Naina, medical professional from Mumbai. (real names have been hidden to protect identity).  

“When we understood that Stan is trans, I feared about his safety in our Indian Society. For us it was a journey of discovery and acceptance rather than a single moment of revelation.” – Shilpi Rastogi  

“We accepted it without any problems. But when he came out to us, he was not in India. He was in the USA. He wrote a very descriptive letter to us and explained his story in detail. We called him and gave an assurance that we were with him. My husband was little bit upset but I told him it’s natural. It’s not any health problem. We cried a little, but after that things got better” – Dr Simran 

“He came out to me when he was 23-24. Till then I had no inkling that he could be gay…though the signs were very much there….like he used to like wearing flowers on his hair when he was as young as 3YO. Also, he used to love wearing frocks. He used to play with dolls and never with toy cars….but there was no awareness, and I was an introvert from a brahmin joint family…..exposure was almost nill” – Padma Iyer  

Navigating Emotions & Questions 

“Navigation in this case, is a two-way communication process. And we as a family, are always sharing our thoughts and views openly with each other. Here, it was Rit who began the conversation. And it’s still going on. On a positive note.” – Meghana Kulkarni  

“My family especially my mother helped me a lot with the acceptance. It has been a difficult 4 years since his coming out. Still going through a gamut of emotions as we are now going through gender reassignment surgeries.” – Naina 

“For me it was a path to learn and talk to my child. Stan taught me a lot of things about being trans. I was overprotective in the beginning but slowly I learnt to relax when he started meeting people. His self acceptance helped me in getting back to a normal life where I didn’t plan everything around him.” – Shilpi Rastogi  

“Till today nobody from my surroundings or circle knows that he is bisexual. My son told me he will come out when he’s ready and I respect that.”  – Dr Simran 

“I had accepted him readily but was afraid of the family accepting him…I wanted Harish to keep it a secret between us….but that was not what he aspired…..he was out in the newspaper and national television…he wanted to shout out from the roof top….he mainly wanted to create awareness and wanted other children also to be accepted by their parents….though I was initially hesitant to come out openly, I mustered up the courage and supported my son wholeheartedly…..this was way back more than 2 decades ago…I thought – when my son who has gone through abuse and is facing so much challenges in life – can come out as a winner, am I not a coward to lag behind….to hell with everybody’s thinking…my son’s happiness is most important to me….with these sentiments, I forged ahead and am here today” – Padma Iyer 

Change in relationship after coming out 

“We are closer than before, more respect than before. I salute their efforts, in taking steps, in being out there and supporting their community members.” – Meghana Kulkarni  

“Our relationship has had it’s ups and downs but overall I feel we have become closer. We share a lot of emotional traits and try to help each other as much as possible.” – Naina 

“Stan became the teacher and we became pupils. We learnt things from different sources and discussed. We tried to help people of the community in our own ways. Our bond has strengthened so much that Stan and I share everything with each other from makeup to mental health, recipes to politics, LGBTQA community struggles to financial services.” – Shilpi Rastogi  

“No. We are good friends, and we are very close with each other. We are open minded.” – Dr Simran 

“We are more close to each other than we were before…..” – Padma Iyer 

Raising an LGBTQIA+ Child 

“I see the world very differently now. The world has always been diverse. It needs to be more inclusive. Our efforts as members of Sweekar, the Rainbow Parents are towards making our society an empathetic and caring world for LGBTQIA+ individuals.” – Meghana Kulkarni  

“I now look at people with a little more empathy. Try and understand how life must have been from their point of view. I try my best to not be judgmental and also to support the kids in the community.” – Naina 

“I have learnt to embrace diversity in so many ways. Even though world is a difficult place for LGBTQA+ people still I have come to know so many non judgmental, affectionate and beautiful souls and have learnt to give love and affection freely to so many children. It has humbled me to see how much these children suffer.” – Shilpi Rastogi

“I have learned a lot from this community….I really wish my other straight son should have been born gay….” – Padma Iyer  

A message to moms and parents out there  

“If and when you discover that your child is queer, be blessed to be a rainbow parent, because, it will open up your minds to a different perspective. It will be difficult, initially but when you walk along with your child, in their journey, it will be comfortable for your child. Having an LGBTQIA+ child is not abnormal or an anomaly. It’s your child after all. It will bless you back with so much love and will blossom into a caring individual and a responsible citizen. Isn’t that what we want?” – Meghana Kulkarni  

“Be there for your child. Nothing else matters.” – Naina 

“There is always a beautiful morning after every night. Being a mother is the best opportunity a person can be blessed with. So believe in your child and love them unconditionally. If you are with your child… Nothing can defeat them.” – Shilpi Rastogi 

“All children are ours, so we stand with them always and firmly.” – Dr Simran  

“Your children are your children, regardless of who they are or who they love.” – Padma Iyer  

Next Read: The Mother Behind India’s First Gay Matrimonial Ad  

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