For most queer people, coming out to your parents or other family members is one of the most monumental and terrifying moments of your life. But when you live in a country that feeds us false ideas about the LGBT+ community with an ecclesiastical — or even religious or political — spoon, it’s exponentially harder. We spoke to a few Indian youths about how they came out to their parents, and while their stories ranged from heartwarming to painful, almost none of them regret their decision to come out. If you’re contemplating coming out to your family, maybe the experiences of these Indian millennials who have been through what you’re about to go through will help you.
1. Decide if coming out is in your best interest
Queer youths all over the world agree that the feeling of being out and unabashed is undoubtedly liberating. In India and other South Asian countries though, that aren’t just prejudiced against the queer community but actually deem homosexuality punishable by law, coming out stops being about societal stigma and starts becoming corporeally dangerous. Arnav, who until very recently thought he was gay and now identifies as bisexual, came out to his parents at the age of fourteen. He says,
Be smart. For all we might see in the media, we live in a country that is inherently conservative and oftentimes very queerphobic. That doesn’t mean you have to conceal your sexuality or curb your self-expression, but it’s important to be pragmatic about how you chose to embrace it.”
Richard, 25, who identifies as gay and has had the love and support of his family for years, says,
I always lay emphasis on the fact that you should never be in a hurry to come out. Take your time. Different people react differently. The right time will always come.”
Jay, who identifies as queer, says,
Coming out is complicated, especially in a country like ours. You don’t have to force yourself out when you’re not ready and especially if it’s not safe. It’s not supposed to be like this, but it is. So we’ve got to take care of ourselves and do what we think is right for our well-being.”
2. Know your family
We all grow up believing in the notion that our parents are supposed to love us unconditionally. But many Indian families find the idea of homosexuality alien, for either lack of education and exposure to the subject or a number of other socio-cultural reasons. It’s important to know and anticipate how your parents might react to such a revelation.
My parents thought I was joking when I said it. When I assured them I wasn’t joking they just shrugged their shoulders. They will respect my decision but I know instinctively that they would prefer me having my significant other as a male and not female.” – Meenakshi, 18, bisexual
“I was incredibly lucky that I had a progressive family and several gay/bi relatives who were out to rest of the family, so my parents were perfectly okay with me being gay. If, from experience, you know your parents to be conservative or harbour queerphobic sentiments, then make sure you only come out if the benefits outweigh the potential negative consequences.” – Arnav, 19, bisexual
3. Lay the groundwork
Ava, 19, who identifies as bisexual, spoke to us about how it’s important to introduce your parents to this world slowly, before letting them see that you’re a part of it. She says,
For me, these kind of conversations only started after my 12th grade board exams, and I just kind of inched it forward, just introducing the idea of talking about section 377, and how appalling it is. Then I went on to Pride Parades all over the world, and finally discussed other sexualities besides just gay and lesbian.”
Aastha, 20, who came out to her family quite recently, says,
It’s important to normalize terms associated with the LGBTQIA community around them before you start telling them that you’re a part of it all.”
4. There’s no better time than the present
Before you come out to your parents, it may seem like you need to pick out the perfect timing, gauge their mood, make sure the moment is ideal. And while these are all important things to consider, once you’ve decided to come out, don’t let these premeditations convince you to delay the inevitable. It’s always important to be ready when you come out, but like many other things in life, the moment itself doesn’t get any easier until you’ve ripped the band-aid off. Neil, 19, spoke to us about the day he came out to his mother, saying,
I was having a bad day and I had come home tired, […] I’d been out that day kinda being verbally annoyed by some homophobic guys at a social setting outside — for wearing a pink t-shirt of all things. So I just started ranting about the unfairness the LGBTQ community was facing and my dad was around and made a passing gay joke. My mom just rolled her eyes but I kinda started tearing up, and I couldn’t hide it anymore… So when dad went in I just told her straight up. We both cried for no reason at all and she consoled me about having to hide it and just told me it’s not yet time to tell my dad but she’s with me and doesn’t care how I identify because it’s just who I am and who I was born to her as.”
Ava also shared the story of her impulsive confession to her mother with us,
I’ve only come out to my mom so far, but we were just sitting and talking about this person I had a crush on, and they were born a girl but does not identify as one anymore.
