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Coming out of the desi closet

Vikrant Lal uses his personal insight and experiences to provide advice and tips for South Asian families to better cope with the gay issue

For parents:

LISTEN: You might miss crucial signals or clues from your child. It could be from smaller things like a hidden relationship to a big issue such as contemplating suicide

• Be attuned to your children’s needs

• Know their true interests (stop trying to shape them)

• Leave hints that you are open-minded

• Initiate open discussions about the gay role in society

Be educated (Try to research the facts as well as the lingo. The more you know, the less you will embarrass your child)

• Don’t make assumptions. Just because your child is not athletic does not mean he is gay

Avoid comparing your children to other kids (Applicable to all parents)

• Try not to project what other people will think. Focus on your own family before societal issues

• Your child should know that you’re not going to shun them

• Let your child know they will always be loved

For children:

• The first time you come out to someone, it will be the hardest thing you ever do. But once you come out to one person, it only gets easier.

• You have to reach out and build a network of people before you come out to your parents, so that it will make it easier to go through. You are not alone

• You have to believe that whatever happens will be the best outcome

• Believe that it is better to tell them than to continue living a lie

• There is so much pressure in our culture to please your parents. You need to have faith that your parents will still be proud of you

• Even if they do not support you, you must know and believe one important thing: There are always other people who will love you for who you are

Do you have any suggestions for South Asian parents or family members to better address homosexuality within their families? We would love to hear from you. Please post your comments, or email us at info@southasianparent.com.

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4 Responses to Coming out of the desi closet

  1. Sky January 11, 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    This is an excellent place to start for both parents and children. I came out to my parents (the first time) several years ago, but it took several years and several more attempts at coming out for the message to finally stick. I think the process was a lesson in communication for my entire family, as it was probably the first time we broke the silences among us.

    So my added advise to children is this:

    1) As much as you can, have PATIENCE. It probably took you time to come out to and accept yourself. It took me more than a decade to accept myself and my true identity. Your parents’ journey may only start when you explicitly come out to them. So try to be patient with them as they process the new information you give them.

    2) The first reaction is not the final outcome. The first time I told my mom, she told me I still had to get married and have children, regardless of my feelings. When I told my dad, he told me that I had no right to make this declaration on my own. Five years later, both of my parents have come to accept and even celebrate who I am. They are both eager to visit with me and to meet my friends. They have supported my coming out process with extended family and with the extended community in a way I never thought was possible.

    3)If you have literature, friends, parents of friends, websites, or any other resources, offer them to your parents. As much as parents should proactively get knowledgeable, children can help provide reliable resources. It can also help keep communication open when it’s difficult for either/both parties to talk directly about the issue at hand.

    To both parents and children:

    1) Do your best to LISTEN. During my process with my parents, I often felt like my words weren’t being heard or believed. This was incredibly frustrating, as it made me feel like I was crazy at times. I would say things that fell on deaf ears. My mom would search for the “reason” that I am this way and not hear me tell her that there isn’t really one, that I don’t need to be ‘fixed,’ and that I just need her love and support. I was so wrapped up in trying to be heard, though, that I missed what she was really saying– “was it something I did?” Once I was able to listen better and hear the messages underneath my parents words, it became easier to allay their true concerns. And the more my parents listened to and believed me, the more encouraged I felt to share myself with them.

    • South Asian Parent January 17, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

      Thank you Sky, for sharing, and for offering such insightful suggestions. It is particularly important, as you note, for both parents AND children to LISTEN. Sometimes we all forget this simple point. South Asian Parent believes that communication is crucial in order to reach understanding within families, but just as important as expressing your point of view to each other is LISTENING to what the other has to say. Not clouded by what you want to hear, but to actually listen to your parent or child for what they are saying.

      It’s also very true that just as it took time for you to accept the way you are, so it is that it will take time for your parents. We should continually remember to have this patience, with ourselves, and with each other.

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