A house gears up for festivities, a father and mother come into terms with their son’s sexuality! This is my story of coming out at Ganesh Chaturthi - the festival that welcomes Bappa into our homes.
For as far as I can remember, I have been insecure about coming out to my parents. Hailing from a middle-class Maharashtrian family in a tiny city, where, apparently no one had heard of homosexuality. My parents were no exception.
When I moved to the big city, I was fortunate enough to meet amazing people who inspired me and gave me the courage to be what I am. While I navigated the waters of my self-acceptance and sexuality, it hurt me that the biggest truth of my life remained hidden from the two people I loved the most – ‘Aai and Baba (Mom and Dad).’
Given their innocence and lack of knowledge about LGBTQIA+, I knew that my sexuality would be something exceedingly difficult for them to understand. Growing up, I was fully aware of the sacrifices my parents had to make for their children. I was determined to not make their lives any more complicated and I am sure many of us would relate to this feeling.
Yet, things were slowly beginning to shape up with the question of finding a match for me. Over the past two years, Aai and Baba kept questioning me about when would I like to get married. I avoided the topic each time because I did not know how to deal with it.
In India, everyone hails from a different culture, socio-political setting, and goes through different consequences, yet ‘coming out’ stays homogeneously difficult for everyone. As a rite of passage, it has been viewed as the most intimate event – the final shedding of the mask we have had to delicately put on every single day.
It was Ganpati season in 2015, and as it was customary, I had come back to my hometown. At home, I was met with a flurry of excitement. This year, my sister’s family was also expected to join us. The air was charged with positivity. Faces lit up with the arrival of Bappa at home. I could feel a sense of all-pervasive joy and as his grace settled around me - Bappa gave me the courage to be who I am.
My visit ended with me doing something I had never imagined. I had finally come out to my parents. There was no intention nor planning. The incident gradually unfolded itself. My coming out marked one of the most memorable holidays we had ever enjoyed together.
On the day I arrived, it was tiring and I had a hectic day. So, it was the next morning when my parents and I sat down for a nice long conversation. As I mentioned earlier, we were eagerly expecting the company of my sister, who was to arrive any minute with my beloved nephew. Needless to say, the grandparents were restless with excitement at the thought of seeing their grandson.
Aai kept making small-talk. She enquired about all my close friends in the city. I shared that a dear friend of mine was soon going to be a father. She was elated but soon fell silent. A moment passed and as expected, she mentioned the question of my marriage.
At this point, I must mention that while my parents have tried talking me into the benefits of marrying, both are neither domineering nor obstinate. They are the last people in the world to impose their views and opinions on others. But like all parents, they thought their worries were reasonable. I found that their concern for my future was starting to take a toll on them.
As we spoke, I acutely sensed the measure of their love and care for me. Something inside me felt broken. I felt fundamental dishonesty in concealing my reality from my parents whose love for me knew no bounds. I decided to spare them further worry and tell them about my sexuality.
And so, when Aai touched upon the topic of marriage this time, I blurted the truth out in response.
“Please try to understand what I am going to tell you.”
“I tried to bring it up earlier but I never managed to go through with it and now I don't want to feed you any false excuses for why I don’t want to be married. The thing is I do not like girls. I mean, I am not attracted to girls. I like boys...”
Silence fell over the room. On my parent's face, I read a combination of confusion, emotions, and moist eyes.
I picked up some more courage and uttered,
“I know it is very difficult for you to understand what I am saying and I too understand what you are going through, but I just want you to know that I am still the same person - your son!”
At this declaration, Aai could not control herself any longer. She asked me in a shaky voice, holding back her tears, she said
“But what about your future? Will you be alone all your life?"
I tried to convince her of my choice,
“I am independent and happy with my life. I have friends who will always be there for me and stand by my side. My life is really good.”
Baba who was listening to this entire conversation quietly, finally spoke. His words were,
“This is shocking for us but we trust you. You are sensible and you know what is good for you."
He then joined me as we tried to talk to Aai, asking her to calm down.
I then tried to inform them about the LGBTQI+ community and about sexual diversity. All of this was a bit difficult, as both my parents had little education and lived in a small city most of their lives with no exposure to LGBTQI+ issues. I believe that from this point onwards, my work was just beginning. I realized that what we had ahead of us would be an arduous process, where I would need to gradually orient them to the different dimensions of LGBTQI+ culture, people and rights.
At the end of it all, I held Aai's hand and could just manage to say,
"Kalji nako karu!” (Don't worry)
Over the next two days, life at home returned to normal. I had come out to my parents. The hard part was over and we enjoyed the rest of the festivities. As my time came to leave, I saw the mixed emotions lingering in the eyes of my mother. Questions and apprehensions worry and motherly concern, all wrapped up in genuine affection and love.