A Mother’s Take

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What is PFLAG

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

Perin Ilavia’s Article

Have you contemplated how you’d react if you discovered your child was gay! Would you rupture a nerve or would you react with equanimity? Talking to a cross section of people, I found most of them reacted – Gay?!!

Homosexuality has been prevalent in every strata of society and always swept under the carpet and only recently it is being discussed openly. Though an existing fact, the word is not mentioned and no thought is given to this aspect of a person’s nature.

It can’t happen to me, is what parents usually think. How are you supposed to react? With horror or understanding?

Most parents were embarrassed to be asked about it. A person does not become gay out of choice. Many want to be straight, but nothing can change “that feeling.”

Parents of gay children blame themselves and the children feel victimised by society. “It takes a lot of courage to admit to the fact, that your child is different”, says a mother of a 21-year-old boy.

“The growing up years were filled with pranks, fun – he had a lovable nature and was a brilliant student, inclined more towards music and art than football. Nothing unusual. The teenage days were filled with pimples, loud music, long phone calls, change of hairstyle and dress sense. Had the boy changed? As a matter of fact, he hadn’t. He was the same sensitive, fun-loving teenager”, she says, going back in time. Though unnerved, she says “it’s alright. It is who you are that matters, not what you are”. The boy was not shunned or discouraged, his sisters accepted his relationship and they found his partner was a loving kid.

“I am not sure when I figured something was different about Marcos,” says his mother. It was over a period of time, that he became withdrawn, their conversations were brief and Marcos seemed to be the only boy who was not interested in girlie magazines, or dating.

Most children want to share their sorrows and joys with their parents, but the fear of rejection makes them withdraw. One day she walked into Marcos’s room and found him with his boy friend. She was horrified! This can’t be happening to her she thought. She went into a depression. How would she face her friends? Everyone must already know about it!

After that encounter, Marcos was distant, he couldn’t look his parents in the eye, neither knew what to say, and each lived with guilt and shame, which made the situation tense. It took a long time for them to accept, and when they did, the strained relationship improved. “You cannot know until it happens to you”, confided the father of a teenaged boy. When Surendra’s son told him he had a boyfriend, he didn’t think there was anything wrong with that… until Sudhir said, they wanted to live together. “Oh no”, thought Surendra. “Why? Why me?” He was devastated. He thought he was a failure as a parent, which is a normal reaction of all parents. He loved his son very much but a continual refusal to accept the fact, distanced them. There would be sideway glances and snide remarks, because that is the way he reacted to gays. Surendra was full of self pity and thought of society, which would ostracise his son and him too. His son would never know what wedded bliss was, and he would never have grandchildren and all his dreams for his son were shattered. Who was he feeling sorry for, himself or his son? Surendra felt his son had died and lived in sorrow and pain.

Alice and Adrian knew their son was that way inclined, as Arnold had told them within six months of the relationship starting. It was a shock, but they gradually accepted the fact. After a year of revealing that he was gay, he asked permission to bring his partner home for the weekend. “I want him to meet you, and see where I grew up”. The parents agreed. On the way to the guest room to make the bed, Alice was unnerved. Her daughter staying with her boyfriend was different, but her son and his partner seemed too much to handle. She wondered if she could make separate beds. She wondered if she had actually accepted the fact. Had she, she would not be contemplating separating them and she made up the double bed. She recalls, there were kisses and hugs on his arrival. He was a loving, intelligent, ambitious boy. The next morning when she realised they were actually in the same bed, she asked herself how she felt. She felt alright. She knocked on the door, and was asked to come in. There was no embarrassment or shock, just happiness. They were two human beings who contributed to society and their family, who loved each other. The relationship was totally accepted by their friends.

Many gays who are not accepted by their family, are socially cut off, but if the parent is determined that his child should not be ostracised by society, he must accept the fact first, before society accepts the same.

Homosexual and heterosexual relationships are based on the same things. Searching for and finding a special person to share your life. It is understood that it is not a mental illness as it was believed. More parents are talking about it, encouraging others to face the situation.

It is positively the parents’ duty to support and help the child, say psychiatrists.

It was two years ago that Rita’s daughter had told her she was a lesbian. Rita could not accept it. She had lost her husband, and now her only child had become defensive and withdrawn. Rita was full of mixed emotions. She loved her child very much and did not know how to discourage her. Maybe she should have let her play cricket with the boys, rather than play with dolls. The guilt and shame and the blame was never ending. Self-pity and anger consumed her. She felt she’d wasted her life producing a child who had rejected all her principles and feminity. She felt betrayed. Had she not given birth to her, she would not be going through this heartache. Why did it happen to her she wondered, for many years. Once she accepted the situation, the relationship with her daughter improved.

Why do parents accept? Is it the fear of losing the love and respect of the child? The life of a gay, said many parents, seemed so trivial. No marriages (though now in the West they are solemnised) no births, (now gays can adopt children) yet, it is a relationship of a procreation couple. Children who had become sullen, rude, totally withdrawn, return to love, warmth and a honest relationship with the parents, for, when a child tells his /her parents it is a moment of relief and anticipation. If accepted he or she can now share a very important part of his or her life with YOU — who have shared every small detail in his or her life till date.

I know a lot of gay men, and as many women will confirm, they make good friends. They are not only brilliant and creative, they are perfectly normal people, with the same fears and phobias as we have. Adapting to the way of life your child chooses, is the best, say parents of gay children. It is the parents duty to make the child aware of the dangers and advise them to take precautions and care of themself as the risks are rampant and varied.

A gay relationship is very intense and long lasting. There have been cases when a friendship breaks, to be replaced by another one, causing heartache and pain. Gays could be afraid of ageing, for the fear that they may not be attractive to their partners. Many incidents of HIV have been identified – most of them accept it is the way of life, and it is up to the parents to wither and be devastated, or bring joy to all by accepting the fact, that their child is gay.


Deccan Herald B’lore

9th February, 2002