In response to Queer Coolie’s Nobody Puts Mommy In The Closet, I wanted to write a more in-depth piece about how I feel my mother’s experience was during my coming out process. I wanted to do this since, in previous pieces, I have only briefly spoken about my mother’s point of view, and QC rightly called for us to have better understandings of our parents sometimes, especially when they seem to have good intentions.
I have noticed that straight desi girls and ladies, sometimes the ones who haven’t been through trials, often have weak relationships with their mothers or “just-for-show” relationships with their mothers. These friends often seem jealous of the fact that I am close to my mother. What they do not realize is that it took my mother a long time to come to understand me, her youngest daughter. It was a rickety journey after which she became my lovely little mummy.
When I came out to her she gave me the “it’s just a phase” response, and the “how do you know if you’ve never had sex” spiel. My western queer friends had equipped me with knowledge of how to lash back at her, but only with the knowledge they had acquired from their western experiences… and it didn’t exactly help me or my poor mummy.
The thing is, it was my own mum who taught me to respect women and to see women as beautiful. It was my mum who would always point out how gorgeous different women we knew were, based on their personality or looks, and not just the light-skinned skinny girls! And maybe she realizes that when I agreed with her that the girl was pretty I meant more than just that. I mean, she’s my mum; she knows me.
I also think she knows that a lot of who I am is because of her, and I don’t think she thinks its a bad thing – she’s not that sad – but maybe she has some regrets. After all, we both have the same history of going to all-girls schools, and my mum told me that when she was at boarding school in India she knew girls that fell in love with each other but she thought that it was just because there weren’t any boys around.
At the same time, it was my mum who taught me to not take people relationships for granted and to assume that all relationships consist of a man and a woman. In England and in Southern Illinois, our neighbors were lesbians and my mum was so cute attending an all-lesbian book club with our neighbors in Southern Illinois. But then what happened when her own daughter came out?
I was confused because I could have sworn that she had told me that she would have been okay if my brother had brought home a boy, but I guess she didn’t mean it. “So what if he’s gay?” is the sort of the thing that my mum says because she has learnt “liberal thinking” from my dad, but when I came out to her, her first instinct was to protect me from the Indian community in Southern Illinois and I was defensive towards her lack of joyfulness.
Anyway, we’ve been through a lot since then and she has come to accept that I am just not as predictable as she would like, and I also accept that she will always ironically predict my feelings a bit more than the rest of the world ever can or will. She is the only one who knows how much my epilepsy hurts me. My mum and I have been in sync a lot lately, and I think my epilepsy has helped us in that way. My epilepsy has made me realize how much my mother really does love me, whereas my queerness made me feel as if she did not.
My friends have slowly slipped away and perhaps just due to the emotional side effects of the many medications, I feel as though they have left me. However my mum has helped me and my partner make the rough transitions from seizures to more seizures, from medications to different medications. And she has accepted our undeniable queerness in that arms-outstretched desi-mummy kind of way, or at least I think she has.