Tag Archives: Family

To Mum, With Love: What It Means To Come Out As The Parent Of A Gay Son

Mother's_Day_New

 

I’ll tell you a secret about my relationship with my mother. Each of our relationships with our parents is such an individual thing — even between siblings, sometimes — and they can be difficult for us to understand from a distance.

My relationship with my mother is far from perfect. Over the past decade, we’ve fought, we’ve cried, we’ve pulled our hair out, we’ve said mean things to each other that might put school bullies to shame, and we’ve had cold wars that have lasted multiple hours and meals. It’s been one hell of a roller coaster ride.

But that’s how most relationships are, they aren’t perfect. And that’s the beauty of it.

A child might not be perfect — not too bright, not too beautiful, not too charming, not too enterprising, not too much of a good thing — and still, a mother would love it to death. She’d nag, but love her child like a lioness loves her cubs.

My mother is like that.

She treats nagging and scolding me as a daily chore — it’s become a part of the routine. But then again, it’s ourlittle routine. It’s like a two-person comedy act — only there’s no background laughter — unless you count my exasperated older sister who stays miles away, but still hears of all my idiosyncrasies through the telephone. I love every little bit of it.

See, I might be a selfish, spoilt brat who might have more vices than virtues (here’s looking at you, endless bottles of wine and rum), and my mother might have reserved her dirtiest of looks for each and every one of them, but that’s what mothers do — they antagonise, because they adore.

And mine adores me to death. The past three years could have been turbulent — with the coming out and what not — but they weren’t. Twenty-five years of her having lived in an orthodox family, and yet, I’ve had some of the most remarkably open conversations with her. Was she okay with my coming out? Maybe not. Does she like it when I talk about being gay on social media? Definitely not. Has she any clue of what the LGBT life is all about? Clearly not. In fact, I thought we were going to live in a state of peaceful denial of my sexuality till thishappened last year.

My mum came up to me sometime in August of 2017, as I worked away on a deadline. She looked visibly upset. Sensing it was something I had done (and had no clue about), I asked her what was wrong.

A daughter of an acquaintance had just given birth, she said to me, and sweets had been delivered all over the society. Our family had been inconspicuously missed out. She suspected it was because I was gay, and they didn’t want to ‘rub it in’ that I might ‘never have a child of my own’.

I asked her whether she was sad that it happened? Kaju katlis are a big deal, after all.

She said she was, but only because she was surprised that she knew people who were so narrow-minded, that they couldn’t see beyond the boxes they stayed in. Then she went on to tell me how sugar was bad for your body anyway, and that we’d all live a more fulfilled life without any ensuing boxes of sweets. If people couldn’t deal with her son’s sexuality, then she didn’t need to deal with them (or their sugary gifts) at all.

I hugged her tightly then and there.

I hope this serves as at least one model for a positive way to react. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know for me, she couldn’t have reacted more appropriately (or heartwarmingly).

My coming out story might have been a breeze, but coming out as the parent of a gay child is no easy feat. Because I might have had to come out of the closet only once, but for my mother — as a supportive parent — it’s an everyday struggle.

She’s sat through awkward dinner conversations with strangers (‘…and then I told my son, you can marry anyone as long as it’s not a boy!’), shot down questions by distant aunts (‘’it’s okay if he’s gay, but does he have to be gay for the whole world?’) and even ignored jibs by concerned relatives (‘we understand how you must feel that your son will never get married…’) with the same stance.

One of cold defiance.

My mother is an exceptionally fierce woman. Her problem with most of these situations isn’t the quintessential ‘how-could-they-say-that-about-MY-son?’, it’s the more empowering ‘how-could-they-say-that-about-gay-people?’

And that is gut-wrenchingly heartwarming.

Is my mom completely comfortable with my sexuality? Maybe not. Is she curious about the gay life? Not really. Does she love me to death nonetheless? Always.

I don’t expect my mother to tag along as I march for LGBT Pride. I don’t expect her to flash the rainbow flag at a family lunch. I don’t expect her to ask questions about my love life (or lack thereof). I don’t even expect my mother to have a conversation with her friends about my sexuality. My mum’s not one of those mothers.

She’s so much more. She might never understand the depths of my struggles as an out-and-about gay man, but she’ll still school anyone who tries to question the same.

I am proud of the woman my mother has become, and the son she’s making me out to be. I might not be the perfect one, but she’s made peace with the fact that I never will be. And that’s the first step of any loving relationship. The peace to co-exist with all your faults and regrets. To confront what’s not wrong. To fight for what’s right. To know that I am loving (and living) my life to the fullest. To understand that I’ll go back to being the insufferable child right from tomorrow.

To all the mothers who are reading this who will ultimately have to deal with their own child’s coming out, I say this: don’t feel guilty about not being completely on board till you’ve asked all your questions. It’s okay not to be okay. As long as your child is not being made to feel unloved or uncared for, express your love (and confusion). That’s half the battle won. The other half is finding a nice, handsome and charming boy who can spend the rest of his life with your ungrateful child.

Thanks for meeting me on the other side of the closet, mom. #HappyMothersDay to you.

