Monday, November 02, 2009

The 8th Gay Bombay Parents Meet

It's not so often that I crosspost other's articles, but was a little too tempted to do so this time. Sachin's reports are a class apart, took the liberty to post it over here, as it doesn't mention names of the participants.

Please read.
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EVENT: GAYBOMBAY'S 8TH PARENTS AND RELATIVES MEET – A REPORT

- by Sachin 

Date: Sunday, November 01, 2009
Time: 4 to 7p.m.
Venue: Liquid Lounge, Bombay

Participants:

Mothers of gay men = 9
Fathers of gay men = 2
Aunts of gay men = 2
Sisters of gay men = 3
Gay men = 125
Lesbians = 001

Introduction:

Umang introduced each parent by saying something special about them and with some appreciation. This was met by applause from the audience. He mentioned that it was wonderful that they took the time and effort to come to this meeting and that we were deeply honored by the same. During the meeting, speaking in any language was fine. There were no photos or media, and we intended it to be like we were speaking at home; very casual.

Objective:

Parents of LGBT children face unique issues. This was an effort to make the parents meet the gay community, and more importantly for the LGBT people, both out and closeted, to listen to and interact with parents who have faced up to the alternative sexual orientations of their children or relatives.

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"Settling down"
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• Will you be happy if your son has settled down? Have you discussed his relationships with him?

"I would prefer it if he did. It is not so easy. When it comes to two guys both want to be independent, both must have a job. In a heterosexual relationship even if a girl doesn't work it does not matter. She gives up her job. With 2 men this is problematic. Unless they reside in the same city and are sure of remaining there for a long duration of time, it is difficult for the two men to have a steady relationship. My son doesn't know how long he will inhabit that city. Of course, I will be happy if he has a home and a steady companion throughout for the rest of his life. I can only pray for it. When it will happen and how I cannot say."

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"Personal space"
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• Parents worry a lot about fleeting relationships. This anxiety irritates the child. Where does the parent draw the line between protecting and intruding?

"When children grow up, we do influence them. As they turn 24-25 years of age, they don't want to be harassed all the time. If my son is well-settled and wants to lead his life alone then I should not badger him all the time. Give him space. Everyone wants space all the time. Even we parents ourselves, if we are told something, we don't like it to be repeated. We get tired. After 25-26 you must leave guys alone. If they want advice, give it to them. You always love them, so you must support them."

"I have a peculiar problem. My mother is over-understanding. If I am out for 2-3 hours my mom asks which guy I am with. My mum knows how my brain works. At times it gets too much but it is okay."

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"Promiscuity"
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• How do you deal with a gay son's multiple boyfriends?

"Even girls have multiple boyfriends. Parents don't necessarily know what happens in their heterosexual child's life either."

"I don't agree that gays look out for sex any more than straight men. In a gay relationship they are bold enough to explore the world. Given a chance every straight guy wants to be Casanova. Irrespective of sexuality, a man's sexual urges are always there."

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"Coming Out"
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"Much before he told me he had prepared the ground. His father expired two years ago. I was alone. For him it was difficult to gauge how I would react. He wondered, `she may not talk to me, she may hate me.' But when he told me I didn't feel anything at all. He himself didn't want to be like this. He was fighting himself. For 7 years he took his time, before telling me. First he convinced himself, then he told me. You too may have asked yourself why you are the way you are. It cannot be changed by anyone. God has made you like that. I don't consider it his fault or mine. God has made all of us."

"I came out to my mom 2 years back. We are both doctors. The day I cleared my exams, I took her for a walk and told her I liked guys. She seemed alright then. I thought everything would go well. But little did I realize that mom was taking it as a joke. When I said `mom I like guys', she said, `yeah me too!'. There was a state of denial. Two years down the line, we have the same situation. Current scenario at home is that of a daily war."

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"The Role of Education"
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"Nowadays there is a lot of awareness in the media as well as access to the internet. If the parents do not speak English how difficult is it to explain what homosexuality is?"

"Education is irrelevant. What matters is how much the parent loves the kid and understands her. I feel the more educated and globally exposed parents are, the more narrow-minded, blinkered and status-obsessed their outlook is."

• In all these years have you met parents who are not too educated and have very little exposure to these issues. How did you counsel them? My parents don't know these terms.

"There was one parent who was very rigid, who said there are either men or women. Homosexuality is unnatural and should not be done. Such parents take longer time to absorb the fact. I am so glad that we have this gay parade, and that television and print media are talking and writing about gay issues. Earlier it was not so much. Such people need more and more meetings to understand things better. One should always emphasize that he or she is your child. Let love conquer everything. Parents too have problems. They have to face the extended family. But let love prevail."

