Perin Ilavia’s Article

Have you contemplated how you’d react if you discovered your child was gay! Would you rupture a nerve or would you react with equanimity? Talking to a cross section of people, I found most of them reacted – Gay?!!

Homosexuality has been prevalent in every strata of society and always swept under the carpet and only recently it is being discussed openly. Though an existing fact, the word is not mentioned and no thought is given to this aspect of a person’s nature.

It can’t happen to me, is what parents usually think. How are you supposed to react? With horror or understanding?

Most parents were embarrassed to be asked about it. A person does not become gay out of choice. Many want to be straight, but nothing can change “that feeling.”

Parents of gay children blame themselves and the children feel victimised by society. “It takes a lot of courage to admit to the fact, that your child is different”, says a mother of a 21-year-old boy.

“The growing up years were filled with pranks, fun – he had a lovable nature and was a brilliant student, inclined more towards music and art than football. Nothing unusual. The teenage days were filled with pimples, loud music, long phone calls, change of hairstyle and dress sense. Had the boy changed? As a matter of fact, he hadn’t. He was the same sensitive, fun-loving teenager”, she says, going back in time. Though unnerved, she says “it’s alright. It is who you are that matters, not what you are”. The boy was not shunned or discouraged, his sisters accepted his relationship and they found his partner was a loving kid.

“I am not sure when I figured something was different about Marcos,” says his mother. It was over a period of time, that he became withdrawn, their conversations were brief and Marcos seemed to be the only boy who was not interested in girlie magazines, or dating.

Most children want to share their sorrows and joys with their parents, but the fear of rejection makes them withdraw. One day she walked into Marcos’s room and found him with his boy friend. She was horrified! This can’t be happening to her she thought. She went into a depression. How would she face her friends? Everyone must already know about it!

After that encounter, Marcos was distant, he couldn’t look his parents in the eye, neither knew what to say, and each lived with guilt and shame, which made the situation tense. It took a long time for them to accept, and when they did, the strained relationship improved. “You cannot know until it happens to you”, confided the father of a teenaged boy. When Surendra’s son told him he had a boyfriend, he didn’t think there was anything wrong with that… until Sudhir said, they wanted to live together. “Oh no”, thought Surendra. “Why? Why me?” He was devastated. He thought he was a failure as a parent, which is a normal reaction of all parents. He loved his son very much but a continual refusal to accept the fact, distanced them. There would be sideway glances and snide remarks, because that is the way he reacted to gays. Surendra was full of self pity and thought of society, which would ostracise his son and him too. His son would never know what wedded bliss was, and he would never have grandchildren and all his dreams for his son were shattered. Who was he feeling sorry for, himself or his son? Surendra felt his son had died and lived in sorrow and pain.

Alice and Adrian knew their son was that way inclined, as Arnold had told them within six months of the relationship starting. It was a shock, but they gradually accepted the fact. After a year of revealing that he was gay, he asked permission to bring his partner home for the weekend. “I want him to meet you, and see where I grew up”. The parents agreed. On the way to the guest room to make the bed, Alice was unnerved. Her daughter staying with her boyfriend was different, but her son and his partner seemed too much to handle. She wondered if she could make separate beds. She wondered if she had actually accepted the fact. Had she, she would not be contemplating separating them and she made up the double bed. She recalls, there were kisses and hugs on his arrival. He was a loving, intelligent, ambitious boy. The next morning when she realised they were actually in the same bed, she asked herself how she felt. She felt alright. She knocked on the door, and was asked to come in. There was no embarrassment or shock, just happiness. They were two human beings who contributed to society and their family, who loved each other. The relationship was totally accepted by their friends.

Many gays who are not accepted by their family, are socially cut off, but if the parent is determined that his child should not be ostracised by society, he must accept the fact first, before society accepts the same.

Homosexual and heterosexual relationships are based on the same things. Searching for and finding a special person to share your life. It is understood that it is not a mental illness as it was believed. More parents are talking about it, encouraging others to face the situation.

It is positively the parents’ duty to support and help the child, say psychiatrists.

It was two years ago that Rita’s daughter had told her she was a lesbian. Rita could not accept it. She had lost her husband, and now her only child had become defensive and withdrawn. Rita was full of mixed emotions. She loved her child very much and did not know how to discourage her. Maybe she should have let her play cricket with the boys, rather than play with dolls. The guilt and shame and the blame was never ending. Self-pity and anger consumed her. She felt she’d wasted her life producing a child who had rejected all her principles and feminity. She felt betrayed. Had she not given birth to her, she would not be going through this heartache. Why did it happen to her she wondered, for many years. Once she accepted the situation, the relationship with her daughter improved.

Why do parents accept? Is it the fear of losing the love and respect of the child? The life of a gay, said many parents, seemed so trivial. No marriages (though now in the West they are solemnised) no births, (now gays can adopt children) yet, it is a relationship of a procreation couple. Children who had become sullen, rude, totally withdrawn, return to love, warmth and a honest relationship with the parents, for, when a child tells his /her parents it is a moment of relief and anticipation. If accepted he or she can now share a very important part of his or her life with YOU — who have shared every small detail in his or her life till date.

I know a lot of gay men, and as many women will confirm, they make good friends. They are not only brilliant and creative, they are perfectly normal people, with the same fears and phobias as we have. Adapting to the way of life your child chooses, is the best, say parents of gay children. It is the parents duty to make the child aware of the dangers and advise them to take precautions and care of themself as the risks are rampant and varied.

A gay relationship is very intense and long lasting. There have been cases when a friendship breaks, to be replaced by another one, causing heartache and pain. Gays could be afraid of ageing, for the fear that they may not be attractive to their partners. Many incidents of HIV have been identified – most of them accept it is the way of life, and it is up to the parents to wither and be devastated, or bring joy to all by accepting the fact, that their child is gay.

— PERIN ILAVIA

Deccan Herald B’lore

9th February, 2002