Straight But Not Narrow : My Brother Is Gay

“An upright walk in good conduct, a straightforward perception about it,
following her progressive codes fearless of anyone in the land,
and self-acclaimed pride of knowledge about it, if these are there,
the women who are modern do not swerve, ever.”
– Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi, Legendary Tamil poet.

In the conservative lands of South India, women rarely participate in protests and marches for their own rights, let alone for the rights of other minorities. When Priya, who was in her early 20s, participated in Chennai’s first LGBT pride parade held in 2009, she was marching as a straight ally supporting her gay brother Praveen. Priya marched with an arm around her brother holding a placard that said “Straight but not narrow : Proud sister of a Gay.” It was not just a proud queer moment, but also a very proud feminist moment! Priya would have made the great, legendary feminist poet, Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi proud!

Although the Delhi High court decriminalized homosexuality in it’s historic July 2nd, 2009 judgment, it is still a huge cultural taboo in India. Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders (LGBT) are often ostracized, discriminated against and ill-treated. Their friends and families also have to face harsh treatment most of the time. For a young woman to come out in support of LGBT rights, means a direct threat to her marriage prospects. In her Times of India interview, Priya dismisses any such fear, “I have no such worries, If people are not understanding, then I don’t need them in my life.”

Priya had so much fun marching. “I was very excited and happy to be part of Chennai’s first pride march. I wanted to show to my brother and the rest of the world, how much I support him. I wanted to show people that simple gestures like this from family member mean a lot to our gay brothers & sons”.

After Priya and Praveen’s pictures were published the next day in some daily magazines, Priya had to face some negative reactions. “Some of my college mates saw it and they asked me if my brother was “like that”, I curtly replied back saying yes. They didn’t ask me more, because I gave them the “it’s-none-of-your-business” look. But I realized even lot of educated people have no idea about homosexuality or they just think it’s outright disgusting.”

It wasn’t easy for Priya to come to terms with Praveen’s sexual orientation. “I had no idea what homosexuality was, so it was shocking news to me. Praveen came out to my mom a few years ago and she told me he is gay”. Determined to make the unknown, known, Priya then spent time reading and researching sexuality. Her mother was there to answer any questions she had. “Initially I thought homosexuality was changeable, but once I realized it wasn’t, I was very worried that Praveen would have to be single and lonely for the rest of his life. My mom and I were two straight women who couldn’t think beyond common heterosexual relationships” laughs Priya. Now Priya is looking forward to Praveen finding his own partner and vows her support “I will definitely support his pursuit of happiness.”

When we asked Priya what tips she has for other siblings of LGBTs, she says “I don’t know if I am qualified enough to give advice, but I’ll say this:  It is not easy, but we should listen to our gay siblings, because we love and care for them. With love comes  acceptance; and with acceptance and patience comes understanding. Sexual orientation is not a choice, so please love and support your sibling regardless of what their orientation may be. You’ll be surprised what joy that can bring to your family.”

Image courtesy : Times of India.

Bharathi Poem English Translation : Ramani

Read Tamil version of this post on here

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South Indian, Sambar lover,Subramanya Bharathi fan, Rebel, Bleeding heart liberal, Writer, Dreamer, Die-hard romantic and Queer. Twitter: @shrisadasivan

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