A Perfect (Gay) Storm
By Ruku Taneja
In my experience (as the best friend of a flamboyant gay man and previous partner of several sexy bisexual people, i.e., totally an expert on the LGBT+), queer people’s parents tend to think of their child’s queerness like bad weather: It’ll blow over; just wait for the weather to change, and it’ll be all back to straight and sunny.
Sorry to break it to you, but there is a strong storm in the air, and it’s called Hurricane Gay. And there’s nothing you can do to change its course, even if you try.
And most parents do try. They do it in two ways. Some tell themselves or their best friend that it’s “just a phase,” or their kid that “you have just not met the right man, Ankita.” They think they’re being cool by overlooking the fact that girls-only sleepovers are probably more about under-the-covers sexual experimentation, but they’re unconsciously sending the message they expect their daughter to change, at some point.
Others try to change their kid more consciously – not in the #woke #uncoupling way, but in the sorta, totally evil way.
I met my flamboyant gay bestie Amit in high school, when, in his words, he was “forced to sit next to me but we bonded over the hot guy across the room.” He was then, and still is, the life of the party and the party in my life. He pranced through school get-togethers in tight booty shorts, pink lipstick and a small case of I-don’t-give-a-fuck — when only a few years earlier his parents subjected him to “gay conversion psychotherapy” in a mental institution.
Yup, you heard that right.
He doesn’t talk about it much, and asking “hey, tell me about that time when your parents had you locked up because they thought you were crazy for liking boys” isn’t really something you say to a person, no matter how close you are. But I do know it involved a lot of isolation and a lot of efforts to talk him out of “it.” Perhaps not Saw 3-level torture, but to a 14-year-old, it cuts just as deep.
Unsurprisingly (if you’ve been listening to anything I’ve been saying) his love for hot-pants and hot men persisted throughout high school and college despite all of this “therapy.” Guess what else has persisted? The feeling that his parents only belittled, censored and wanted to change him. That shit stays with a person. It has stayed with Amit. And while I can’t say in precisely what way (it’s not my story to share), according to the American Psychology Association this kind of “psychotherapy” that attempts to change gay kids only makes them depressed and more prone to social problems and suicidal tendencies in the future.
Being totally cool with your kid wanting to boogie with the same sex as a teenage “phase,” and putting them in a mental institution to actively try to change them – it’s just a matter of degree. Either way, you’re still sending the message to your kid that being gay and himself is some kind of aberration. But Amit and kids like him don’t choose to be gay; they can’t go back to what was never there.
I get it; your expectations are still threatened. Parents have certain types of expectations of what their child will be like, and what their lives together will be like. It’s fine to wonder – privately, to yourself – where you went wrong (you didn’t), why you (probably because you conceived in that kinky Kama Sutra position), whether God is punishing you for the anal beads in your closet (definitely, if they’re too large, but not by making your kid gay), or what your own ma or pa will say (probably all manner of mean things, but only because they know about the anal beads).
But the thing about parental expectations is that – unlike homosexuality – they can change. They’re something you have control over. Trust me, you can still expect to have all the grandchildren in the world and a sanskari bahu, too (as a boy in a dress). But for that, you have to accept that the only thing your son is growing out of is being called motu, ladoo or meri jaan.
Once you do, guess what? Hurricane Gay turns into a rainbow. (See what I did there?)
That’s right, in a study of 65 families of gay and lesbian youth for the book, Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child, it was found that some parents get to the point where they believe that the experience of having a gay child actually made them a better person. It made them more open-minded and sensitive to the needs of others, particularly those in other minority groups. Others grew to be proud of their children’s sexual orientation and loved them even more for how they navigated it. After all, these kids aren’t just gay, bisexual, or straight. They are your Mia or Tanya, your Amit, or your ladoo.