Anyway, I asked my mom what she would say if I came out to her and she just gave this kind of noncommittal shrug and both of us just went back to watching TV. Five minutes later, I asked her if she knew what bisexual meant and she said, ‘Yes, why?’ And I just went, ‘Ma, I’m super bi.’ All through this, my heart was beating so fast and she was just staring at me until she asked me if I was sure, and I told her it’d been about 3 years since I knew, so yes, I was sure and she said, ‘Well, I don’t like it, but I suppose I accept it and should get used to it'”
5. Prepare for the worst
Ushma, 26, who identifies as gender-queer, has been out to her family since she was 17. She talks about how coming out can serve as a “reality check” for a lot of queer youths, saying,
We grow up living in this despair that our parents know us or would understand us no matter what. Well, it can go both ways. Be prepared for either. But looking at how sensitized the society is today, be positive and don’t give up.”
“Not everyone will respond the same way or the way you want them to. So be prepared for harsh words, homophobic statements, brash ignorance, and extremely lengthy, painful conversations. But not everyone is from the Kingdom of Assholes so know that you will meet people who’ll be accepting and supportive.” – Jay, queer
“Expect the few questions like, ‘Is it a phase?’, ‘When did you start feeling so?’, ‘Are you just curious because of your teen years?’ Expect some negativity too, it’s best to prepare to defend yourself if they want to convince you you’re in the wrong.” – Neil, 19, bisexual
6. Have a support system
Coming out can be a highly stressful and emotionally taxing experience. In some cases, if things don’t go well, it can even be traumatizing. Ava spoke to us about the importance of having a loving support system to fall back on in case things go south, saying,
After I came out, I went straight to my room and called my best friend and told her everything. Then I had a little cry and actually contemplated the fact that my mom didn’t hate me because of who I am, and how few people have that and how important it is to have that kind of support. But the important thing to make sure is that before you come out, if it doesn’t go well, you have a support system that will keep you upright and not let you lose your shit, and hopefully someone who will be able to take care of you mentally and emotionally should things go south.”
7. Try to understand their perspective
It’s 2017 and we’re extremely lucky that being queer isn’t considered a taboo in many parts of the world. And yet, as frustrating as it might be, it’s crucial to try and put yourself in the shoes of previous generations, that have had little to no exposure to the many facets of homosexuality and its history, let alone the right kind of exposure. Stivant, 22, who came out as bisexual to a family member two years ago, says,
The generation that we are a part of may be accepting of changes that seep in, but the generation that raised us are steadfast in their beliefs that everything must function as how the society determines it.”
“My dad’s oblivious to me, but he knows people can be in the LGBTQ community, he just doesn’t understand how a mind can convince a person to love the same sex as the opposite is done in “normal” situations.” – Neil, 19, bisexual
8. Research and educate
In order to translate your sexuality to your family in terms that they will understand and empathize, make sure you do extensive research and find references around you that you can use. The goal is to normalize the idea of other sexual orientations apart from heterosexuality in their minds.
Help [your parents] understand, make them read, give them century old precedences, tell them that it’s not because of a trend; it’s an existing normalcy, not an existing condition. Help remove the prejudice by helping to remove the false ‘facts.'” – Neil, 19, bisexual
“Experiment carefully. Question yourself. Read on the subject. When coming out, do it slowly.” – Meenakshi, 18, bisexual
9. Be patient
Coming out is a process. It’s more than likely that your family isn’t going to adjust to your sexuality immediately. Most of the LGBT+ people we spoke to assured us that it takes time and a continuous flow of educational information to normalize your sexuality for your family.
It’s a process, but it’s important for your safety and for their mindset to change. If you’re coming out to someone you trust, it’s as simple as just telling them you’re queer. Remember, it’s not supposed to be a big deal.” – Jay, queer
“Be honest, give them an insight into your struggle with accepting yourself. Give them time and information.” – Anonymous, 21, lesbian
“The only key is patience and slowly providing them with information.” – Aastha, 20, lesbian
10. Love yourself regardless
At the end of the day, the only person’s approval you need to be happy is yours. Whether you’re out and proud or still waiting for the right moment to come out, don’t forget to show yourself the same compassion you expect from your family.
You don’t have to struggle with yourself. The first step to identifying your sexuality is acceptance. Everything else will move on ahead, one step at a time. Be who you are because nothing else in life is perfect than your own beautiful soul.” – Stivant, 22, bisexual
“Your sexuality is a small part of who you are, it doesn’t make or break you.” – Aastha, 20, lesbian
HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!
[Editor’s note: Certain names have been changed to maintain anonymity. Verbatim quotes have been edited to accommodate grammar and vocabulary corrections. These tips or pieces of advice reflect the thoughts and opinions of an individual or a group of individuals and do not represent the entirety of the LGBTQIA youth of India.]
[Featured Image: Getty Images]