"I came out to both my housemaids on National Coming Out day. My maid would always ask when I was getting married and when she would get celebratory sweets. I told her I am `gud', the colloquial word, and that I liked guys. She was absolutely normal. She didn't jump off the roof or me to my mother and say anything, It was a non-issue for both the maids. If you are good to them and consider you to be a good human being, it is a non-issue. Male members of family have been less supportive than the females. It is a similar situation at my workplace."

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"Living together"
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• When a guy marries a woman they stay together in the same house. Is Mumbai ready for gay couples living with the family under the same roof, or is it a distant dream?

"Relatives have no problem but bigger boys in the building snigger and pass remarks. If people come and ask, I can tell them to mind their own business."

"If the concerned people understand, I tell them my nephew is gay. Once an officer came to my house, and we happened to have a discussion on the subject. He was very vulgar. So I didn't even discuss it further. If it is necessary then only I tell others."

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"Did you know already?"
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• Almost 10-11 moms here. Boys are closer to their mothers as compared to girls. Before your son came out, did you know about his sexuality in your heart?

"He would wear bangles, and my kurtas, and dance. When he came out it was not surprising since as a child we saw him doing all these things. Once when it was raining he cried and cried so his mother went and got him the bangles he wanted. We knew but at that time we were not exposed to the concept."

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"Fathers"
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• I am sure dads are also concerned and worried. What goes through a father's mind when a son comes out? Do you feel he is less manly? Why are accepting fathers in a minority? Do you worry about the continuation of lineage?

"He came out to us on the phone. It took some minutes for it to register. I am proud of him and supported him."

"My husband was shocked. He wondered if he was on drugs, what was wrong."

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"Post - Delhi High Court Verdict"
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• Do you feel any difference post-377?

"There is more awareness. But people don't fully understand yet. Some parents brush it under the carpet."

"There is emotional power in sharing. Thank you parents for being so open and sharing so openly your feelings and thoughts. We have a big challenge ahead. Fundamentalist leaders are coming together to say that homosexuality is unnatural. There is strong opposition with 13 petitions in the Supreme Court against us. The High Court judgment says LGBT people are full citizens of the country. How do we protect the judgment? We can get psychiatric associations that say homosexuality is natural. However where parents come in very strongly is where the appeal is at an emotional level. The opposing parties say homos prey on children. How to address these arguments at emotional level? We can have an intervention of parents saying we want the judgment safeguarded. Is it possible to have parents getting together to intervene in the Supreme Court saying we support the judgment and do not want our children to be mistreated in our country?"

"There are two very important benefits to this: Firstly an emotional view in additional to a rational one. Secondly senior lawyers will respond to parents and support us. Please think about it, ask your friends and parents. You will have to sign an intervention in your own name. We are hoping for 20-25 parents to sign and get a senior lawyer to represent us. Please ask your parents to think about it and get in touch with us.

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"Extended family"
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"How you cope with coming out is personal. I haven't spoken to any relatives. Some are open-minded but some will just make this an excuse for gossip and politics. His cousins know about it and I don't even know if they have told their parents. They know he stays alone. It depends on who is asking and what the intention behind asking is. Why should some people be allowed to use his being gay to serve their own ends?"

• I am out, family has met my boyfriend, no issue. For the first time, my cousin has invited my boyfriend and I to her marriage. I find my extended family very annoying. I have no desire to deal with their questions. Should I go to the marriage with my boyfriend or not?

"People like you who have status in society should be open about it. Go."

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"Discretion"
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• I came out two years back. My parents are okay but they say, "Please be discreet. We accept you but don't tell anyone. Once people know, they will talk about you and us in a negative light. Why don't you go to another country and live?" I don't agree since the world is small and things come around anyways. Does anyone have an experience of keeping it discreet among family and friends?"

"We have a constant argument in the family. Heterosexual society doesn't advertise like you do."

"They are dealing with the fear that tomorrow someone would point out that they are gay or that they raised their child badly. You can make a deal: "If you want me to go to a psychiatrist, you have to come to a parent's meet. It's a deal."

