“It was a huge shock! I couldn’t believe that it was happening to my family. It was very difficult for us to accept.” Rekha Shah remembers the day when her daughter Amy Shah came out as lesbian, a decade ago. Rekha and her husband always wondered why Amy was not interested in dating boys, but weren’t really prepared to hear that Amy was a lesbian.
For Rekha, a Gujarati from Mumbai who moved to the US in the 70’s, being gay meant being single, lonely with no possibility of becoming a parent. She insisted that Amy date boys. “I was hoping that Amy would change and eventually settle down with someone.” Amy didn’t resist and went along with the idea, she wanted to show her parents that she had tried. It didn’t work out and eventually Rekha and her husband got the message. They realized that sexual orientation is neither a choice nor a phase. “Once we understood that her sexuality can’t be changed, we decided not to force her into a marriage.”
It took a period of 10 years for them to completely understand and accept Amy’s sexuality. Amy engaged her parents throughout this period dispelling myths about homosexuality, showing them role-models from the Gay community, explaining to them that Gays & Lesbians too can make a family, have kids and live happily ever after.
Facing extended family and relatives was a huge concern for Rekha. “We have a big extended family here in the US and in India. We were so worried how they would react. We were torn between our love for Amy and a society that was not open minded enough to accept her.” Still, Rekha and her husband decided to put their daughter and her happiness before everything else and took one step at a time. To Rekha’s surprise, when she announced that her daughter is a lesbian, her extended family and friends came out in support, including her relatives from India. “They were all complementary about how courageous and compassionate my husband and I were” smiles Rekha. “Yes, there were few negative reactions, but we were firm and focused only on Amy and her future. Eventually the people who were against the idea also came around.”
Amy now lives with her partner Amanda in Virginia. Amy and Amanda had their wedding ceremony in 2005. The ceremony was held in Chicago and was attended by about 200 people. “I always knew Amy would find a good partner. I met Amanda when Amy and Amada were dating and really liked her. So once Amy told me that the two were engaged, I was very happy. Amanda is indeed a wonderful daughter-in-law” says Rekha, who is also now a grandmother. “I am very proud of my grandson Evan. He is a bundle of joy. Amy always wanted to be a mother, Amy and Amanda used a donor. Evan is a healthy, happy boy. My husband and I love him to death.”
Rekha makes the case for same-sex couples: “There is nothing wrong with gay people. They are human beings like anybody else. Same-sex couples deserve equal rights including marriage and adoption. They make great parents. Children notice love, not whether it is from a man or a woman. I can say it for sure because I see that in my grandson.”
When we asked what is her message for parents of LGBT children, Rekha said “Please be kind, understanding and supportive to your children. They are not unnatural beings, God made them this way. If you don’t accept them, how will the society?”
Read Tamil version of this post on Orinam.net here