India's First Gay Matrimonial Ad

The Mother Behind India’s First Gay Matrimonial Ad  

In 2015, Mumbai-based Padma Iyer placed a matrimonial ad in Mid-Day, seeking a groom for her son Harish Iyer. This might seem like a regular occurrence, but it was anything but ordinary. Padma Iyer’s ad is believed to be India’s first-ever gay matrimonial ad, sparking a conversation around same-sex marriage in the country.   

While the ad didn’t lead to a match for Harish, Padma Iyer is proud of the impact it had. “Nothing came out of it, but I am happy that it became a breakfast discussion,” she recalled. 

A Childhood Disrupted 

Harish’s journey to this groundbreaking moment was not an easy one. As a child, he was a happy and bubbly kid until the age of seven, when a traumatic event changed him. Harish was brutally raped for years by his maternal uncle, a devastating experience that left him quiet and withdrawn.  

For years, Padma Iyer was unaware of the reason behind her son’s sudden change in behavior. When Harish finally confided in her about the abuse, she was filled with guilt and disbelief, wondering if she had failed as a mother in protecting her child.   

Coming Out and Acceptance  

Despite the trauma, Harish found the courage to share his story with the media, creating awareness about male sexual abuse. This public revelation brought criticism and ostracisation from Padma Iyer’s family and relatives, but it only strengthened the bond between mother and son.   

As if the journey wasn’t challenging enough, Harish later revealed to his mother that he was gay. Concerned about the abuse Harish had suffered, Padma Iyer took him to a psychiatrist to see if it might have caused his sexuality.

Determined to support her son, Padma Iyer chose to fight her traditional beliefs. And embark on a new journey as a “rainbow parent.” She educated herself about homosexuality with the help of books and literature provided by Harish.   

Facing the World Together  

As Harish became an advocate for gay rights, speaking extensively in the media, Padma Iyer found herself facing another round of shaming. And ostracisation from her family and friends. This time, she stepped forward, ready to offer her son her wholehearted support.

When Harish turned 36, Padma Iyer, like any impatient mother, felt it was time for him to settle down. This led her to place the groundbreaking matrimonial ad, which attracted hundreds of responses, both positive and negative.   

Today, Padma Iyer is a founding member of Sweekar, the Rainbow Parents, an organiation that supports parents of LGBTQIA+ children. She has become a crusader for gay rights, just like her son Harish.   

A Mother’s Fear  

Despite overcoming numerous battles and reinventing herself, Padma Iyer still grapples with one fear. What will happen to Harish after she is gone. “I always dread the day, what will happen to him after I leave? One day or another, I have to leave before him. So what will happen to him?” she asked Mid-Day with concern.   

From being unaware of male sexual abuse and her son’s sexual orientation, Padma Iyer has come a long way. She now stands as a staunch supporter of equal rights for the LGBTQIA+ community. Cheering on her son Harish as he breaks barriers through his activism, one at a time. 

Next Read: 25 Indian LGBTQIA+ Milestones From Pre-1900s to Present 

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