"Concentrate on becoming independent. "

"You should make your parents understand this is not bad or mad behavior,. It is not asocial or antisocial. It should be easier then for your parents to accept you. Of course the majority is heterosexual and a minority are homosexual. Make them understand that something is not deviant because only a few possess it. It is an orientation like left-handedness. It is not abnormal or criminal. Give parents time. Some take a long time. Mothers are possessive and have a lot of expectations. From the time the child is born we think of his or her future and have lots of ambitions for him or her. Knowing that you will not have a family life, this disappointment comes out in denial. After all among normal people homosexuality is a passing phase exhibited during adolescence. Hence they think it is a passing phase for you too. So you need to make them understand: "If you forcibly make me marry, I will be doing injustice to another person. Parental affection is always there and you have to give them time. They always hope they can change you. Once they know you will not change, they will accept you."

"Once you are an adult, you have to put your foot down. You have a right to live your own life. As long as you are not doing something criminal, every parent will come to accept you."

"Since I have come out my parents have never pressurized me, never asked `whom do you hang out with, which party do you go to'. It is my duty as the son that if they are not comfortable with something, to not cross the line. It is my responsibility to protect their individuality. "

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"Conflict resolution"
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"Even in heterosexual relationships men avoid and ignore issues. Girls want to talk it out."

"There is no binding glue of a marriage in gay relationships. In our situation anyways everything is under cover, and we think we always have other options."

"How do you know that heterosexual relationships given the option would not break up? Most straights don't even get a chance to date."

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"Forging relationships"
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"There are lots of people in long-term relationships. Those who can become role models are too busy leading their quotidian lives. The reason there are no gay matrimonial sites is that the way the gay community in Bombay is evolving is good. The flip side of matrimonial sites is failed and forced marriages. Why hold up arranged marriage as an ideal?"

"While growing up, a gay relationship was something people knew nothing about. Today what I have seen is heartening. Lots of gay people aspire to have a long-term relationship. Anyone who enters a relationship, wants it to be long-term. I agree that the way to go is not to have a gay matrimonial site. Instead we should provide gay men t opportunity to meet in a non-sexual environment. "

"I have had two prior relationships that didn't work out. With us they are lot of compromises. His parents won't accept his lifestyle. So we cannot live together. He has given up a lot from his idea of an ideal relationship. There is no guarantee. I always have a deep-seated fear of ending up alone. But there are no guarantees in any relationship. You have to prepare for the future but know that it is always uncertain."

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"Fear"
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• Looking at the future what's your one big fear for your child?

"I fear he may be alone. I would like my son to have a permanent or at least a long-lasting relationship. When two people are together you are angry and depressed and make each other a buffer. But when it remains confined within you it hurts your personality and your relationship with other people. A permanent relationship I would like for him, as it is important. When you get your child married the parents feel relieved that the children have now settled down. I would like my son to have somebody who would understand him and share his choices. It helps you to grow. In marriages how long does that love remain? You have to work at the relationship. It needs a lot of sacrifice and mutual understanding. "

"I have no fear for my son, I have full confidence in him. I once asked him if the relationship will last for ever, he said he will try his best."

"Always the fear is about old age. The mind should not remain vacant and in old age grand children occupy the mind. If you are too lonely, unless the person turns religious, it is bad. Just as the physical body needs food, the mind needs to be occupied."

"My son is into social activities but I fear his old age since he cannot look after himself even today. He doesn't know where he keeps his things, I say you must adopt so you know how difficult it is to raise a child!"

"Nothing bothers me but I feel that going ahead, his relationships should last. He should not be alone in the future."

"I worry about my son like any other parent. In his old age how will things turn out? Our community is made up of middle class families. In Bombay even today the concept has not fully developed. You have been saying for 20 years that society is changing so where is that change? Of all the gay men sitting here, why are there no couples here? My son is nearing 40. Soon we will depart this world, how will it work ? What solution have you got for that?"

"I agree with sir, there are people in the colony who ask my mother who this guy visiting her son is. But it all depends on how strong your son is and how much you stand by him to give him stronger support. He is the one who has to take courage and stand up. I live in a predominantly middle-class colony. Their children talk about it behind our backs. You have to be strong and look at the brighter side of things. I look at the single people in my family as examples, since they are the people who love and support my mom and aunts."

"There is also the possibility of the gay man adopting a child, the issue of loneliness is not only about being part of a couple."

"I am a widow. I have no children. I am alone. My only close-knit family is my sister. I am alone. Even we are dealing with it. It hurts me sometimes that I have nobody to call my own. Fear of being alone is not only within the gay community."

"In my family we have relatives who have not married. They stayed with other relatives or friends. There are many examples of such relatives, but nobody raised the question in that whole generation. In earlier generation these domestic arrangements were present too. There are examples in every family where someone has not married and spent his life the way he wanted to."

"I have fear but I feel God is there. He can adopt a child and if the child is very young and is fine it shouldn't be a problem to adjust. For lasting relationships we should also see kundalis."

