A question that I’m forever curious about, and always ask people I meet from the LGBTQ+ community is how they’ve come out to their parents. As a gay man(child) living in India, it’s a bridge that I’ll have to cross one day, and I’ve been seeking out as much gyaan as possible.
While most people I know are still in the closet when it comes to their parents, I know a few brave ones who actually had the courage to tell their families and come out alive on the other side of it. My favourite one comes from a 30-something friend from Mumbai, whose parents stealthily set him up on a date with a family-friend’s daughter. He ended up developing a great rapport with her, as the gays do, and both the families daydreamed about their kids getting married. When he found out about their khayali pulao, he ended up coming out to the girl, and she, being super understating about it, helped him tell his parents. (God bless women!) After some Punjabi-style melodrama, filmy dialogues and plenty of crying later, everyone eventually came to terms with it. Although he hasn’t found the right guy yet, he’s still pretty happy because he gets to live his truth without hiding anything from his family. And of course, no more rishtaas.
While stories like these give me a lot of hope, there’s still a huge difference between listening to them and actually living them. Changing mindsets takes a lot of time and can be very difficult to cope with. While people in countries like the USA and Canada are miles ahead of us in accepting and embracing homosexuality, even they aren’t quite fully there yet. India is another story entirely. Here, parents don’t even talk about sex with their kids, let alone sexuality.
But I feel representation and leading by example can help a lot.
People in the West have seen plenty of gay characters being represented in mainstream popular culture. Who can forget Ross’ ex-wife Carol and her “lesbian lover” Susan from the hit TV show Friends? Plus, Will and Grace will always be a classic. More recently, my personal favourites have been Kenny O’Neal from The Real O’Neals, Josh from Please like me, and the ever entertaining Cam and Mitchell from Modern Family. My queen, though, will always be Ellen DeGeneres, who has had fourteen successful seasons of The Ellen DeGeneres Show since she came out on Oprah in 1997.
It is only because of these shows, and due to internet influencers like Tyler Oakley and Connor Franta, I knew that my sexuality was nothing to be ashamed of. I got more comfortable with myself because I saw them being okay with who they were. Representation was what gave me hope, and I actively started seeking more of it.
Fortunately, for India, we’ve seen a new wave of web series and cinema that revolve around the lives of actual, normal, LGBTQ+ characters, which is a stray from the norm. We’ve seen them as side characters, often ridiculed or only used to provide comic relief. Movies like Kapoor and Sons, Loev, and Margarita with a Straw, take a step in the right direction; each showing a different, unique, facet of queer life. Something that really surprised me though, is Ekta Kapoor’s web series Romil and Jugal. Available on her Alt Balaji platform, the show is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, except with gay protagonists. While yes, it is filled with extra masala and cheesy dialogues à la Balaji, it does address important issues such as the fear of coming out, not being accepted by the society, as well as being rejected by your own family. It portrays LGBTQ+ characters as real people with real problems, which is refreshing to watch in an Indian production.
Seeing more of these characters in the mainstream media will really help the masses understand that being of a different sexual orientation doesn’t mean that a person is defected or broken in any way. They’re not mentally ill or sick. They just love differently, and that’s okay.
With the Supreme Court’s Right to Privacy ruling in our favour, and the positive direction that LGBTQ+ representation seems to be taking, I honestly hope that by the time I’m ready to have the whole “Coming out” conversation with my parents, it won’t be that big a deal.