When Advay (my son) was in the twelfth grade, we took out some of his friends for dinner. Two of the girls were seeing each other—they were a same-sex couple. The fact that we not only acknowledged it but accepted it as normal was a complete surprise to the other kids. They were delighted. In a way, with this kind of behaviour, we were also messaging our children that if either of them were to be queer, we would be fine with it and would embrace the relationship just like we would a heterosexual relationship. If my children were queer, I didn’t want them to live with guilt and shame all their lives, without even confiding in us. I want them to know we will accept and embrace whoever they are. When we talk to our children about relationships, I always tell them, ‘It doesn’t matter what caste, religion, nationality, colour or gender your partners are going to be. The only thing that matters is that they should be good people and you should love each other deeply.’
Ravi and Lata are two of my close friends. Their son Aryan came up to them one day when he was fourteen and told them that he was gay. Lata narrated this incident to me: ‘The predominant emotion we felt was one of fear—for his physical and emotional safety, because we live in such a rigid and narrow-minded society. Of course, we were happy that he had enough trust to share such a sensitive topic with us. But we also felt a little sad that he had told his sister and a few of his friends about this before he told us—maybe we had inadvertently said or done something that discouraged him from confiding in us. We felt horrible that, unknowingly, we might have cracked offensive jokes or said things which had been non-inclusive. To us, it doesn’t make any difference whether he is gay or straight. The only concern we had was that he should find happiness and be among people who do not judge him for who he is.’ Lata was being unkind to herself. My generation was brought up thinking homosexuality is a crime and is unnatural. That it is a psychological aberration. It is only in the last couple of decades that more awareness has been created about gender and sexuality and more people now realize that being queer is just as natural. That sexuality is a spectrum. People could be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, nonbinary or anything else in between. It is understandable if you, my reader, have been brought up thinking and still believe that homosexuality is unnatural. To truly become an active parent, you need to research this matter and understand other perspectives. Also understand that there is a real possibility that your child is not cisgender. As an active parent, you will need to accept and embrace this fact, and support your child as they navigate the societal quagmire that is going to face them, starting with your extended family of uncles, aunts and grandparents. The one thing that you need to make sure you reinforce again and again is that you love your child unequivocally and respect them for who they are and that you are there for them. The fact that Aryan had the confidence and courage to embrace who he is and openly speak about it with Ravi and Lata shows just how wonderfully active parents they are.
Sonal S. Raja is a clinical psychologist and a special educator from Bengaluru. She has worked extensively in the areas of positive psychology and social and emotional learning. She also conducts parent–teacher workshops to help them deal better with social and emotional learning challenges that children face. Sonal has a deep insight on this subject. ‘It is important to highlight exclusion that the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer) community faces, which is different than exclusion in any other area. In the issues of sexuality, a person is excluded by their own family unlike other situations of religion, caste, colour, creed, where discrimination and exclusion is faced by the entire family or community. Not only does a parent have to support their child, they must also support themselves and reorient to the whole situation from a new perspective.’
Excerpted from Active Parenting by RamG Vallath with permission from HarperCollins India. The book releases on 19 September.