REPORT: THE 15th GAYBOMBAY PARENTS AND RELATIVES MEET (A MUMBAI PRIDE 2016 EVENT)


The 15th Gay Bombay Parents & Relatives Meet

Venue: Rotary Club of Bombay West, Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai

Date & Time: Sunday, January 17, 2016, 5-9 p.m. with a 30 minute break for snacks at 7 p.m.

Participants: Parents 20 (Mothers 12, Fathers 4, Aunts 2, Siblings 2)

This report is in the form of “as-is” shared narratives, clubbed around dominant themes. It covers the first 2 of the 3 parts of the meet, namely: personal sharing by the parents; sharing and interaction of parents with the LGBT community in a single group, and interaction in circles of 1-2 parents & relatives and 5-6 LGBT community members. What was heartening and different this time was trans*, lesbian and bisexual participation in addition to gay men, as well as more parents of children across a diversity of sexuality and gender identities.

Bala introduced the parents and contextualized the parents meet. Facilitator Deepak Kashyap began by reading a story called “When my mother came home” in Hindi, about a mother visiting a gay son’s home after 6 years.

Telling Others:

“I was an introvert and uncomfortable with sharing personal stories. When I saw how happy telling everyone and getting their acceptance made my son, I didn’t want to lag behind. Understanding takes time. 80% of parents have lots of difficulties. But even so, being there with your child is more important. I was not so brave earlier, my son became my inspiration.”

“As parents if we understand and accept our children, nobody has the gall to say anything to them.”

“Ten years ago, my son first told his cousins who encouraged him to tell me. He was afraid that he would not be able to live if I refused to accept. I visited him in another city where he was living with his boyfriend. I met his friends, saw his domestic life. I was happy that he was settled. The extended family were scandalized, asked me not to tell others, blamed me for sending him abroad and asked me to send him to doctors. My son’s partner’s mother had a lot

“When my daughter came out to me, I realized I didn’t know anything about lesbian issues, though I loved her so much. As there was no internet or parents meets, she gave me books, fiction and non-fiction. When she was in her teens, there were no signs of homosexuality or lesbianism anyways. She must have felt so lonely. The two sides must come together. Children must make a huge effort and not be annoyed with their parents. I told everyone at home that she was still the same person, only that she had a woman partner now. My daughter in turn explained about an MTF trans* friend to our driver, who was quite philosophical about it. He lamented about how many such people there were in his village that didn’t have access to resources to undergo operations and transition genders or live out their sexuality. It is not education but it is basic human compassion that makes you accept difference.”

“Many parents take this behavior as a chosen negative behavior, ignorant of the fact that it is inborn. Once this is understood, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Mental science decreed homosexuality to be a deviant behavior. As a psychiatrist I saw obnoxious behavior therapies like shock therapy for gays. Now science has advanced and common people understand sexual orientation better. My son brought me to the Gay Bombay parents meet and I saw very intellectual friends of his in good positions professionally. After accepting, I didn’t have any qualms about my son. Marriage proposals keep on coming. I openly say my son is not interested in marrying, he is gay. I don’t hide it at all, and so nobody looks at him differently. If you don’t reveal the fact, you become a target of gossip. Parents, tell others. It is your children’s’ life. Being with a girl or boy is their choice; there is nothing to feel bad about. Homosexuality is found in all societies, even in animals and birds. It is a normal physiological behavior. Mothers have unconditional love, but it is difficult for fathers. LGBT issues are openly shown in TV programs the way they never were 10-15 years back. If you call yourself things like ‘queer’, people think you are different.”

Coming Out

“I have come here for the first time. My son has attended this meeting many times, but the experience of all these parents is different from mine. This Diwali at Dhanteras I lit a lamp, and the deity told me ‘he’ is gay. Since it is just 3 of us at home, I was confused who ‘he’ was. It couldn’t have been my husband, so it was my son. I was composed, waiting for an opportunity to let his hot-tempered father go away and then asked him about marriage. When I did, he told me that he was gay. I said it was normal, and he was surprised I wasn’t shocked. There is nothing to be happy or sad about. Science has advanced a lot, and there is lot of information on TV and newspapers so I don’t have any questions.”

“Several years my nephew came out to me. We knew from his behavior about his sexual orientation. There was no question of accepting, he was always ours. As people become more aware and laws become favorable, the situation will improve. I do my bit; there are Gay Bombay meetings on first Sunday of every month at my home.”

“We started Gay Bombay in 1998, was 24 years old. At that time being gay was equated to having gay sex. Those of us out and about in the late nineties felt there was more to it. We started to meet but we were scared. After our first meeting, there was no looking back. The first time it was so difficult to get parents to come to this meet, but now after 15 meetings we have 20 parents. Before the internet came, I saw how a friend’s mother accepted her son and his boyfriend. I was stunned. I was so excited, I wanted to go home and tell them. But my parents were not so well educated, and couldn’t speak English. They were not smart, well-dressed, or articulate. My mom is schizophrenic and dad is bipolar. My upbringing was a nightmare. Coming out could have meant a mental shock, hospitalization for mom and blame for me. On the other hand, if she found out from external sources, it would have been worse. So I told her this: ‘I don’t like girls’. She said it was nonsense, and took me to a psychiatrist. After 2 days, my same conservative mother asked me, ‘But what do two boys do at night?’ So we underestimate our parents. She accepted me because I am an extension of her, her blood sweat and tears. I came out at 27, but when she was on her delivery table 27 years before that, she was ready to accept anything about her child. Because what came out of her body was going to be her own. It’s just a question of time. My friend’s mother 25 years back had the courage to get a copy of a gay magazine for her son when he came out to her. That is called support.”

Acceptance

“My adopted son was gay. He passed away in 2014. Initially he didn’t have courage to come out and they married him off. The marriage was a failure and they got divorced. When he did have the courage to tell his mom she couldn’t accept and gave him a really hard time. She did accept but died just after that. When I met him I found him to be very nice and human, apart from my two daughters he was another child for me. It’s very important for parents to accept their child’s sexuality, as they cannot voice it to everyone, and they die a little everyday from seeing their parents not being able to accept it.“

“My son told me he was gay at 17. I didn’t know anything about it. My reaction was of disbelief for 4 years. I saw things on TV and learned about it. When I underwent treatment recently, I told doctors in the hospital, that I am worried about my son who is gay. The doctor was surprised at my candor. My sister asked me to accompany her to an astrologer, when he asked I said I don’t want to ask about anything. Coincidentally an old couple had come then to the astrologer to show the horoscope for their gay son. I told them it was wrong to come here. I urged them to accept him. They organized a meeting in a small town for parents. Parents don’t know and so they can’t be blamed. This is my third meeting, and I was the only parent who went from Mumbai to Pune for the Pride march. My advice to children is to come out and be patient. For parents, it always makes sense to take your children into confidence.”