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Film: Unconditional Love (by Dr. Raman and Siddharth)
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We watched the 20 minute film after an introduction by Dr. Raman, psychiatrist.

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"Professional and Unprofessional Help"
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"Most of these examples of seeking help, the area we intended to talk about, these are all real. By the time they come to the psychiatrist they have already tried so many of these things."

"None of you'll were educated or knew about homosexuality except for something on TV. Your child came up to you and talked about it. How did you get yourself to have a fairly good understanding of homosexuality? What about your journey of trying to understand what's going on with the child? How much of help did you really seek from a professional or pseudo-professional ?"

"We knew about it, we didn't need to be educated. Over the years we learnt more and more. We didn't take him to any doctors or astrologers. "

"I wanted to come out but I thought my mother would collapse. I took her to a psychiatrist. My mom was adamant that I get married. The counselor said I will ask you in front of your mother. She asked my mother certain questions about me, mom said he doesn't want responsibilities. When the psychiatrist said one of the reasons could be that he is a homosexual, my mom got wild and started abusing the psychiatrist. My mom turned to me and asked, "Are you like that?" I said yes. Mom said you are just making this up and this woman is supporting you. There has been no difference in my mother's attitude since then."

"At least 50% of the psychiatrist fraternity even today, are uncomfortable as they think it's something to be treated. All the different types of therapies, loading the child with anti-depressants and tranquilizers is a reality. Maybe this is simply because they themselves cannot come to terms with this. This is all the more reason that we should seek help from within our community rather than going to these quacks."

"I met a couple of psychiatrists, and one of them actually told me its up to you. You can start developing feelings for women. I met a famous sexologist. He said by June 2006, you will turn straight. We made visits to religious places. It was weird and funny. I definitely lost my morale. The doctors are well educated in their fields and have degrees flashing on their tables. But they are humans too and can make mistakes."

"The only role of the psych with a gay person if they are depressed otherwise there is no role."

"When I came out my parents were very worried and my brother very homophobic. Brother and Father took me along to this counselor. I spoke for an hour or so. He said there is no issue. Let me counsel your father now."

"Awareness, education and love are the only ways to help gays overcome their difficulties. If there is unconditional love the parent is going to support the child come what may. We have to accept the child and it is very hard for the psychiatrist. The question put across by the parents is, are you siding with us or with our son?"

"When I came out they took me to a religious place for a ceremony. So before it started my father told the religious person my son likes boys. The priest told me this is all wrong. After the ceremony we had to offer something and the priest was very cute and I grossed him out by winking at him. He said to my father don't bring your son here again."

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Gay studies
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"I had a suggestion. I opted for gay studies in India during my MA. Half the department was scandalized. We can approach universities and create lots of awareness. When we got insights of the human element, we got more people to read and understand queer studies. Most queer literature in academics is sexually oriented and loaded with sexual tendencies. It should be more balanced to give a rounded view."

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Opposite-sex marriage
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"Never even remotely push your child to get married to the opposite gender. It can lead to a complete and total disaster."

"If 85% gay men get married, why cant you get married? I am among the remaining 15% who don't get married. It's your son's decision. If he is strong enough to choose not to be married to the opposite gender and continue to lead his life we support him all the way."

"A son of a closeted homosexual caught his father in bed with a younger man and committed suicide. There is another child is struggling with depression on finding out that his father is a bisexual, we have not thought of this though it is much commoner elsewhere. Some gay men think, `we can lead double lives and manage to fool both the groups. Why go through these hassles? Marry a woman to appease parents and carry on by the side'. We don't look ahead at what's going to come when we have our own children. How will you answer your child when they come to know? We need to take our call now – there are many who are not in a long term relationship. That is no excuse to marry the opposite sex. In Bombay and Poona in the last year itself 3 have come to break their marriages after learning of their sexuality. One got the ex-wife remarried and happy. He is looking for boyfriend."

"I love my brother and adore him, and follow him everywhere. As long as I am there I will never let anything happen to him ever. If I accept him nobody will have the guts to ask anything."

Conclusion:

Umang thanked the parents and everyone gave them a standing ovation. Gaybombay gifted specially-made rainbow mugs saying "Proud parents of a fabulous child" to all the parents.

"If during the course of this meeting you have visualized your own parents sitting here, do bring them to the next meeting."


Please visit www.gaybombay.org

3 comments:

Shobha said...

Thanks for sharing this Harish.... :-)

Crazy Sam said...

I'll be definitely attending the next parents meet! :-)

Crazy Sam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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