LGBTQ+ Issues: Perspectives from a South Indian Straight Girl
“You there, YOU TWO, How were your hands held while walking right now? Do the same once more!”
Eli (my friend) and I turned around to notice our Academic Coordinator glaring at us. Eli demonstrated it and told her that I had injured my leg and needed support while getting down the stairs for which she had held my hand. But our Academic Coordinator (who also happens to be a professor of Psychology!) was not pleased, and she kept asking us pointless questions before labeling us as lesbians. I stood there perplexed, wondering what was going on. I was shocked to even say anything, wondering how a highly educated person could be so narrow-minded as to label us as Lesbians simply because we held hands. It might seem weird to even think that when two straight girls held hands she concluded that we were lesbians! Such is the mindset of most people in India.
Now, this incident occurred in India, a place which ironically is also the land of the Hijra community, one of the oldest gender non-conforming communities that still exist today. It is a shame to even say that most educated people are still narrow-minded and can’t come to accept the LGBTQ+ community, let alone can’t identify what exactly the certain gestures or queer terms.
In a country where same-sex relations are still illegal, coming out as LGBTQ+ can be a daunting prospect. Families may not be accepting, and there is a very real risk of ostracism and violence. Despite the challenges, many LGBTQ+ people in India choose to come out to their families – often with the hope that their parents will accept them for who they are. In recent years, Pride parades have become more visible and popular, with tens of thousands of people attending events in Mumbai and Delhi. The growing visibility of the Pride community has been credited with helping to break down stigma and promote acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people in India.
In many parts of the world, coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer can be a death sentence. In countries like Brunei, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen, homosexuality is punishable by execution. In other countries like Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Morocco, and Syria, homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment. This means that parents of LGBTQ+ kids living in these countries face the unique challenge of keeping their children hidden from authorities who would do them harm. In addition to hiding their children from authorities, parents of LGBTQ+ kids in the East also have to deal with cultural stigmas surrounding homosexuality.
In many cultures in the East, being gay is seen as a sign of weakness or mental illness. This can make it difficult for parents to accept their child's sexuality and can lead to families being ostracized by their community. In India, to be ‘out’ is a decision many LGBTQ+ kids struggle with, because it also means ‘outing’ their family and exposing them to judgment and ridicule. In this country, neighbors, acquaintances, relatives, teachers, doctors, everybody has a say in your life!
Growing up is already a difficult process. Let alone consider the sense of alienation and confusion that comes from growing up in a world that constantly tells you to act, feel, and love in a way that contradicts what you know in your heart to be the right way for you!
While parents of LGBTQ+ kids in the West do not have to worry about their children being arrested or executed for their sexuality, they still have to deal with discrimination and hate speech from individuals and groups who oppose equality for all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Finding inclusive resources like schools and extracurricular activities is also one of their main concerns. While there are organizations devoted to supporting LGBTQ+ youth in the West, they are not always easy to find or accessible for families living in rural areas.
Coming out as LGBTQ+ person can be a difficult and scary experience for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for those who come from conservative families or cultures.
If you're the parent of an LGBTQ+ child living in the East or West, there are some things you can do to support your child through this tough time:
Be There for Your Child
One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to just be there for your child. They need to know that you love them unconditionally and will support them no matter what. This can be a tough time for both of you, so make sure you're open to discussing anything. You may not agree with your child's lifestyle or choices, but it's important to remember that this is their life, not yours.
If you're not well-versed in LGBTQ+ issues, now is the time to educate yourself. There are plenty of resources available online and in libraries. You can also reach out to organizations like the Pride and Joy Foundation for more information and support. It's important to be informed so that you can support your child better. Educate by talking to queer activists or educators.
Create a Safe Space
Your child may need a safe space to express themselves and be themselves without judgment. This could be physical (like a room in your house) or emotional (like a trusted friend or family member they can talk to). Your child might just need that one person, to be there for them, where they could confide their fears and thoughts. Let your child know that they can always come to you with whatever they're feeling.
I do not identify as queer, but I needed a parent figure to explain why I was accused of being a lesbian for simply holding my friend's hand. Are you, as a parent, someone I could have turned to at the end of that school day? That is the kind of safe environment that all children deserve.
To deny your child the ability and freedom to explore all of the different ways to be human because of their sexuality, to punish them with hurtful words and even more hurtful actions is not acceptable. They are no less a human because they identified themselves as a queer person and are here to stay in this world. Being more sensitive, more cultured, being more human is what matters.
Are you a parent or an individual who wants a safe place and to learn how to support your dear ones? Pride and Joy Foundation is your safe place! Register for future Pride and Joy Parents events and sign-up for our newsletter!
About the Author
Anshifa Sony is an aspiring content writer currently advancing her writing skills at Humber College through the Professional Writing and Communications program, discovering new paths and experimenting with different writing styles. She enjoys using her writing to help amplify the voices of marginalized communities.