Being a father

“As a father I am in the minority at the last meet. I felt so good there are more this time. We only run the marathon faster, but you mothers wear the pants at home. My elder son told me that my younger son was gay. I was initially shocked and thought it was sibling rivalry. I casually asked my younger son. I head legal and compliance in my company but didn’t know that Section 377 criminalized homosexual sex in India. Though I knew gay kids in school and college, there was nobody gay in the family. I asked him if it was a fashion nowadays, because all fashion designers were gay. When he said no, I hugged him. I agree that we owe unconditional love to our children. You have brought them to the world, so you cannot desert them. There are lots of quacks peddling cures, but homosexuality is perfectly normal. As soon as you accept, and say ‘So what?’ to society, it will be good for you, the child, and for your relationship with your son. I have seen so much care and love in gay persons. I feel proud that others approach my gay son for counseling and consider him to be a true friend, girls and boys, gays and straights alike. Our individual roads to acceptance as parents may vary. For LGBT kids, you are minority so take the caricaturing in your stride. As long there is no physical harassment, focus on going ahead in life.”

Being a parent of a trans* person:

“My son became a daughter. I feel it’s a new birth for her. I love and support her, and I feel everyone should.”

“I don’t know what to say because my son first came out as gay and then as transgender. This took me a lot of time to understand and accept. I was a dancer, an employee and worked in drama. He loved dance a lot, and was good in studies too. After getting a job after his MBA, I was very proud. But I didn’t know what he was doing. My neighbor once told me that when he came to ask for keys he came in a sari. Slowly, he told me that he was Trans* and that he also wanted to work to advance the cause of the transgender community. I was initially shocked and didn’t sleep two nights and cried. I wondered how things would work out at home. We weren’t talking, and my divorce happened too. Then I thought that if I didn’t support him, he would be alone and taken advantage of. So I supported him. I asked my son if he blamed the ups and downs in my life for this. He said no, I always wanted to be this way.”

Being MTF Trans*:

“I have not been able to explain to my father who and what I am. He has not accepted me, and I yearn to hug him. I want such an occasion; I want that he comes to a meet like this. I knew in 3rd and 4th standard that I had a crush, and didn’t know what same sex and opposite sex relationships were.” I was in a boy’s body, and couldn’t think of dating till I was a complete woman. My doctor and mom helped me and now I am a fully straight woman. I remember when I was 6-7 years old; I had taken off my tee-shirt and wrapped a sari. My father entered the room and I ran away. I always wanted feminine things to play with. When I learned dance, I came to Mumbai alone, started dancing, and felt I could be a complete woman as dance came into my life. I used to feel afraid in front of the camera as a trans* person. My journey in transformation started. I told an FTM person my story and I wanted to be a natural woman. Doctor asked me to have patience. My mom helped me a lot, has been with me in Mumbai for 6 years.”

Being gay:

“My parents have not accepted me but it’s nice to hear everyone’s stories. I don’t want to repeat my story as it is irrelevant. We should be grateful that we are lucky, and also for the bad that has not come our way. I am a dental surgeon, but I had severe problems but I am fortunate. Everything is transient. So focus on the good.”

“At dinner on Valentine’s day, my cousin messaged that my mom wondered if the reason that I was not getting married was that I was gay. I came out to my brother-in-law. He didn’t understand but he said he liked me as a person. So the next weekend, the cousins planned and started the conversation with my mom. Mom’s reaction was that it was natural, no issues. Now she is learning about this. She is blind and doing her masters in social work. Education helps, and so does a positive mindset.”

“I have very bad male role models in my life, and all I could do to become who I am was to emulate these wonderful pillars of humanity, the mothers.”

“I explored my sexuality after going abroad, and came out to a supportive sister 16 years ago. In high school and college I was a good student and did badly in sports and was taunted. Ten years ago I decided to start running marathons to prove them wrong, after that I have run in 63 marathons all over the world, including in the Mumbai Marathon today morning.”

“Things are changing, but not fast enough. The 18 year old guy made a very important point at the end which was missed. He said that my parents accepted me, so let the world go to hell. With acceptance, confidence and self-esteem dramatically improve. He can resolutely face the world. When my father was alive, he would describe the antics of gay men with disgust, and that remaining ingrained in my mind. My mother died in 2013 hoping for me to get married.”

“Marriage is a matching of wavelengths on many levels. If two people can make each other happy, who cares about what the permutation is. After parents pass away you will be left alone so invest in your skills. The more competent you are the more confident you will be.”

“If we come to a point where we don’t differentiate ourselves as a community it does a disservice to the struggles for the people who fought and endured for us.”

Being lesbian:

“I’m from Delhi – sorry about that! My coming out story is 6 years old, I expected that there would be quite some drama, but there wasn’t. I have an amazing set of parents and I was afraid as we are Keralite Catholics. My mother was very accepting; when I came out I was all packed up, expecting to take a cab, dressed in sneakers. She had issues whether she did something wrong, dressing me up in boys clothes. Today I joke with my mom and ask if she finds some sundar susheel ladki for me.”

Being bisexual:

“My mom’s not educated but I’m sure she knows about alternate sexuality. I tried to come out but I think she won’t be okay with her own son being different, though she accepts friends and neighbors who are gay. My dramatic younger sister saw my profile picture and asked if another person in it was a boyfriend. She asked if I was gay. I said I was not. I said being with guys doesn’t necessarily imply a gay sexuality. Mom is accepting about me being with a guy and a girl but not my dad.”

“Instead of seeking acceptance from all, first accept yourself. When I was growing up everyone knew about me and I was very open and confident. My battle was my own, and I was my own and only support system. I was friendly with my dad, but mom had a big issue. Mom’s concern was for me to be well and taken care of. Our battle went on for 4 years. One has to be patient, become a counselor your parents in some way.”

