'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.