I promise it gets better.

— Illustration courtesy Amrai Dua

How I Met My Mother

mom

I met my mother twenty-eight and a half years ago, in the closed ward of a maternity clinic hidden away in one of Bombay’s many suburbs (the only one without a train station to its name, governed by two defunct political bodies, a local slumlord and a seedy bar.)

It was an ordinary sort of day, and the morning newspapers reported nothing interesting – a slight surge in the steadily decreasing share market, the birth of an ageing actress’s secret seven-pound love child and the predictable death of an unscrupulous MLA suffering from pneumonia. Everything would change shortly after.

I came out, bawling; but I wasn’t done coming out yet.

Over the past two and a half decades, I’ve been a brat. I fussed over the excess oil in my meals, grew moody when she wouldn’t reply to my texts, and threw tantrums while out shopping. I was the quintessential gay man in any relationship. Only I was being the quintessential gay man with mom. Was that the end of it?

Nope.

I met my mother all over again, when I came out to her over lemon tea and biscuits, two years ago. Ten minutes of a soul stirring monologue later, she looked at me with one simple question: ‘What do we with all the jewellery we saved up for your wedding?’

And then she sipped at her tea. It was that simple. Other questions were asked over the next hour (How are you feeling? Should I read some books to get on board? Why didn’t you tell us before? Are you happy? But more importantly, are you okay?), but we’d crossed the finish line of acceptance with that one heartwarming, but succinct doubt. Was she happy?

Being the Indian son that I am, I never asked.

Coming out of the closet is no cakewalk, no matter what background you come from or what timeframe you are raised in – your mind will always be a minefield of questions:

Will I know how to do it? (No.) Will everyone accept me for who I am? (No.) Can I pretend none of this ever happened and go back to a straight life? (Obviously not.) Will it all be okay in the end? (Yes.)

Two years ago, I came out to my mum with only one goal. Wishing for a mansion in Los Angeles and a six-script movie deal with Warner Bros. aside, I just wanted her to get on board. Why?

That’s easy: because she’s mom.

I am not trying to discount my dad’s reaction (he was as accepting and jovial as her, if in case you are wondering – he even hugged me awkwardly in the end) but there’s always something more substantial about your mother’s approval. After all, she’s the one who quit her dreams, braved morning sickness apart from nine months of labor, and popped me out with nothing more than a nurse’s hand to squeeze (because you know, she didn’t have the comforts of 2017 at hand).

Or maybe, because I am an out-and-proud mumma’s boy.

My coming out was anticlimactic. There were no tears (apart from mine) or heated words, only tea and heartfelt hugs. I braced myself for things to change slowly. But the ‘Who are you with?’ and ‘Where are you going at this time of the night?’s never came up; neither did passive hints of rebuttal at my sexuality. Yes, she still thinks that I drink and party too much, and work way too little – but she did so even before she knew I was gay.

It wasn’t ‘let’s-find-you-a-boy,’ happy, but it was happy nevertheless.

But that’s the thing. For every story that can turn into a full-fledged Bollywood tearjerker, there are hundreds that never find their happy ending. I know of countless boys whose mothers didn’t dole out acceptance speeches (and unfortunately for some of them, maybe they never will), they just doled out their sons instead.

Rahim’s mother threw him out. Binay’s mother threw out his laptop. Carl’s mother worried that the Devil had brainwashed him. Raj’s mother worried that his friends had brainwashed him. Ankit’s took him to see a psychiatrist. Ali’s took him to see a girl.

Coming out stories are as new as crop tops in the summer, I get that. But this isn’t just a thank you letter to my mom; it is an ode to all the mothers who didn’t feel compelled to sign up their sons for the gay matrimonial (they don’t exist anyway). This is for all the mothers who didn’t tag along for the Pride parade or flash the rainbow flag at a family lunch. This is for the mothers who don’t gush about their son’s boyfriends or help pick out their outfits for fashion week. This is especially for all the mothers out there who don’t want to know all the lurid details of their son’s hidden lives.

Is my mom completely comfortable with my sexuality? Maybe not. Is she curious about the gay life? Not really. Does she love me to death nonetheless? Always.

It wasn’t just my life that changed over tea that evening, my mother’s did too. These are the mothers that often get left behind in the conversation. We hear about the rule makers, the rule breakers, the advocates, the haters and the bigots. But what about the moms who accept things at their own pace?

It’s been a long and bumpy journey, but I know it’s been tougher for my mother. She’s been trying, and I love her every bit for it. In fact, I appreciate her all the more for it – I’m so proud of her, I could be her mother.

To all the mothers who are reading this who will ultimately have to deal with their own child’s coming out, I say this: don’t feel guilty about not being completely on board till you’ve asked all your questions. It’s okay not to be okay. As long as your child is not being made to feel unloved or uncared for, express your love (and confusion). That’s half the battle won. The other half is finding a nice, handsome and charming boy who can spend the rest of his life with your ungrateful child.

Thanks for meeting me on the other side, mom. I promise that it just gets better.

Now about the jewellery you saved for my wedding…