Being a straight ally:

“I wish society was evolved enough for no LGBT community to exist, because by segmentation you automatically create an atmosphere of ‘them and us’ which should not be necessary. However this identification pattern is a transition to a better tomorrow. I worked as a performance artist with LGBT community members who are lashed out for being flamboyant in Pride parades, but they like to use that one day to express themselves. Another misconception is that they think of sex 24/7. That does not make anyone a good or bad person, but they may need therapy. I do not have a gay parent or child, but many gay fiends and colleagues and I have had the honor of working with them. My friend has slowly started coming, out, but there is huge amount of discrimination. That’s where I am at, and I would like to assist in any way to see a day where there is no special day. We are all persons and we just have a name.”

Being a human rights activist:

“Even within the human rights community, people are still shy to address gender minority rights.”

15th Gay Bombay Parents and Relatives Meet: A Mumbai Pride Event: Report (02/2014)


By Sachin Jain

  • Date and time: Sunday, February 9, 2014; 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Venue: Seva Sadan Hall, Grant Road (West), Mumbai
  • Participants:
    • Family members: (record-breaking!) 17 [9 mothers 3 fathers(!), 3 sisters, 2 aunts];
    • LGBTIQ community participants: 65

The session had 3 thematic parts:

  1. Personal strengths and struggles
  2. Family and Society (also includes a part of LGBTIQ children telling their parents what they feel)
  3. Politics

The parents meet reports are especially written as personal narratives, and not summarized or altered, because we believe there is a lot of power in recording, as-is, the testimonies of the parents. The questions posed by the facilitator or others to the parents are placed in italics. The ‘parents meet’ events are a safe, welcoming non-judgmental space where parents with all opinions, including those that may be perceived to be hostile to LGBTIQs are welcomed and respected.

Deepak Kashyap, facilitator, introduced himself, Gay Bombay, Gay Bombay’s Parents Meet and how they have been held as a part of ‘Queer Azaadi Mumbai’. He narrated a story of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians) founder Jeanne Manford. At night her phone rang – a police officer called and asks if she was Monty’s mother. “Do you know your son was in a gay bar and caught? Do you know he is a homosexual?”, he asked. She replied, “Yes I know leave him alone.” She marched in 1972 New York Pride with a placard that read “Parents of Gays Unite in Support of Our Children”. Since then familial acceptance and love became powerful ideas in the gay rights movement. Our panel today of 17 parents and relatives epitomizes this support and love their kids and their kids’ friends or their kids’ friends’ parents in realizing dream of unconditional love for their child. A love that asks no questions without explanation or reason. It was made clear a little later that even parents with views opposing queer sexuality and not accepting of their children’s sexuality were welcome in this space and it was a safe and non-judgmental space for them. How Gay Bombay’s creation of social spaces leads to solidarity and confidence and ultimately empowerment was also explained. It was the marriage anniversary of one of the parents and yet she came, and she was presented with a bouquet. The context of Gay Bombay’s Parents Meets and their part in Queer Azaadi Mumbai was explained and there was a round of introductions.

Introductory narratives:

“I am very proud of my brother.”

“I learned about my son 8 years ago, and have been connected to Gay Bombay’s parents meet movement since then. I have come not just for my son. You are all like my children and I have come to support you all.”

“My son came out to me 15 years ago. For 6 months I did try to take him to psychiatrist. After that the doctor said it is inborn, we cannot change him. Why not accept it gracefully? It’s not in my hands.”

“I’m a psychiatrist, and coming out is very important. My son came out and everyone has accepted him in my family, they have even started accepting the gay community. If he is so good and successful why should it hamper anyone’s life? Parents are afraid their children will suffer and be discriminated against. If you and your relations accept, society will also accept. When more people come out you will no longer be called a tiny minority. Successful gay people should be role models so that people think there is no difference between you and others. Tell your friends to come out.”

“I have met so many parents in the past few years. , Ultimately they say “Maybe I will take my son or daughter to a psychiatrist so they can be cured. My daughter is a professor abroad. She came out to me in 1992. I accepted her immediately and all my family friends accepted her. One of my family told me later we were shocked initially. She insisted on going and telling people she was close to herself. Thinking logically and deeply we realized she’s the same person. All these years we have loved her. What has changed? Nothing. If she falls in love, it will be with a woman, that’s all. If she sets up a family it will be with a woman too. How has it made a difference in our relationship?”

“It was not easy when my son came out. I said don’t tell anyone. But he went about telling everyone that he is gay. So he made me come out of my phobia. Otherwise I would have made him sit at home and be quiet about it. It is very important for children to come out. I have seen him flowering after that. He used to be very afraid to speak even a word.”

“I am a proud mother also a proud mother-in-law to my son’s partner. I’ve accepted both of them, they stay with me together. I will support them throughout my life and support the whole gay community throughout my life.”

“You all call me bua. It has been so many years we have been in touch and we have such a strong bond. I wish from my heart that things are easier for your all. Never say your sexuality is a choice, it is not a choice.”

“My son came out in 2007. I have supported him since then and will support all of you forever. I know the situation you all are in. You can call me 24 hours a day. It was difficult for my son to come out. He took very long to tell. It was I who asked. He started crying and said yes. He asked if I hate him or feel shame. I said no I am very happy so stop crying. We went out for dinner in a restaurant and we slept well. I am very proud of him.”

“I teach sociology at University of Melbourne. Deepak invited me, as I had researched and documented gay men’s life stories across the globe. He wanted to speak on importance of parents and coming out experience. “

“I am meeting you all for he first time. My sister and I never talked about this but my niece knew. She said we want to go to this program. I asked my sister and she said, what’s the big deal? A load was taken off my shoulders. Humans are humans. I had a dream of his marriage. He said I will marry and your dream will come true. It feels very good to meet you all and hear your thoughts. I would like to participate in future as well.”

“I am a father, our son told us 6 months ago. Seeing the support system here I’m feeling better. Didn’t know what is gay and lesbian and have started discussing now.”

Section 1: Personal Strengths and Struggles

What inner strengths did you discover when your child came out?

“Knowing about something makes it easier to accept. If you find out suddenly, without knowledge, acceptance takes time. I’d studied about homosexuals in medicine so I knew about their existence. I’m a cancer survivor. During cancer counseling, when I accepted it I faced it and could find a way out. It’s the same thing. Without knowing something we should not oppose it.”

