Two years ago I started dating my current partner. My friends in college were surprised that I was dating a man, and my desi friends back at home were surprised that he had a child. My parents, on the other hand, were overjoyed that their daughter found a partner that they wouldn’t have to hide from the Indian community. You’d think him being white, an atheist, and having a kid would be the typical Indian parent’s nightmare, but all that seems like nothing compared to the possibility of me being with a woman… well not completely “nothing”.
My parents are more progressive than typical desi parents, and their atheism has separated them from typical conservative discourse. However, that’s not to say that they don’t try to hide my partner’s kid from the gaze of the judgmental Indians in their small college town. I often take my partner and his kid back to my hometown to visit my friends and parents. Keeping it within context, I think it is impressive that any Indian parents allow their daughter’s live-in boyfriend and stepson to visit at all, but I still get frustrated when my mother asks us not to speak about his child in front of the other families.
One of my friends jokingly suggested that I pretended to be a lesbian so that my parents would be more open to me dating a white man. However, the truth is that my parents have never minded me dating outside of my race or religion, and they love my partner’s son.
Some days it definitely feels like I’m being put back in the closet all over again, just for a different reason this time. My parents are very supportive of my relationship with my partner and his son, but they are hesitant to speak openly about it until we can tell people we plan to get married… which might not even be something we want to do!
Other days, it frustrates me that my mother is okay with my current partner but acted like I was destroying her world when I wanted to date women. For me, the stress associated with becoming a “stepparent” eclipsed the stress that went with becoming queer, and I feel like people do not always understand this.
While queerness is a sexuality that I enjoy, being a stepparent is also a lifestyle that I enjoy because of the endless fun I have seeing my partner’s child grow. And the level of trauma involved with “coming out” is definitely different depending on the person and the environment.
For me, being a stepparent has been difficult because I am seen as an outsider trying to fit into a place where I do not belong or where I am not always welcome. I dread the day when my partner’s child watches “Parent Trap” for the first time, or the countless Disney tales with the typical “evil stepmother” character. I also find it hard making a place for myself in my partner’s family since it seems like the last spot at their table was filled.
To put the cherry on top, I come from a culture that my partner’s son will never really understand. He is confused as to why my skin is brown, I worship gods with animal heads and blue skin, and why I eat spicy food – right now it is pretty trivial stuff, but who knows what these innocent curiosities could lead to. A lot of his exposure to Indian culture (i.e. not black or white) is through the lens of the “Indian” food he eats at the local vegetarian restaurant. I am constantly trying to help him see my experience of my culture through me, and not the western people who have appropriated it.
On the other hand, it is exciting to get to help raise a kid who will be a part of the next generation. His curiosities allow us to talk to him about diverse cultures including spirituality, gender, love and everything else. I hope to post more stories about life as a queer, desi woman, with a stepchild.