Parts of London came to a standstill late last month as the annual PRIDE parade returned to the British capital.
Thousands flocked to the streets either participate or to watch those marching and fighting on for the human right to safely be one’s self.
The PRIDE march symbolises that there is still a long way to walk until people are treated equally; however, the march also symbolises visibility, celebrates the victories and the positive social change being achieved.
For me, PRIDE 2014 was a personal milestone.
It made me grateful for the opportunity to stand up for what I believe in and also reminded me of the work that is yet a must to help eradicate homophobia.
As the founder of SHOR, I was touched not only by the invitation to march with FFLAG (Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), a national voluntary charity organisation, but by the supporters who attended and marched with us.
Friends and loved ones who I have known for years and have seen my struggles and triumphs attended. We marched on, arm in arm, whilst singing Bollywood songs and waving to the crowds.
Courtesy of FFLAG, we donned T Shirts with Hindi slogans reading:
“My friend is gay and happy. Drop the hate and chill out.”
“My sister is gay and I am proud.”
“Gay and Natural”.
What resonated at PRIDE afternoon was the air of celebration, the courage and the spirit of determination.
It is important to emphasise that one need not be LGBTQ to support and fight for LGBTQ rights – LGBTQ rights are human rights. Many of our supporters were heterosexual who speak out against homophobia and encourage equality.
Being lesbian, or gay, or bisexual, transgender or queer is still a challenge.
LGBTQ persons are still discriminated against, treated as inferior because of their sexual orientation. Some LGBTQ persons can never completely be “out” and honest regarding whom they love – not because of choice but because of the fear for their lives, the shame this may cause and the stigma it may provoke, particularly within our immigrant communities.
However, it is also parents who face homophobia – this fact is not acknowledged enough.
One aspect that SHOR is concentrating on and exploring with the support of FLLAG is: how do we support the parents of LGBTQ (Lesbian; Gay; Bisexual; Transgender; Queer) individuals?
Besides the creative writing, there is another element to SHOR: Interviews portraying real life experiences for both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ persons.
Early in 2014, we interviewed Devi, a mother whose daughter came out to her as lesbian 12 years ago.
At first, Devi hated the idea of her daughter being gay. Devi blamed herself, was fearful of society and angry: “I was very upset and ashamed. I cried for many days. I felt angry that her female companions had corrupted her and refused to believe that she was gay. I felt disgusted and angry with Davina. I said some cruel things out of anger. I hated the thought of my daughter being a lesbian. I also felt it had been my fault as I was a single parent and that perhaps I had turned her gay. My biggest fears were people finding out and not only the embarrassment I would have to face, but also be blamed for it.”
However, now not only does Devi accept her daughter for who she is, but accepts and embraces her daughter’s partner.
It has certainly been a long journey for Devi and for other parents who have had a child come out as gay.
Can you imagine the emotional and psychological strain a South Asian parent very likely must go through when a child comes out?
It was through interviewing Devi that not only have SHOR been collaborating with FFLAG, but I myself have had been provoked to face my own parent’s pain as a young gay British Indian.
And it is not easy.
I can now understand that there are many elements that my own parents have had to face and continue to do so – both from society and from within themselves.
Some of these are the obvious: what will people say? We cannot talk about it openly to others; We have been shamed, our reputation ruined; No, my child cannot be gay.
However, there is a personal aspect that goes beyond society and reaches the core of parental love: Will my child be all right in a hateful world? Will my child find a loving partner and have a stable family of their own?
Parents need to be supported and it is organisations like FFLAG that make this a life changing reality.
Devi’s interview as a catalyst, FFLAG and SHOR explored ideas on how we can support South Asian parents who have had a child come out as LGBT.
Currently, SHOR is translating a FFLAG guide book for parents into Hindi that explore issues such as forced arranged marriages still encouraged as a “cure” for homosexuality within South Asian society.
Honour killings, stigma, jeopardising “ghar ki izzat” (the honour of the home) make being LGBTQ dangerous.
This must change.
Education, support and communication is the way forward to a healthier and happier future for both LGBTQ persons and their loved ones.
No person should be ashamed of being true. Love is a human right.