Personal story shared by Shri on MovenPick mailing list.
When I came out to my parents five years ago, I was very excited. Their response was way better than I expected: they told me they love me and would support me no matter what. It was one of the best days of my life. My happiness knew no bounds. I felt like a new born. I thought I was finally liberated after years of being in the closet and from years of suppression, pain and suffering.
I was so naive that I thought the worst was over and and my life would be easy from that point. But coming out was only the beginning. Little did I know when I said “I am gay,” my parents heard “I am not going to get married to a woman” and that was about it. After my coming out, I slowly started talking about my sexuality, the bullying I went through in high school, my other gay friends and more importantly my relationship. Things become too real for my parents and they couldn’t handle it. My parents told me they were not interested in any of those. “You should keep your gay life to yourself” they said very clearly. What is that “gay life”? Isn’t it still my life? I was lost.
“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” became our family policy. It is very painful to be ignored by your own folks. It was extremely difficult for me to play by their rules, but I did it because I had no choice. Luckily like most queers, I found my family of choice: my queer friends! (most of them are from Movenpick, mailing list). My friends stood with me through thick and thin and became my source of strength, comfort and support.
I still missed my family. I tried everything under the sun to make my folks understand and accept me for who I am (providing them with resources, taking them to a counselor, introducing to other parents, friends etc.). Nothing changed their attitude towards the pink elephant! It was extremely frustrating and painful.
When all this was happening, I had moved to the US and found a boyfriend. Again, my parents were not interested in hearing anything about my relationship. For them, I was always the “single” son. I would tell them I went to my BF’s family for Thanksgiving and they would ask about the weather in the US. I would tell them my BF slipped on the steps and injured his knee and they would say “sorry to hear that, so what did you make for dinner?” You know, the typical Ostrich syndrome!
If I can’t talk about my life, my relationship, my partner, to my own parents, who else I would talk to? I started to rebel. It didn’t go well with my parents. Things changed quickly and for the past year we maintained only a very minimal relationship. (We rarely talked)
Six months ago my parents came to the US to visit my sister. She lives few miles away from me. My parents were ready to visit me too as long as “that person” (my BF) was not present when they visit and I agreed not to talk about him. I was outraged. I said enough is enough, this is not fair, my partner is part of my family and I can’t accept my parent’s conditions. They didn’t budge. For most of their 6 month visit we didn’t see each other or talk. They were fine with that.
Finally, two days before the day they had to leave, they agreed to visit me without any conditions. I told them my BF would be there. I picked them up from my sister’s place. I was obviously very nervous and anxious.
It went way better than I expected. I had a long discussion with my parents and told them why it is important for me/for them to accept me for what I am and to respect “that person” as my partner. It involved some confrontation, crying, yelling, complaining on both sides.
Mom told me that she now finally gets it. She said even though she knew it for the last 5 years, she was just hoping my homosexuality is just a phase and that it would go away. When I took a stand last year that I can’t put up my family’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and stopped talking to them, she thought I would come around. But when I didn’t she said she realized that I am serious and she can’t ignore me anymore. She told me that she doesn’t want to talk about the past, but she is happy that I have found someone as nice as my BF and she wants me to be happy. She promised she would treat him as my partner from now on.
My Dad was very stubborn and refused to acknowledge any of that. He said he can’t be forced to accept this lifestyle, this is not correct and gay relationships can’t be compared to heterosexual relationships. I tried my best to explain it to him, but in vain. He was acting rude, so at one point I told my parents that I would ask my BF not to come to meet them, because I can’t watch my parents disrespect him (We planned it such a way that my BF would join us later)
My mom immediately jumped in and said “I don’t care about your Dad, it is up to him. But because of him, please don’t ask your BF not to come. I don’t know when I will come to the US next, I may never. (This is their second visit and my parents hate it here in the US). This is the only chance I have to meet him, this opportunity may never come again, and I don’t want to miss it and regret. I want to meet my son’s partner, it is very important to me ”
This moved me beyond words, that is exactly what I had in my mind. I chocked. It was very important for me that my parents meet my BF (since they live so far away, the chances are very few). Seeing my mom, my dad relaxed a little bit. He said he will consider the BF as my friend, that is the maximum he could do.
I then asked my BF to come down. He came and met them, they talked for a bit. My BF impressed them with some Tamil words he knew (like Vanakkam, Sowkyama etc..). He told them that it was not easy for his parents either and he is very happy it worked out between me and my parents. And then we showed pictures from his family, our vacation etc.., my mom was very interested to see them, understand who is who in his family and all that. She had got sweets for me, but she took it and gave it to my BF :), he had got them chocolates too.
When my BF was ready to leave, my mom hugged him and said “Take care of yourself”, then she added, “Please take care of Shri”
I was very touched.
I know this is not happily lived ever after, but I consider this as a big milestone in my journey with my parents. This gives me lots of hope and strength.
It gets better 🙂
P.S: In the past six months while my parents were in the US, another important incident took place that played a major role in changing my parent’s attitude towards my relationship, I will talk about it in my next post.