CHENNAI: Our heteronormative society tells parents that the ultimate life goal is to get married and produce children. And the reason people have trouble accepting their homosexual children is that they think being gay, lesbian or transgender means you can’t have kids. When I came out, the first question I was asked was “What will you do? You can’t have kids”. Society makes people think that way. So, parents worry more about what people will think or say about their family than the welfare of their own child.
I was only 11 when my friend said she thought I was gay because I had a crush on Jayam Ravi. Before that, I did not even know what gay or LGBTQIA+ meant. There was guilt at first, not knowing what to call myself. The conversation took me online, where to my delight I discovered that I was not the only one. There were many gay people around the world and in India.
Nothing to cure
When my mother first found out about my past relationship with a man, she thought I was transgender. I had to explain to her that I am gay and it isn’t a phase. I even offered to take her to a doctor who could counsel her through this but she distrusted my sources and took me to someone she knew instead.
I was subjected to a Doppler scan and made to drop my pants. I was embarrassed and confused. I was not sure of the purpose of the scan and was later informed by my friends that it was apparently to check if I was impotent. It was completely irrelevant and extremely degrading.
Several parents take their children to such doctors because they just want them to be ‘straight again’. What they fail to understand is that this is not some disease or something that can be switched on and off as we like. Sexuality and gender are fluid. In fact, parents often are unaware that they are subjecting their children to ‘conversion therapy’. Even my mom was under the impression that she was taking me to a psychiatrist. However, the doctor was playing games with us telling me that there is nothing wrong with me but assuring my mother that my homosexuality was curable. He was scamming us.
Each consultation cost Rs 1,500 and the tests were about Rs 40,000. We are from a lower-middle-class family and could not afford it. Thankfully, a friend I made through an NGO in Chennai took to reviewing the medicines being prescribed to me to determine if they were safe to consume. There are accounts of my friends that are even worse than mine. Some were put through shock treatments! treatments!
When someone is taken to ‘conversion therapy’, they hate themselves for who they are. This is the reason the judgement passed by the Madras High Court against ‘conversion therapies’ is crucial. It is an eye-opener for parents who follow the heteronormative society. If someone is being forced to go through conversion therapy, we can file a complaint and identify the doctors who are practising it illegally. When we identify them, that’s when we can put a stop to it.
The support you need
When my family found out about my NGO friend, my brother refused to live in the same house as me. I had to leave. For months, I didn’t speak to the mother with whom I used to discuss everything. But, throughout my journey, I had a huge support system all of my friends. In those six months away from home, I never felt sad because they were always there for me. I always tell them that they are my chosen family, and they are. They chose me and I chose them.
When you come out as gay, people bash you with hatred, abuse you verbally and physically. In my case, I had to leave my house. In such scenarios, suicidal thoughts come easily. You wonder what the point of living is if people you lived with for so long are asking you to leave. In such scenarios, peer support is very important.
Finally, when my mother found out that I was boarding with a friend and doing household chores in exchange for residency, she called me for the first time in six months. She shared her fears and inhibitions, stemming from how the media only showed hatred towards our community. She was scared for me and didn’t want me to suffer. Once we talked through our issues, we began talking every day again.
A happy ending
We all thought my mom was the supervillain but she is a hero. She is progressive, and once said, “If the family comes together, then society will change.” I never thought she would understand in such a short time. Now, I reside happily with my boyfriend, who is a pianist from Mexico. When my mother discovered the video he’d had sent me of the song Manikka Veenai Enthum, she was utterly impressed.
Now, we go to my mother’s house every Sunday for lunch; she always makes his favourite fish curry.
(Bringing home the big picture of parity through the lives of people on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum right here, right now. Have a story to tell? Write to us @ email@example.com)