In celebration of Pride Month this June we will share stories from and about the LGBTQ+ South Asian community. The following story was published in the second edition of our quarterly zine, we are colorfull, which celebrated LGBT history month from a South Asian diaspora perspective.
Indian parents really are concerned with the same things for their children – a good education, a promising job and settling down. Like any parent, I looked forward to the future where my children would do the same and have a family of their own.
I have two sons, and one of them is gay.
When Deepak was younger, I was curious about his female friends, and he’d always say if there was anything serious, he would tell me. He’d spoken about a particular girl and how things were going, but one day told me it was over and that he’d be open to me finding a rishta (an introduction to a potential marriage partner). As excited as I was, nothing ever seemed to materialise – he didn’t seem to be particularly interested, saying he was busy and didn’t have the time to meet.
Time passed and he was still single (and getting older!). One day he said I have something to tell you and my first thought was that he’d met someone.
That was the day he came out to me, and when he said he was gay I remember feeling very hot and my heart started to beat very quickly. I didn’t know what to say and didn’t want to hurt him but my first thoughts were ‘this can’t be true’, ‘he can’t be gay’ to ‘this is all my fault’. As parents, we’d given him these genes and that it came down to us. But over time, this didn’t make sense as my other son is heterosexual and has recently got married. It’s not my fault or faulty genes, that’s just the way Deepak is and it’s his identity in the same way his eyes are a particular colour.
At that moment, I remember saying the things he wanted to hear, that it was OK, that there was nothing to worry about. But inside, I felt a deep pain – that he would be alone and that after we passed on, he would be by himself with no children or family to support him.
After he left, I cried a lot. It felt as though I had many different emotions to express and needed to do this privately. I felt I’d let him down, as his father and I had divorced some time back and he’d lived with him. I felt a guilt that I should have been there for him, that I would have supported him if I had known.
The next day, my focus shifted. I’d been thinking about my emotions, and I began to wonder how he’d been feeling all these years. Call it maternal love, but I wanted to protect him. I thought about how hard it must have been growing up, feeling confused and I just wished I had been there to support him when he needed it. No parent likes to see their child unhappy or face any kind of hardship. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t hurt by anyone, but that’s not something I can control.
I’ve educated myself; I read articles to understand what is happening in his world, I’ve listened to other parents’ views which has also been helpful. I’ve taken ownership for my own learning, I take an interest in all aspects of his life and we talk about everything he does – it’s not like he has told us and we have never mentioned it again. I’m more accepting of the LGBTQ community and feel angry when I see the headlines in the news; a fear for them as well as my son.
As time has passed, I’ve accepted him more and more. Looking back to the day he told me, I can honestly say I accept him. He is his own person and I am there to support him, and love him unconditionally. Our role as parents is to give unconditional love to our children and support them.
My advice to other parents
We have to respect and support our children, no matter what. If we don’t then who else will? Think of their early childhood; we would do anything to protect them, ensure their safety and keep them happy. So why would that change now? Talk to them about how they feel and what’s happening in their life. Take the time to read up on LGBTQ issues as there is lots of useful information on the internet.
Speak to those you’re closest to, as it can be a confusing time for you as well. My husband was a great support to me in the early stages, comforting me and helping me focus on my son’s needs. And if I ever felt down, I had the support of my best friend too.
Practice unconditional love for your child, no matter what.
By working through my emotions and focusing on my support for my son, I’ve been able to build a positive relationship with him and become stronger in my acceptance of him. Who cares what other people say, when you are able to maintain a relationship with the most important person in your life, your children? I love him and am very proud of who he’s become.
Article written by Meena Parui. Meena is more than just a mother to a gay son, she loves to travel so working at British Airways helps! She has a passion for dance and listening to Bollywood music, reading and connecting with people. She is vocal in her support for queer people and for everyone to live a happy, peaceful life. She also loves to cook; her uttapam and muttar paneer is to die for.
Artwork by Gaurav Hablani (@bizarresyndrome).