“It is very easy to accept my brother is gay. He came out on Facebook to me. Being born in this generation I can relate to him very easily. He is brave and inspires me. Being born in a conservative Maharashtrian family and loved so much by parents, he is doing what he is doing. Sometimes if I’m stuck I take courage from his example.”

“When the whole world tells you what you should want and your body and mind tells you something else, this fight is very hard. Hence those who come out to parents who can reject you, it is very courageous.”

“I was always strong, but that opened doors for me, made me observe more, be compassionate and tolerant. It shook me. Helped me move ahead with broad-mindedness.”

If you knew someone gay or lesbian before would have been easier for you?

“Not for me. When my son explained I got it.”

“I didn’t feel bad when she told me. She was 20-21 years old. She knew from the age of 14-15 of being different from her friends. Then why didn’t she tell me? She gave me the reasons that in the early 80s, novels, literature, films were only heterosexual. Any feminine boy or delicate boy was called names even by grown-ups. She was afraid her parents and other may treat her badly. I considered myself so liberal and progressive but I had not given her support when she needed it most. Maybe I make up for that now by trying to support others. I keep telling mainstream people never to take your child’s sexuality for granted. I knew almost no gay people in the 1970s.”

“Sexual behavior is one of the important facets of life. But people are hesitant to talk about it, it is a closed topic. Even with normal sexual behavior many people don’t know what is right or wrong. People don’t know that homosexuality does not mean pedophilia. Homosexuality is not antisocial behavior, pedophilia is. I think it is very good that things are now openly talked about. Once people understand that it is not abnormal or bad, it is not sinful at least as far as Hinduism is concerned. Even things like abortion considered a sin earlier have been accepted now. It is important to educate the public. I am happy that three fathers are here.”

“Are there any other mothers of lesbians? None. I have a complaint, we say LGBTIQ community and while the gay aspect is visible, lesbians are invisible. I would like the lesbian friends to be brought and invited and their parents whether accepted or not they should tell their experiences.”

“I discussed with my sister before taking him to the psychiatrist. The extended family never makes him feel he is different. My husband has not told his side of the family but I want the nephews to know.”

“Frankly I don’t care if people know or not. There’s no question of acceptance as he is what he is. When my son was in the 2nd standard his teacher hit him, his hand was red and swollen. He was scared to tell him and knew that I would fight so he didn’t tell me. At night I saw it and asked. Crying he told me what happened. The next day I went to the Principal’s house at 7am and told them about what happened. I asked are you going to talk to her should I? I have not allowed my husband or me to touch him. If this continues I will take my son out of school and teach him myself. So now that he is gay nobody can dare to open their mouth.”

Can a gay man get married and still leave a happy life?

“Yes he can but he won’t get happiness or satisfaction, he will keep going outside the marriage.”

“In 1970 gay men married women and saved themselves from social hatred. It began when feminism was strong, it was fine for the man, no way fine for the woman, as it treats the women badly.”

“If you try, solution comes. For me this is simply unnatural sex. You should make people be able to have a normal life.”

Will you allow your daughter to marry a gay man?

“You will be happy but the woman will suffer. Marriage is between two people, so any third person will create a problem. If a gay person marries and is loyal to his wife and satisfies his wife, but if he expresses his sexual behavior outside there is a problem. Without trust there will not be a happy marriage.”

“LGBT includes bisexual persons as well who are attracted to both genders. I have met people who are bisexual who are married to opposite gender, they could be bisexual. If they are gay, they can be happy only with other guys.”

Was there any point you regretted your child’s sexual orientation? Why?

“None of my sisters have sons, so we had hopes for daughter in law so we feel sad that will not happen.”

Section 2: Family and Society

How do you deal with relatives and neighbors who ask questions like why is your child not married yet?

“For a long time I didn’t understand that a political act was not just to demonstrate and march in the street, it is by telling their friends and members of their family and a political change takes place by the single act of coming out. Then people know a gay man or woman so they cannot be homophobic in abstraction.”

“My answer when they asked me about her wedding was to say girls don’t get married etc. and sometimes I’d take refuge in a joke. Just as she showed the courage, I must also come out and live honestly and not be hypocritical. I told my close friends who knew her partner, but nobody mentioned her name and it was insulting for her partner to be treated always as a family friend. Despite the Supreme Court judgment, I look people in the eye and talk about my daughter and her partner. Just be confident and talk about your child’s achievements.”

“There was no challenge when he told me. I’m a single parent. From the beginning I love my children very much. I used to watch movies at night and one day he came out to me. I made a comment about one gay person in the movie and he went inside and started crying. I asked him what happened, and he told me. So I said I know and I had sort of guessed. But till he told me I could not come out. I said I love you very much and whatever you are I accept you. My sisters-in-law love him as mothers, and even their daughters have come today. But my side of the family knows everything but don’t want to acknowledge. They don’t ask me anything. I have told those who have asked. Those who don’t I don’t go and tell them. For wedding invitations, they include my son’s partner now. Once step at a time.”

Why did you come out about your daughter to your domestic help?

“In Indian families the driver, domestic help are like a part of the family. I didn’t want anyone to gossip behind our backs. I take them in confidence and tell them. I told my cook that my daughter and her friend are lesbians. She is not only a friend, she is her partner like a husband or boyfriend and girlfriend. My driver is from a small town in Uttar Pradesh and educated only till 8th grade. But he accepted it.”

“One of her classmates in late 80s was very delicate. After 12th standard he came back as a girl after his operation. When everyone got into a car, the driver said he could still hear a boy’s voice. My daughter explained. Call him by his new name. The driver says he is so lucky that his father had money to do the operation. ‘In our village they don’t have money and so they can’t do it and have so much trouble.’ Let us not think that educated people are qualified or tolerant. There are good human beings and bad human beings.”

How did you talk to your son’s partner’s parents?

“When I found out he was settled I was very happy. Hence I told everyone the news at once. Reactions were weird. I thought I did something wrong. “Is it because he went to US to study? Call him back. We will do it a puja. How did this happen? He was such a good boy.” I didn’t get angry because they were ignorant. But after all these years all of them have accepted him. Some prayed for him to change. When I found out I said what will happen to his partner if your prayers work? What about a girl if he marries? I am proud that he has accepted himself, I feel proud that he is not taking a wrong path. Both lives would have been destroyed. Being gay is not a crime. I saw his life there, and his partner’s parents. His partner’s mother started crying. She said both our boys are good but I don’t agree with this. I asked her to stay with them. Along with food, clothing, shelter, in life we want companionship. It doesn’t matter if it is with a boy or girl.”

