Parental Support is Crucial for a Child

‘Parental Acceptance Can Heal Trauma Of LGBTQ Children’

Mumbai-based Aruna Desai, 58, co-founder of Sweekar – The Rainbow Parents, an LGBTQ+ help group, says parental support is crucial for a child suffering from sexual orientation and gender-identity crisis

I am an out and proud mother of a gay child. I am not a victim that I have to ask for sympathy from someone. When my son came out, in the beginning for almost two to three years I was asked by people how the acceptance came to me. I asked them back what they meant by “acceptance”. He is my child. His sexual orientation doesn’t make me any less proud of him. The children are not born with these tags, it is us as a society that put those tags on them.

When my son came out in 2007, he was scared. He told me about Section 377 which criminalized homosexuality in India before it was amended in 2018 and that being gay was criminal. I wondered how my son who loved another boy could be a criminal. The only thing I knew was he was my child, and I loved him. So when he told me he was gay, I remained calm. I took him out for dinner and told him I loved him no matter what and my love for him is unconditional.

He was 17 years old then. Once he got my support, nothing else mattered to him. I feel, once the children get their parents’ support, they can conquer the world. On the other hand, the parents’ rejection can turn their lives into hell.

When the child is in a mother’s womb, the parents love the unborn unconditionally, without having a second thought about the child’s gender. So, the parents should realise that when the child comes out to them they don’t change, they are the same person they were yesterday. It is your perception for your child that changes. How can you as a parent end up discriminating against them on the basis of their gender or sexual orientation when they come out?

Desai says every parent of an LGBTQ child as a story to share

Parents need to understand when a child comes out to you, the child does not intend to hurt you. The child has also struggled with his or her identity and suffered internal turmoil. People from the LGBT community have a hard time accepting themselves and the society anyways is not kind towards the community. As parents we should understand their internal struggle, support them and feel proud that they trusted us enough to tell us instead of making them feel any worse.

When my son came out, I, along with four other parents who were out and proud and helping their and other children come out to their parents formed a WhatsApp group to help ease the struggle children face with acceptance of sexuality and parents accepting their children the way they are.

We realized there were many LGBTQ+ support groups but not for the parents of LGBTQ+. Hence came in February 2017, Sweekar – The Rainbow Parents. The group was formally launched with the help of some ten parents of Indian LGBTQ children and the support of Sridhar Rangayan and Saagar Gupta who had then made a film called Evening Shadows which revolves around the story of a young gay man who comes out to his mother.  

ALSO READ: I Guide Parents Of LGBTQ Children: Sridhar

Every parent of an LGBTQ+ child has a different story to share. The vision of the group was to help parents with their own journeys of coming out and to help them accept their children, guide each other, educate ourselves with the latest news and laws on LGBTQ+ community and seek to dispel the myths and misinformation that surround sexual orientation and gender identity.  When we started we wanted to be a pan-India group, however, gradually, parents of Indian origin residing in other nations like Oman, Australia, London etc started joining the group to challenge the discriminating notions around LGBTQ+ community and fight for their rights.

Sweekar has a Facebook page and an Instagram handle by the same name. Today we have 117 parents in that WhatsApp group and are happy about it for the fact that it has a multifold effect in increasing the awareness about LGBTQ+ community. One parent can help sensitise 20 more people in his/her extended family and friends. Since 2007 we have been able to sensitise over 200 parents of children from LGBTQ+ community.

My message to parents of LGBTQ+ children is to accept your children as they are. And if you think that your child should choose a heterosexual lifestyle, have a change of scene by asking yourself if you were asked to choose a homosexual life, will you do that. Like a heterosexual cannot be forced to become a homosexual, the vice versa is also true. No one voluntarily chooses a life laden with fear, discrimination and isolation by classmates, friends, colleagues, and family.

So when your child comes out to you don’t be judgmental, or accusatory. Reassure them by saying “I love you, and I am proud of you for telling me.”  Have an open dialogue with your child where you can both share each other’s concerns. All you have to do is unlearn some things and learn new things about your child and just be there for them.

– As told to Mamta Sharma


'I Support, Guide Parents of LGBTQ Kids'

about a gay son coming out to his mother and the challenges she faces in accepting him.  

I am a member of the LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & Queer) community and have worked on gay rights for almost 20 years now. In all these years, I realised, how the parents of LGBTQ community members need support to bring up their children. We all know by now that it is hard for members of LGBTQ community to come out of the closet. But have you ever thought how it feels for the parents who first realise that their child is a homosexual or a bisexual! In a society that is largely homophobic, the trauma, and the stigma faced by them has largely been ignored.

When I was directing my film ‘Evening Shadows’ about a gay son coming out to his mother and the challenges she faces in accepting him, I came up with the idea of forming a support group for parents of LGBTQ community members. When parents first come to know of their child’s sexual orientation, which does not conform to the society’s accepted norms, they are shocked. They tend to go into a shell and start blaming themselves. ‘Where did I go wrong?’ they would ask themselves.

Loneliness follows. They stop connecting with their children. My film portrays these issues and has been doing well in the film festival circuit. But my real audience were the Rainbow parents. I wanted them to see the film and know that they are not alone and that it is not their fault. So, in 2016, a portion of the money that was raised for funding my film, by my company, Solaris Pictures, was donated to kickstart a parent-support group called, Sweekar-The Rainbow Parents. Some parents, who were actively speaking up at public platforms became the founding members of the group. Now the group has over 40 parents from cities, such as, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune. We found that women are more accepting of their child’s sexual orientation in comparison to men.

For them, their child is more important. This is reflected quite clearly in our support group as it majorly comprises mothers and has about five fathers. One grandmother too needs a special mention too. Sweekar conducts it meetings once in every three months in Mumbai. Parents share their experiences and anxiety with each other and extend emotional support. Several myths and misconceptions about the community are busted at these meetings.

We plan to start a helpline for LGBTQ members and connect parents from all walks of the society. The focus would be to train the members of the group so that they can sensitise their relatives and friends about LGBTQ people. Some of the parents have become very vocal on LGBTQ rights and readily participate in public meetings, discussions and workshops.

They also participate in Pride marches across the country. Recently, a parent participated in a Pride march with me in Vietnam. Parents themselves have been promoting and managing the group. Harish Iyer and I support and help the group. The LGBTQ community rejoiced when the Supreme Court has decriminalised Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, but this is just the beginning.

There is a mountain of challenges that lie ahead. There are several parents in smaller towns in India, who need help. Even in big cities, parents have had a tough time in accepting their child’s sexual orientation. We have had parents, who left the support group. Some said that they have already accepted their child. But some were just not convinced.

Even after a lot of discussion, they perceive it as a ‘disease’ which can be ‘cured’. It is difficult to take some parents on board but not completely impossible. We are getting there slowly. They will be proud one day.