My mom has known I like girls for almost two years now. My brother was one of the first people I came out to, shortly after coming to the realization myself. A few weeks after that, on an impromptu trip home, my brother told my mom what she later started referring to as, “The Secret.” Soon after, she told me she knew “The Secret” but instead of talking about it, she expressed anger that she wasn’t the first person I told. I wasn’t ready to talk to her then, and told her so. Since that day, we have only talked about my sexuality a handful of times, with one conversation primarily being about how she would rather not be alive the day my dad finds out.
I have since moved home, and finally started dating about 3 months ago. I feel like I am ready to start the next chapter of my coming out journey.
Now, in the midst of a busier-than-usual wedding season amongst our close family friends, my mom began making small comments here and there, like “Teri shaadi pe yeh karenge” (At your wedding we’ll do this or that).
So finally on one of our car rides together, I just blurted out “I can’t live at home for much longer,” to which she defensively said “Fine, do whatever you want. If you think you can handle it, just do it.” But I asked her if she even understood why, and she said no.
I repeated my concern that my dad wouldn’t accept me, so I needed a safe place to go, and I want to tell him soon instead of keeping him in the dark for much longer. Her response was “Give it some time”. By that, she didn’t mean “Give it some time, your Dad will come around.” She meant, give your lesbianism some time, it’ll go away on its own… like the moment you get a graduate degree, or hit the prime marriageable age of 25.
So I powered on, explaining that this is not something that’s going to go away, this is not a phase, and this is not a choice, etc. She then proceeded to ask if I needed counseling, or medical help. Both my parents are doctors, and my brother is in medical school. I understand the scientific beliefs they have are almost just as strong as their cultural ones, but I was not expecting such an ignorant, homophobic suggestion, after she had lived in the US for over 25 years. I had to do everything in my power to not slam the brakes and vent my anger in some sort of fit of violence. I quickly realized I cannot be defensive about this, and I cannot come off as being ashamed about it. I have to help her understand it. So I said no, no such thing was needed, because again, it wouldn’t “solve” anything.
She went on to fill me in on the fact that people will point fingers at my kids (Did I not realize what kind of messed up life that kid would have?), my parents, brother, nieces (because oh no, they have a lesbian aunt!) for generations to come. Like you know, I’m poisoning our lineage for the rest of eternity (no pressure). And I said, That’s nice… So what? People can think what they want. I want to be happy and I want the people I care about to see all of who I am, not just this one part… because it won’t define ALL of me. I will have a life and a family and a career and the gender of my spouse shouldn’t matter.
So she asked how it was possible that I had feelings for past boyfriends (or just boys in general). I agreed that this, of course, was a valid question. I explained that, looking back, I had always craved companionship, mostly emotional, and that’s what drew me to those few boys I got close to. But when it came to attraction, it never existed, and felt wrong when I did push for it. So she said one thing I actually did expect to hear: “Maybe you haven’t met the right boy yet, that’s why.” So when I said I’m not attracted to any men, not even John Abraham (yes of course I brought Bollywood into it), she told me that when she was younger, she was never attracted to boys either, and she resisted marriage most of her adult life. But after she was married, she realized that marriage meant more than just being physically attracted, it was two souls coming together. Then she said, “You talk about having kids, but it’s more than just sperm or a sperm donor, it’s about a man and a woman in love.”
She even went on to say that marriage means a man acting as a rock/provider/breadwinner, coming together with a woman, who is a homemaker/mother/cook. So I said, those are society’s stereotypes. Not every family works like that, and those roles, even if they are predominant in our society, are not defined solely by gender.
Finally, I said, liking girls is only 10% of who I am. The other 90% doesn’t depend on this 10%. She then asked if it’s only 10% of me, couldn’t I compromise to let it go, and just marry a male to avoid the pain and struggle that would ensue. I realized at this point, that for Gaysi parents, ridicule from surrounding people and “friends” is almost always the biggest part of their own self-esteem, especially when it comes to being proud of their kids. So I told my mom, I’m not ashamed of it, and you can hopefully one day learn to not be ashamed of it, then people’s ridicule will not matter to me. It will hurt, of course, but it won’t matter because I’ll still be the same woman. I’ll have a life and an identity outside of the fact that my partner is a woman.
Things basically ended there, both of us exhausted from the tears and anger and pain. After assuring her that this is not a phase and that her support to me will mean that she actively tries to understand it, not undermine it, she agreed she needed some time to accept things, and would be open to me providing her with some books/resources on the subject.
The thing is, I don’t feel much relief. I think this is the first coming out conversation we should’ve had all along, the one that my brother took away from me two years ago. During all this time of her knowing, I mistakenly thought that because she knew (even though we rarely talked about it) she was automatically okay with it or at least TRYING to be okay with it. It was ignorant of me to think this and believe that just because I wasn’t ready to face my mom’s questions, that she’d somehow find her own answers.
It scares me. There was so much homophobia in her words, and she’s supposed to be the understanding parent. She says she’s supportive of me, but she doesn’t know who or what she’s supporting. I wish she’d find those things out, accept them, and then say she supports me. I don’t know, I just felt like we regressed so much and I’m starting from scratch. My dad will also not accept me. He asked my mom a few days ago if she knew why I was going out so much more often, like do I have a boyfriend or something. She said she didn’t know. He said, “Kahin gay-vay ke chhakkar mein tho nahi padh gayi? Aisa kuch ulta seedha karegi tho humaare darvaaze uske liye hamesha bandh rahengi” (She’s not into some gay thing is she? Because if she is, our doors will be closed to her forever). I know my dad is homophobic, but to know he said those words? It kills me. I could lose my home and my parents when this comes out, whether that’s soon or in 5 or 10 or 20 years. I guess that never really hit me as an actual possibility.
I am proud to have had such a calm and collected conversation with my mom. If I had tried to talk to her two years ago when I was still in the process of coming out, I don’t think I could have answered her questions patiently or without getting more emotional. I am clear on the road I must take, and I am clear that who I am is not something to be ashamed about.
I’m just scared because like so many other Gaysis out there, coming out to my parents means a very large possibility of losing them altogether. I’m just not ready to face that yet… I think.