“Our nani lives with us and I never came out to my grandmother. That time I was dating a boy, and I told her that I love him. First she asked me if it’s a Punjabi. Then she asked Muslim? Gujarati? Then she asked Telugu? Bengali? After everything she asked South Indian? Tamil? Brahmin? Then she says thank God he is a Tamil Brahmin.”

Do you fear that your child will not find a partner or be alone or miserable in his or her old age?

“I think it’s a powerful myth. I came across it while interviewing gay men. Parents said it’s sad you will be lonely in old age. There are 3 interpretations of their reasoning: First, they don’t know any older gay men and have no picture of how life could be lived without an opposite sex partner. The second possibility is the assumption that by having children old age gets better, which in some cases is true and in some not. The third is a rather negative view of gay men as those who don’t settle down, can’t hold relationships and are destined to be alone. This is the least helpful view. The first two may be rectified on exposure. During my research I met a bunch of men in Mumbai in their fifties, leading fulfilled lives, both on and off scene, creating alternative families. A single life is not necessarily a failed life, and not necessarily what gay men are destined to have.”

“8 years ago I met a 60-year-old gay man. He said, ‘In my time there was no internet hence finding a partner was difficult. For kids now it’s not that difficult. Your son is your son, but I am also his mom, as much as you take care of him I will too.’ We come alone into the world, go alone. Why worry? And the fact is yes, they may be alone. Expecting children to take care of you all life is not necessary. This idea of birthing children to be caregivers is wrong. The important thing is that they are happy.”

How is it different from fathers as against mothers to deal with a child’s different sexual orientation?

“Fathers love as much as mothers but don’t know how to express it. Mother doesn’t care about prestige but father does.”

“Fathers identify with sons with ego. More aware of the difficulties the son will face. Hence more difficult to accept.”

“Initially there was a lot of disturbance, my father would see me on TV and say derogatory things. Even my brother would. But they never stopped me. After I came back from the show, they would speak. Now they are very mature. My brother talks about it, my sister said to her to-be husband ‘I will only marry you if you accept my brother.’”

LGBTIQ kids tell their parents present there what they feel:

“I love her a lot. My mom says you not going to the temple but for me my parents are my gods.”

“My mother has been put through a lot of torture because of me. Every show I went on, I said she didn’t support me initially. Yet she stands by me now. On TV shows against Section 377, she accompanies me. Till today my father didn’t accept but now he does and talks about it himself. I am really thankful to them for accepting me. They have worked for many years to understand so I am grateful.”

“I came out 6 years ago and today to get my mom to a Gay Bombay Parents Meeting is history in the making for me. Rather than mother and son, we are like best friends. We fight everyday and the next moment we go and cook together. For 6 years it was ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ and now she came here. I can see that she is happy and my sister is here too. I am really glad. I hope the discussion will go on and on and we will fight the battle together.”

“I have three mothers sitting here today. The one who gave birth to me exemplifies love. I can’t imagine my life without her. Most of my decisions are based on thinking of her first and then me, and it’s same for her. she is my best friend. I can’t imagine not being honest with her or even not being with her. After I came out to her I came out to my elder bua in a paper letter. She wrote back to me. She said I accept you. I don’t care what you are. I love you for who you are and for what you mean to me. She has been a pillar of support. Lastly my other bua. She is the one I am very close to. She took me to discotheques and hotels. I lived the high life with her. I didn’t come out to her first surprisingly. If the social butterfly accepted me I supposed she would too. The three of them have made me who I am. I hope I am a good person because they are just brilliant.”

There was an interval of half an hour for tea and snacks, and many of the LGBTIQ persons approached the parents and had private conversations.

Section 3: Politics

Suddenly your children are now criminals before the law after 4 years of freedom. What is your reaction? How do you advise parents dealing with this new situation?

“Why is the Government after gay people when there are so many issues today?”

“When the verdict came, I was at Azaad Maidan. Before that I was thinking what to wear to celebrate, a party dress. When I heard the verdict I started crying. I waited for years to hear good news which didn’t come. So I felt very angry and sad. But later I realized that whenever change has to happen, it takes time. What we can do is spread awareness, talk openly so people will understand, and one day it will change for the good. A golden day will come someday.”

“When the Supreme Court verdict came I felt very bad and disappointed. I cried a lot. I felt bad for my son. Rome not built in a day. Maybe the LGBTIQ community has to struggle more. Freedom definitely will come, it will be possible. Don’t get caught in legal problems, be aware of cops.”

“Criminals harm society. Consensual adult sex can’t be called criminal. What you do in your own house and bedroom cannot be called a crime. The judicial and political class needs introspection. I’m sure they will change. I sincerely hope within the next 2 years it will change.”

“When we failed in the Supreme Court, I wondered what would happen to my son as he is openly gay and the law is now against him. I never expected this. I was very dejected. In the last 4 years we had gone so much ahead but now we are back to square one. There is always something good in all bad things. So much awareness and debates happened. Those who didn’t know all know now. This was evinced by how many people came to Mumbai Pride 2014. More people will come out, and we hope for the better in the future.”

“Because of the decision we have got more publicity. People have come to know about gay people and the media has helped quite a lot. So we should wait and watch, we cannot do anything else. I would just give a message that gay community should be more careful not to get caught.”

“Everyday there should be one article in the newspaper on sexuality so people are kept aware. Who went to ask the law? If there is no law for heterosexuals then why for homosexuals? Why worry so much about the law? Tell the law we will not change, it will have to change.”

“If you reflect on life even five years ago, men in Mumbai had already been in long-term relationships. This slight interruption is not gong to stop anyone from conducting intimate relationships lasting the distance. They have been conducting them in times of meticulous hostility in the past. If the state starts to peer into the bedroom, then it will be a good reason to take to the streets. But the Indian police won’t have money to spy on people. It will slow down the movement towards same-sex marriage. Take heart in what you did from 2009 and continue doing that in the face of this hiccup as history is on your side. This hiccup will reverse. Thing will be better. This will hold up inheritance rights etc. but that will eventually happen too.”

“We must educate our relatives that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Speak openly.”

“Be cautious that you are not caught, take precautions, the law is against you. Misconceptions like gay people will increase and HIV will spread abound. Some gay people don’t take precautions while doing sex since it is not going to produce a child. Just be careful when roaming around.”

“Society will be perverted, more people will become gay by watching, this is the accusation. This is not a choice. There is not going to be more gay people, some are intelligent, some are not, most are average. Are we going to reject those who are not within the average and who are at the extremes?”

The parents were given a standing ovation and presented with mementos. The meet concluded with thanks.

14th Gay Bombay Parents and Relatives Meet: A Mumbai Pride Event: Report (01/2013)


Venue: Liquid Lounge, Charni Road, Mumbai

Date: January 20, 2013

Time: 4:15pm – 7:15pm

Attendees: 70

Parents and Relatives: Mothers 5 (including 1 in the audience apart from the 4 on stage), 1 father, 1 aunt.

Language: Hindi and English.

 

We had 15 first timers at the meet. Umang began by setting them at ease, saying that they would not be asked any questions that they were not comfortable answering, and that they could come and go as they chose. Of the attendees, 8 wanted to come out, and 30 were already out.

 

This meet featured a surprise: 3 role plays of coming-out scenarios by Umang as a gay son, with the wonderful Mrs. Doshi as a parent.

 

Mother and Son: Role play 1:

It was a moving exploration of how an Indian son searches for ways and terms to explain his sexuality to his perplexed traditional parent. It touched upon attraction, sex, love, marriage and psychiatry. Denial, ignorance, fear, anger, secrecy show up in parental reactions. they went on to show how to access support like Parents Meets and meeting other members of the LGBT community.

 

Mother and Son: Role Play 2:

This was a modern parent. They spoke openly and in a friendly way. The son tried to explain his sexuality with a film as an example. Here the mother was shocked but knew about the gay identity already as against the previous example where it was all completely new. Here again doctors, invoking religion, blaming cinema and company, persuading the son to change were motifs. It ended with a sort of barter where the son says if you take me to a doctor, you have to meet my friends. Here the mother is inquisitive and curious to meet another parent of a gay man.

 

Mother and Son: Role Play 3:

The third mother was ultramodern and urban. The son asks the mother to guess why he is not getting married: she thinks he is not ready, not wanting to take responsibility, that he may do it maybe later when he is ready. On being probed, about anything being amiss or wrong she talked about him being alone, and not playing cricket while growing up. When the son comes out, she does not find anything wrong in it but asks if it is just a phase.

 

Mother, Son and Doctor: Role Play 4: Umang as gay son, Mrs. Doshi as the mother and Mrs. Dash (who is a retired psychiatrist), as a psychiatrist.

Mother: “He told me he is gay, I don’t know what you mean by gay.”

Doctor: “It means that his sexual orientation is towards the same sex. As we grow and reach puberty, there is a normal attraction to opposite sex, in some children, towards the same sex. Usually a boy of 16 interested in girls, but a gay person, would be more interested in guys, e.g. In John Abraham rather than Kareena Kapoor in a movie.”

Mother: “Will his sexuality change? Will he be attracted to women also?”

Doctor: “There are many ways of homosexuality – one is situational homosexuality, like hostels or jails, a person may have relations with the same sex. But in most other cases, the cause is genetic in nature. Up to the age of 12-13 most children behave similarly and are not aware of sex, but as they attend puberty, certain hormones start circulating: pituitary, adrenaline, testes or ovary, and behaviour changes. In girls, oestrogen and progesterone are more. In boys testosterone and steroids more. Sometimes due to different wiring, hormonal differences are present.”

“Am I responsible for him being gay?”

“Absolutely not. Many parents feel guilt about not imparting correct values, leaving children unsupervised. Even children themselves do not make a choice. Everyone would want to go to mainstream if they could. It is not a chosen behaviour, they are made like that.”

“How will I explain all this to his father even I have understood all this myself?”

“For fathers, who may not as easily demonstrate a mother’s unconditional love, become sensitive to anything that affects their social prestige.

“How will I face the society?”

“It’s a question of educating society. We have seen so many gay people, who achieve very much, and they have positive characteristics attributable to men and women, and so reach top of their profession and are respected in society very much.

“What about my other children? How they will get married?”

“Why should it affect anybody? Children have different intelligences and we accept them. Homosexuality is not an anti-social behaviour. It is how God has made somebody, so you have to accept it.”

 

Moms: Role Play 5: The mother introduced to 2 other moms: Harwant Bua and Mrs. Iyer.

“Is your son gay as well? Have you accepted him?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know everything about it?”

“I learnt a lot.”

“Are they saying the right thing?”

“Yes”

“Will they have troubles in their future lives?”

“There will be troubles, but lets see.”

“I feel he will do the right thing in the future. But how will I face society, how will my other children get married?”

“I have the same confidence. Even now my husband has not accepted it but has given us permission to live our lives.”

“Those who can understand, you can tell them. Its not necessary to tell all. Say my son doesn’t want to get married as yet.”

“What about taking care of him in his old age?”

“I am a widow without children.  Nobody is taking care of me, you have to take care of yourself.”

 

Son with other moms: Role Play 6:

“My mom wants me to go to god-men.”

“This will not change by accessing god-men or rituals. If you don’t accept him, others won’t. This will be even more difficult.”

“I want her to meet my boyfriend.”

“Wait for some time, give her time.”

“What about making me see girls?”

“You take many years in accepting yourself, and expect parents to understand everything in 1 day. You feel that others accepted quickly but it was not so, it took others also a lot of time earlier.”

“I didn’t know till he told me, I didn’t have a clue.”

“This is the internet generation so different from us. We didn’t talk so openly about sex, never outside the four walls, how would we know? Parents love children more than themselves. They want them to have a bright future, to become something good. They don’t want child to get ill or have bad habits. As parents,  we shouldn’t consider ourselves culpable. Each parent is different in their reaction. Some parents, even if uneducated, have mental balance. They can think and accept their child  immediately. No degree is required. Some very educated people don’t accept their children. But all must try to understand.”

“My mom thought for 2 days, and then asked what do 2 boys do at night together? I used to get friends home and in the kitchen away from earshot, she would ask, if he is like you?”

 

Welcome:

Umang called each parent to the dais and introduced them. He narrated wonderful anecdotes about each one of them, their stories of coming out as parents of gay persons and how they have been involved in and contributed to our community.

 

Rememberance:

We held a minute’s silence in memory of Mrs Jalnawala, proud mother of our Peshdad, and a veteran of many parents meets. She passed a few months ago, and we all really appreciated the mixture of fondness and firmness with which she dealt with Peshdad.

 

Below are some of the themes discussed:

 

Gender non-normative children (effeminate boys and masculine girls):

“There is a spectrum of sexuality and behaviour. We should be more accepting. People say things, one mustn’t pay attention to them. Neglect them and don’t listen to them.”

“There is no difference in my son, he looks like an ordinary man.”

 

Fathers:

“As a father what was your reaction when your son came out?”

“He disclosed it on the telephone from abroad, so we were shocked and it was very difficult to absorb. Slowly we came to a conclusion that he was right.”

Mother: “In the beginning we didn’t know much, but he told us and gave us books to read.”

“Did you try to change him?”

“When he was in another city, we thought it was due to the hostel. We took him to a doctor as well. But later we had confidence that he wouldn’t lie or do wrong things.”

“Did you think his sister would have problems?”

“She was already married. People will keep talking, we live our live and focus on it. The in-laws have been told and they accept it too.”

 

Lineage:

“What do you feel about propagating the family name and having grandchildren?”

“We feel bad, but many who get heterosexually married don’t have them either. We live happily and that’s enough.”

“He had a boyfriend for 10 years and now another one. Did you feel bad?”

“As long as he is happy, we are happy. People keep asking when he will marry. I say if he doesn’t want to, what can we do? But we don’t disclose his sexuality. It’s not necessary, to go and tell it ourselves.”

“Do you try to dissuade him from going to events?”

“Yes, that’s why we ourselves didn’t come earlier either.”

 

Flaunting:

“How do you react to people who wear their sexuality on their sleeve? How do you react with your son being openly gay?”

“Initially I didn’t like it, but I accepted it. However the other family members haven’t. So we don’t talk. My son wants other LGBT children to be able to come out. He doesn’t like duplicity and feels those who are closeted must come out. So he talked about it in the media. Initially I felt bad. But later he made me stand there besides him too. So now i have accepted it and feel good because many gay children say they feel inspired to speak to their parents. If four people get courage to speak about sexuality, then my being open and his being open has been a success.”

“My son is also against living a double life as a heterosexually married person.”

“My son we knew all about, he was very beautiful and we indulged him. One uncle saw him swirling in a skirt. Horrified he asked what are you doing to this boy? We replied this is his interest. When he came out to his aunt he asked will you still love me? As far as telling others goes, people who are intelligent enough, I tell them. Others who don’t understand, and are narrow-minded, I don’t tell them. He has a partner for 12 years. We take all this in our stride. He is happy and so we are too.”

Umang shared something about Gaver aunty, Harpreet’s mom, her acceptance and how she went and got a copy of Bombay Dost frmo Humsafar and gave it to her son when he came out.

 

Sex obsession:

 

“Why are gays obsessed with sex?”

“Sex is a thing which is very private, doesn’t happen in the open. What 2 people do is their concern. My advice to all young people is accept yourself first, then others will accept you, no guilt, no shame, no anger, no anxiety. Ultimately it is what you make of yourself in life, which decides your future. Do heterosexual people think of what we are doing in the bedroom, all the time? It’s a minor part, think of your career. You never please everyone so don’t bother about that, accept yourself as you are.”

 

Change therapies:

“A god-man asked my parents to get hormonal tests and to get a balance for that. Can we prescribe drugs and become normal?”

“Playing with hormones is like playing with fire, and rather than that, acceptance is better. Sexual orientation is only known to yourself, your mind is not visible to anyone else. Hence it is difficult for parents or society to understand you. I have not seen change due to hormones.”

“There is no hormonal imbalance in the body of a gay person. Don’t try to change yourself”

“When I was in Std 9, parents gave me hormones for my height and body growth as I was very short and thin. Are these same for sexuality change?”

“Don’t get into these things, be proud of what you are , and accept who you are.”

“I have a sister who is not accepting of me, and is into hypnosis, and past-life regression therapy, I do not agree to that.”

“You can go just to satisfy her.”

Deepak: “As a psychologist, these theories are not scientifically tested, there is a lot of harm in going for these therapies, the installation of shame and guilt, the acceptance of the fact that you need to change is going to do a lot of harm. Hormones act as fuel, but direction is decided by the steer, think of hormones that way as well. When you accept there is a problem, you want to go to an ideal self of heterosexual to bridge the gap by different therapies. First accept the idea of not needing to be cured.”

“Mothers who feel they know their children better than themselves, feel shocked to find something they don’t know.”

Timing:

When my son told me he was gay, I asked if I was responsible. He said no. He told me everything. And gave me books. Why did you take so many years to tell me? He said I can’t live without your support and acceptance so I couldn’t tell you.”

“I get calls from people in cities with parents living in remote areas. Its quite inhuman after coming out, that parents are denied acclimatization time. There are ways to work around confrontation, indirect coming out. For example by just revealing that I don’t want to marry. Being open it’s not easy, my mother gets flak for being open. A lot of strength and perseverance is required, that’s the only solution.”

“A lot of people come out at a very young age, could you tell us what is the right time for children to come out to their families?”

“When they are financially independent, because all parents may not accept it in the proper spirit. Unfortunately they think of it as a sexual deviation. So every parent may not accept, so best time to come out is financially independent. Most parents only know by hindsight. He always had girl and boyfriends so couldn’t make out.”

 

Extended Family:

“How do you deal with extended family? Neighbours, relatives, and their parents?”

“The reactions were very different. Some said how can you be happy and tell others? What will our children think? How will they get married? Why are you coming on TV and talking? There was a struggle, but I was confident that I was right so society would accept it and this would be good for other children. All their children got married and my sons sexuality hasn’t affected anybody. We live in an extended society, but all those are really irrelevant. If you are in deep trouble how many of them come to help you? How many are going to admit you in hospital and spend lakhs of rupees on your treatment? So many people who are non-gay also remain unmarried.”

“We come out because we are brave enough to do so. All these parents and aunts are exceptionally brave people. They are a minority. We live in a society that does not accept your homosexuality. Society needs to be adjusted to. On the other side, there are people who really want acceptance from society. I also believe as LGBT, we should make our parents strong enough to face the world by bringing them to meets like these, to Pride marches. Thus they can see that there are different kinds of people, not just stereotypes within the community. The rainbow flag tell us we are all different. We have to allow for the fact that there are people who believe that opinions of others do matter.”

 

Adoption and Surrogacy:

“If your child wants to have a surrogacy or adoption what do you feel about it?”

“As a straight woman I didn’t want children, because life is difficult, we four brothers and sisters have not had children out of choice. I do not think society is not ready. Adopting is good, but its not good to have children through surrogacy.”

“I agree society is not ready, but as long as my son is financially independent its fine. Day by day the world is moving forward, and questions like taunts etc are not important, soaring prices are.”

“I personally feel that hypothetically if I were to have a child, bringing him or her up would be very different. When my niece sees my ex boyfriend, even now she is attached to him. It’s all about how you condition the child, the upbringing. Nothing is easy. Its like coming out with any disability. The conscious decision and effort by LGBTs to bring a child in the world would automatically ensure better parenting.”

“You are fighting for your rights, you can have a surrogate child. You have to be strong, the child will be strong, that is the future of India.”

“We can’t live in fear of society. Adoption is common.”

“You shouldn’t bother so much about society. If you want a child, why do you ask others? If you can give sufficient affection to the child, it’s good.”

“All children go through challenges.”

“Many in the audience want to get a child. 20 years down the line the acceptance levels will improve to. I strongly believe good parenting let’s a child face anything. We have faced harsh situations, and with that strong will, I can make my child strong enough to face the world with confidence.”

“I wouldn’t adopt because being gay I have gone through a lot in my life. I can make my child as strong as possible in the house but I cannot control all the salient factors outside. My parents when they go outside cant control the salient factors so what do we do?”

 

Break

At 6pm we took a break for tea, coffee and sandwiches. The LGBTs interacted with the parents one on one with specific queries about their own situations, and the parents interacted with each other as well.

 

After the break:

Changes in Parents’ Life after Child’s Coming Out:

 

“How has your child’s coming out as well as your own coming out changed your life for the better or worse?”

“Life has changed. I have become more knowledgeable and a stronger person. Because of him I came to know about gay people, I met you all, I’m very happy about it, otherwise I would not have been here. I would never have bothered to think about gay people. As my son is gay I am always looking forward to helping you and your parents.”

“I am a very introverted person. I never mingled with anyone. I never talked with anyone. My son has made me come here. Today I am able to speak to you all without any fear. That is a big achievement for me. He has made me famous also. People used to look down upon us. Now they look up at as us. He is a support for me. He needed my support for his success. As long as he is in the right path. I will guide him also.”

“I’ve met so many young boys who give me so much love and affection. I don’t have children of my own and you all compensate for that.”

“I have so many friends with other parents of LGBT which is also a very great thing for me.”

“When he disclosed his sexuality, when we found that he was alone, we have supported him. Life has changed, our doubts have gone. He is busy with his own duties. He is handling a business independently and I am retired now.”

“Earlier I used to see to dream of a daughter-in-law. Now I have another son.”

“As far as my attitude is concerned, I became a little protective. You feel protective towards your child. He was always independent, and I have full faith in his intelligence and to his choices in life.”

 

Changes in Child’s Life after Child’s Coming Out:

“Without the support of parents children can’t live. He got confidence and happiness. He knows he is on the right track.”

“After he came  out to me, I see a lot of change in him. Earlier he didn’t have a single friend, now I have to curb his friendships, stop him from talking on the phone all the time. He is very confident, his confidence is soaring. Sometimes he is overconfident. He’s going to dare arrest and go for the pride march. Sometimes he takes it too far. But coming out helps a child. Or else he has a guilty feeling about what he is doing wrong. When you tell your parent your guilt is gone. Now the ball is in the parents’ court. You feel free and light.”

“Before coming out he would lie about his whereabouts. Now he feels relief at not having to tell me lies.”

 

Pride March Permissions:

“Despite three attempts our request to hold permission for the march has been denied. We have recourse to appeal to a higher authority and get in touch with the Commissioner of Police. We were wondering if parents could write a letter in our support or come along with us with us to the next meeting. This would send a very strong statement: we don’t have an issue with our child being gay, why do you?”

 

Conclusion:

 

Umang gave the Get Well Soon card for Gaver aunty to Harpreet, signed by everyone present.

Bala said that parents would be available by email and telephone to children and to other parents, and the wonderful parents were given a standing ovation of applause by the audience.  To give some context, this was GayBombay’s second event as a part of Queer Azaadi 2013, a variety of events by the Mumbai LGBT community concluding with the Mumbai Pride March on February 2, 2013. After the very successful Rainbow Kite Flying last Sunday, we were very happy to offer this unique and signature event as a part of the line-up this year – a conscious decision on the part of the GB core group after QAM 2011 last year where we found ourselves unceremoniously relegated to “one more party organizer”. It was part of our commitment to bring these successful and effective ways of creating networks of support, and of building solidarity to the larger queer community in Mumbai. Never replicated and unfailingly poignant, the parents meets typify how we can take the larger discourse of LGBT rights and bring in the larger mainstream in a unique, irrepressible desi way, instead of segregating and ghettoising ourselves. And for this, we have the fantastic parents, relatives and friends, who over 14 meets in 15 years, have given us their courage, love, support, humour and admonishments to make this possible, so a big big THANK YOU and salute to all of them – Harpreet, Anand, Harwant and Munni Bua and Gaver Aunty; Mrs. Sarojini Dash, Mr. and Mrs. Tapale and their son Mayuresh; Mrs. Iyer and her son Harish, and Mrs. Shobha Doshi as well as the mother in the audience. Also a big thank you to Umang for bringing his heart and soul to the effort, the appreciation and warmth he exudes and to Deepak Mehra for the wonderful arrangements. Thanks also to the wonderful audience who listen carefully, ask questions, and though, finding themselves disagreeing with the parents on multiple occasions, retain the maturity and large-heartedness to accept the multiplicity of viewpoints given the context in which the parents operate. Till the next parents meet, let us remember: We Are Family!