For you, the Parent

If you are reading this document, it probably means that you have recently learnt that your son is romantically and sexually attracted to men, not women. In other words, he is homosexual. This information may have come as surprise or a shock, even if you long suspected that there was something different about him. It is obvious that you have genuine concern for the wellbeing of your son. We request you to read this article and also refer the recommended links.

Getting to terms with your child’s sexuality:

You may be experiencing

* confusion (“how can a man be sexually attracted to a man?”),
* discomfort (“isn’t this unnatural?”),
* anger (“he is choosing this lifestyle only to hurt us”),
* helplessness (“he has been corrupted by the company he keeps”),
* fear (“what will happen to us if our neighbors / friends / relatives find out?”),
* anxiety (“does this make him immoral?”), unease (“will he get AIDS?”), or
* concern (“won’t he end up lonely and unhappy?”).

All these feelings are completely natural and are experienced, to various degrees, by all parents when confronted with this news.

But each experience is unique. This document answers some common questions, and aims to help you come to terms with the situation.

Is this real?
Yes, it probably is. It has been estimated that up to one-in-ten human beings are homosexual. Men who are attracted to men are called gays. Women who are attracted to women are called lesbians. Some men and women are attracted to both men and women. They are called bisexuals. Most gays, lesbians and bisexuals hide their true feelings fearing rejection by society. Most people presume that all men and women are heterosexual, i.e. attracted to members of the opposite sex. This presumption is not based on fact.

Is homosexuality a mental or emotional disorder?
According to the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, whose research is respected by doctors all over the world, homosexuality is neither mental illness nor moral depravity. It is simply the way a minority of our population expresses human love and sexuality. Study after study documents the mental health of gay men and lesbians. Studies of judgment, stability, reliability, and ability to adapt to social and job situations all show that gay men and lesbians function every bit as well as heterosexuals.

Can homosexuality be cured?
Since it is not a disease, the question of cure does not arise. Psychiatrists help homosexuals come to terms with their sexual feelings, thereby relieving feelings of guilt, self-hatred and anxiety.

Isn’t this unnatural ?
No, it is not. Homosexuality has been documented even amongst animals.

But sexual attraction between man and woman seems so logical – it results in children. Does that not make homosexuality something abnormal?
Not really. By normal, you probably mean common. Traditionally, sexual biology and the ability to reproduce have been the only criteria when considering sexuality. However, scientists today acknowledge that sexuality has four components:

* Biological sex (what sexual organs does he possess: male or female?)
* Gender identity (how does he perceive himself: as a man or woman?)
* Social behavior (how does he conduct himself in public: as a man or a woman?)
* Sexual orientation (is he romantically and sexually attracted to women or men or both?)

Is this not a result of Westernization of our society? This never existed in our culture.
No. Homosexuality did not come from the West or from any foreign land. Temple sculptures and many scriptures suggest that in ancient India men did have sexual and romantic relations with other men. Of course, one must keep in mind that what happened in the past is not necessarily right. In the past, women were denied education and the caste system was considered divinely ordained.

What made my son gay? Am I responsible for his being this way?
Sexual orientation is deep-seated and not something one chooses to be or not to be. It is likely to be the result of several different factors, including genetic, hormonal, and environmental. None of these factors alone are responsible for determining sexual orientation. Psychological and social influences alone cannot cause homosexuality. Family fears of catching homosexuality, or of being recruited at school or elsewhere are utterly without scientific foundation. According to the American Psychological Association, research suggests that the homosexual orientation is in place very early in the life cycle, possibly even before birth.

Is it a sin?
Different religions have different beliefs and rules of social conduct. But all religions agree that it is better to love and accept than hate and reject.

Will he get AIDS?
Any person – homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual – who indulges in unsafe sexual practices with multiple sex partners is at a high risk of HIV infection that leads to AIDS.

Why did he have to tell us?
Many parents think that they would be happier if they didn’t know. What you must realize, however, is that if you did not know, you would never really know your child. A large part of his or her life would be kept secret from you, and you would never really know the whole human being. The fact that your son told you is a sign of his love and need for your support and understanding. After all, who should know if not you?

Why did he do this to us?
Many parents feel bitter resentment at the fact of their child’s homosexuality. This feeling is based on the assumption that being homosexual is a matter of choice and that this was a conscious decision, perhaps even made to hurt them. In fact, homosexuals do not choose their sexual orientation – they simply are what they are: homosexuality is their true nature. The only choice most lesbians and gays have is whether to be honest about who they are or hide it. Hiding it imposes a tremendous burden – it means living a lie, day in and day out. What parent would want a child to have to live that way?

Won’t society reject him?
That is possible. Not every one is tolerant and understanding towards differences in sexual preferences. But attitudes toward homosexuals have been changing for the better and are more positive in many places.

Will he be lonely in his old age if he does not have a family of his own?
Maybe; but we must remember that this is very often true of all of us. Spouses die, marriages break up, children often live far away, and many young couples do not have children at all. Many of us have to adjust to loneliness when we are old. On the plus side, many gay men develop long-lasting relationships, and the gay community is warmly supportive of its members.

What about the law?
In many countries around the world, all sexual acts performed in private between consenting adults are legal. However, as per Indian Penal Code section 377, homosexual acts are punishable by law. Attempts are being made to change this law. For more information on the Law, read our legal issues section.

Mother’s Story
We have only one son. He went to the London to study and then got a job there. When we pressured him to get married, he blurted out that he was gay. My husband’s response was simple: ‘Are you sure?’ I, on the other hand, had a great sense of guilt and failure, wondering where we had gone wrong. We have always been a close and loving family, and I worried whether my relationship with my son would suffer as a result of his homosexuality. I also had a great concern for his future happiness and well being, as did my husband. I soon realized that our son was the same person I had always known and loved, but through his honesty I now knew more about him. I no longer feel alone; new windows of understanding have opened by asking questions, listening and reading. It was a difficult but positive stage in my life, which took time and patience. I am happy to say that today our family is as close as ever, but our relationship is more open and honest than before.

Father’s Story
How did I feel when I found out my son was gay? It’s hard to say. It was a mixture of feelings. My first thought was – life will be difficult for him. He is different and so therefore he would suffer the consequences of being different: suspicion, fear and rejection by the so-called normal world. This made me feel sad at first, then angry, then protective. How could I help my son? I decided to learn more about homosexuality. Why does it happen? Can it be cured? I later found out that the first question, to date, has no answer, and the second is a fallacious one, because it is not a disease. My happiest moment as a parent came when I overheard him tell a friend, “I have never been as happy and relaxed as I am now that my father knows and understands.”

GayBombay Parents Meet
Gay Bombay organizes several Parents Meet. Parents of gays and lesbians who are aware of their son’s or daughter’s sexuality, come to this meet. They interact with other parents and share their experiences and doubts. They also interact with other gay men who want to learn about your feelings and where you come from. These meets have encouraged many gay men to come out to their parents. With your help, we can know, how to do it without hurting our parents.

There are several organizations around the world where parents of gays and lesbians interact and even fight for acceptance of their children. You can check the following links for more information :

Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

Is My Child Different? — PERIN ILAVIA as quoted in Deccan Herald B’lore -09/02/02
“I have been perfectly happy the way I am. If my parents were in any way responsible for it. I am grateful.” — CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD