For members from the LGBTQ community, coming out can prove a challenging experience. It can prove even more testing in India, a country that still outlaws same gender sex. Moreover, despite the increasing levels of awareness about sexual preferences in the country, there are thousands upon thousands of parents who still cannot grasp the concept of same-sex love. That only adds to the fear of acceptance.
With the help of gender activist Rōmal Lāisram (who has also shared his experience here), we spoke with 21 Indians who decided they could not hide their true selves from their parents any more, choosing to live honestly even if they had to live alone. They have shared their parents reactions after coming out to them, and their stories range from happy acceptances to heart-breaking abandonment.
Regardless, they stand true to themselves and proud of their choices. We hope this inspires others and gives them the courage to come out. More than that, we hope that this inspires parents, families and friends of LGBTQ people to accept them lovingly. Leave your comments in the section below if you’d like to share your story. Or, write in to us.
Here are 21 Indians revealing their parents' reactions when they decided to come out of the closet.
Profession: Recruitment Manager
When I came out to my mother, her first reaction was a long silence. After that she turned towards me and said to me loudly, "Don't you dare talk rubbish with me. Do you even know what you just said? I haven't given birth to something like this. You better curb yourself down before spitting venom."
Almost immediately she rushed into the bedroom and shut the door with a loud bang. It has been over five years now and whenever I try speaking to her about it, she thinks it's just a phase and that I'll be 'normal' soon. Even now, she hopes for the day when she can give away her old saris and jewellery to her 'daughter-in-law' and I wonder, would I ever find a partner who'd accept these as my mother's blessings. I hope my mother will eventually accept me for who I am, and tell me, "I am proud of you and I will always love you because you're my son."
Profession: Graphic Designer, Artist
I came out to denial. I got my mother a bit drunk first, and then after hearing me out, she (perhaps kindly) said, "Honey, I hope it's just a phase you are going through".
I'm a graphic designer and an artist, so of course I have chanced upon many such explanations of my tendencies. Being an artist alone in India isn't easy with people in college accosting me and telling me that I was just a "normal girl" and ought to give up the pretense.
I suppose the loveliest thing about coming out isn't the parties or the increased options in dating or the debauchery. It is the idea that I'm living a little more honestly. Meeting other queers, hearing their stories makes the idea of love so much more varied, nuanced, and finally, so much more romantic.
Profession: Journalist/ Activist/ Casting agent
I didn't need to come out to my siblings or most of my friends, but with my mom, it involved a heated argument. Suddenly, the secret was out. It was then a process. I needed to understand her as much as she needed to understand me.
Simply put, it took time. It healed. It brought us closer.
Profession: Social Media Manager
I came out at the age of 16 to my conservative Maharashtrian Brahmin-Kshatriya family. Though they initially couldn’t accept it, they finally came to terms with my sexuality in 2014. Today, my mother has hopes of finding an ideal partner for me.
Profession: Journalist, writer, actor
My parents (who are unabashedly homophobic) found out about my sexuality through the Internet, LinkedIn no less. They'd always tried to convince me that LGBT people are mentally disturbed. Now, they are living in denial. They never talk about it. I don't think it's ever going to change.
Profession: Freelance Writer/ Digital Marketer
18 months of solitude. Disillusioned by education. Hours dwelt in painful introspection.
-Self acceptance -
Gradual recovery. Music. Meditation. Madonna. New friends bring new hope.
Finally, to mother - "I Am Gay".
Followed by coming out to every family member and friends.
New space to explore sexuality.
A gold medallist now. Moving forward in life with fresh hopes and lifelong serenity.
I come from a conservative Roman Catholic family, where speaking about homosexuality is a strict no-no. So imagine my mother's horror when she learned that her own son is gay. But kudos to that woman and the rest of my family for being calm and letting me say what I wanted to say, because I needed to desensitise them and not turn them against me.
It took a lot of time to convince them that everything is okay. And though they say they accept me, I still see them struggling with the fact, so no one brings the topic up unless necessary. They are still skeptical about me telling others about it, but I hope they understand that I am doing this to raise awareness about crimes against LGBT individuals, and also because I am tired of hiding.
Profession: Content Writer
I came out of the closet to my family as a fierce and fabulous drag queen. They were shocked and silent initially. Now, they want to watch me perform as Maya.
Profession: PhD Student at IIT Bombay
I came out to my parents in 2012. They were surprised, and scared about my future, and did not know what being gay really meant. They consulted a mental health professional, talked to my brother and his wife (who are supportive of me) and scanned the Internet.
With time, their acceptance of my sexuality increased. After I came out to them, the fears in my mind about being gay began to disappear. If my parents knew, I had no one else to fear! I started coming out to people. I could focus on my academics better. I also started organising events for Saathi IIT Bombay, the LGBTQ support group at IIT Bombay. I feel that coming out to my parents was the best thing I did in my life!
Profession: English Subtitles Editor
Although I've always identified myself as a girl, I was raised as a boy. With the help of my therapist (which I believe is the right way to do it), I finally told my parents. They weren’t shocked, but they did ask me if I'd rather be a girl or try to avail a cure (as if it's a disease).
My parents bigger concerns were about marriage. When I told them I’m panromantic
, they were quite dismayed. After a lot of drama, they are finally coming to terms with their daughter and her possible romances or lack thereof.
Profession: Learning and Development - Content Creation
Three years ago I learned the true value of freedom and self-acceptance. It was not easy coming out to my parents. They are educated, but would freak out at the sight of comic homosexual relief in movies. My sister didn't have such an extreme reaction, but did not really provide any support in the matter. It was during this time that I realised the value of relationships. Even though my family is still adjusting, I would not change anything.
This is a freedom that is far too precious to me, the relief of not living a double life is unlike anything I have felt before. It is this freedom that made my coming out worth every fight and fear of rejection.
I was not rejected. My family is okay with my sexuality.
I've been out and proud for 9 years now. I craved for all the typical Indian drama from my family but fortunately didn't get any of it... it was truly a funny, joyful and a pain-free coming out story.
Profession: Software Engineer
Largely accepting and supportive.
I moved out of my house because I felt I couldn't come out to my parents. After moving out with my aunt, I came out to her. She took some time to understand although she didn't accept it. Even though I wasn't ready to come out to my dad, my aunt told my father, and as expected he couldn't accept it.
He has disowned me now. He thinks I have done a crime and brought shame to the family. But I am living my life the way I want to. I have finally understood that life is too short to think about the past and it's time to move on.
My mom figured out my sexual preference because of the way I dance, which she considers very feminine. It has been 2 years since I came out to mom but she still expects me to turn straight one day. I do however have a supportive elder brother and friends.
Profession: Fashion Content Writer/Human Rights Activist
It was an accident! Mom caught me in the action with my boyfriend. My sister handled the situation, and I was accepted after some rebuke and confusions. Mum's fully supportive now. And dad said, "It's his life, we cannot change him, let him be."
Profession: Student of Medicine
Coming out to my family and friends was like stating the obvious. Mom had caught me surfing gay pornography as a kid, but we never discussed it.
I came out to her after a heartbreak. I poured out my feelings and my insecurities, and felt like a more confident person now that the fear of hiding was gone.
Mom said that it might be difficult for her to accept this new normal but she won't let me fight the world alone.
Profession: PhD Student
My brothers are huge fans of X-Men. There was one particular episode which showcased how much these mutants were abused by humans simply because they did not understand them. My brother turned to me and asked, ''Why do humans hate the X-Men so much? They have no choice or control over what they are." My little brother was perceptive enough to see through something I couldn't until then.
I refused to quarantine myself in guilt. I came out to everyone that mattered to me that same day. My father refused to acknowledge it at first but has since submitted to the resoluteness of my choice. My mother has never cared about whom I slept with, "as long as I wear protection". I was reborn from the ashes like Jean Grey. And, as tribute and in memory, I have the Phoenix tattooed over my heart.
Profession: HR Professional
Devoid of drama and accepting.
It took a long and painful process for me to accept myself and be happy. But once I was okay with who I was, coming out was never a challenge. I first told my friends, and it turns out they'd always known.
Then I came out to the folks. They were shocked and we played the usual game of 20 questions. I found the whole experience to be surreal and hilarious. I was laughing and they were worrying. They were pretty chilled after the shock wore off. In fact, it was them who outed me to the rest of my family. All in all pretty painless (except for the part where I got safe sex talks from all my friends, aunts and siblings). Lucky me!