Recently at a film festival, I watched a German movie named Sasha. In the movie there is a scene wherein Sasha’s mother (Sasha is the main protagonist – a teenager) comes to realize he is gay. She then walks up to the piano in his room and sits in front of it staring at the keys. And in the blue twilight in a white night slip, hair flowing down her shoulders, her face marked with visible anguish – She starts to play the Moonlight Sonata. As I watched this, I was stunned.
As a child post queer awakening, I vividly recall sitting in front of black and white keys and eyeing them with much hostility because above them on a ledge were pages and pages with notes to the Moonlight Sonata. And I did not want to play them. I just did not want to. For they made me cry. Even at that age, I recall thinking I was quickly going to run out of tears if I kept at it. Yet, my first thought upon seeing this specific scene in the movie was – “Oh my god…Mom would have done the same thing” …if she knew how to play the piano.
We write much about our feelings as queer individuals, We write much about how society treats us, We write much about our coming out stories and related challenges. All for the good. But for a few moments here I wish to ponder the alternative perspective – That of the people we come out to – What of them ? What do they feel in that instant and afterwards when their assumptions and dreams and years of wisdom is challenged and tested and basically, blasted to smithereens all at the same time ? And who helps them? Like the spectrum of sexuality, as queer individuals we also face a spectrum of reactions from people when they become aware of the minor diversities between them and us. Between the many posts on the gaysi family site, we have seen complete acceptance, complete hostility and a popular favourite – the “ostrich effect” i.e. complete denial.
6 months before I told my mother, I had been in counseling for the prior 7 months. With the luxury of retrospect on the many 50 minute sessions, I can now tell you for certain that my largest hurdle towards telling her was guilt. I felt responsible for the suffering and pain and challenges I would impose upon her with the small fact of my sexuality. I felt, ”I know the world is mean – But I have dealt with it – I can deal with it – I don’t want the world to pick on her and that is exactly what is going to happen and How! How can I in my right mind as daughter who loves her dearly subject my own mother to it all intentionally ?” I guess somewhere at the back of my mind I always knew she would love me regardless and that is exactly what she said after I told her I was gay. So in the months leading up to it, I skipped ahead a few steps and agonized over the “after”…”what came next”….”How can I protect her”. And you know what’s ironic ? After I told my mom – Her thoughts weren’t very different. They had the same self recriminatory tinge that mine had except in retrospect – “How could I have let my child bear this alone so long?” and more than my sexuality, she said the pain of having to know that I – her child – carried this inside me without anyone knowing for so very long was the aberration that she needed to come to terms with. Three months after telling her I was gay, in a brief conversation where I was “touching base” ( because I assure you …acceptance, love and all notwithstanding – Indian parents are well honed experts at the “ostrich effect” as many of you know and have alluded to) I mentioned to her I was sleeping well for the first time in many years. I meant it as a good thing …Like “Yay! See? Telling you was good for me ! Be happy!” Later I was to find out when she heard me say that, It broke her heart into a million pieces all over again to find out that I hadn’t been sleeping well all this while. And that broke my heart into a zillion pieces when I found out and…sigh, Vicious circle, isn’t it ?
Parents and Siblings are a funny sort. And our relationships with them are of a funny sort as well. When we think about their reactions to our respective sexual orientations, we think of the worst case scenario in good common sense. The world around us doesn’t really give us reason otherwise. Yet, the reality of it is much more deeper and convoluted than what meets our eye with their immediate good/bad reaction to our coming out. I have heard this from many and will repeat it here for I think we need to remember it lucidly when we come out to people near and dear – When we come out of the closet, they go into the closet. Till the world in itself changes slowly and surely for the better, They are still people who need to process what our coming out means to them, their feelings, their anger, their guilt and challenge internalized assumptions – and they go through that process more often than not, because they love us. Very much. And if after coming out, you have nothing to hold on to, if everything seems miserable and horrid and if feels like the world hates you along with the people who are supposed to love you – Remember that. They probably love you. Else they wouldn’t be agonizing over it or acting funny or completely avoiding the topic. In a weird way, you can get some sort of deviant (pun intended) satisfaction out of their childish behavior that you are subjected to. It is because they secretly care. And if you are convinced that its not all of the above, keep trying. Because someday they will and that makes it worth worth fighting for. Take Heart. I know I do.