GayBombay Special Sunday Meet: “High Fun High Risk”: Substance Abuse (12/2015)


By Sachin Jain

'A vortex of dependence'; Image: Brijesh
Image: Brijesh

Date & Time: December 13, 2015, 5:30-8pm

Venue: The Hive, Chuim Village, Khar (West), Mumbai 400052

Participants: 43

Facilitator: Deepak Kashyap

  • Introduction

We are not aware of statistics in the LGBT community in India on drug usage. In the gay community users seem to be a minority, but within that minority, usage appears to be significant. It has been difficult to find resource persons for holding this workshop though Gay Bombay has wanted to for many years. This is because their philosophies tend to be moralistic and while not condoning usage, we wanted a non-judgmental approach. The aim of this workshop is to develop awareness of risks in order to foster assumption of responsibility by LGBTIQ community members.

  • Resources
    • Websites:
  1. The Science of Addiction
  2. Commonly Abused Drugs and Prescription Medicines
  3. Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse
  4. A Provider’s Guide to Substance Abuse Treatment for LGBTI individuals
  5. Others: Effects of individual drugs: Bluelight.org, erowid.org; underlying issues: Chasingthescream.com
  • Videos:

1) Rise of Chemsex on London’s Gay Scene: In the video, users in the London gay community grappled with deep rooted problems of avoidance, intimacy, hiding self, and hyper-vigilance. Smartphone apps have normalized drug use, with no frame of reference. No causal link between chemical sex and HIV but incidences were on the rise. Study of PREP (pre exposure prophylaxis) use saw reduction in HIV.

2) Addiction and the Rat Park experiments: Persons access to functioning social life as important as reducing availability and penalizing usage. Lack of confidence and experiencing loneliness can make it difficult to quit.

  • Exercise

Participants were asked to write their life aspirations on one side of a sheet of paper and substances they knew on the other, with a tick mark for the substance they came into contact with. Differences between ‘drug’ and ‘substance’, ‘dependence’ and ‘addiction’, ‘substance’ and ‘behavior’ dependency were clarified.

  • Stories

“I think it is a problem in our community. My friend started doing crystal meth, few months later he tested positive for HIV, mainly due to lack of judgment and taking more risks.”

“Sex lives viewed as intrinsically connected to drug usage.”

“Using stopped him from caring and protecting himself. Got into a 12-step recovery program, he feels alive again.”

“A gay friend couldn’t go out and speak what he was feeling. He lost job, got into prostitution. Then he had a grand wedding with a woman who didn’t know he was gay. He was taken to mental hospital 3 months later. Now he is completely incommunicado. As friends we tried reaching out at every stage, but didn’t succeed.”

“His father was alcoholic, and partner of 3 years uses drugs. People want to blame everything on drugs, for not doing things right, for failure. They do take vodka shots as dancers before going on stage. A friend has lost partner due to overdose on drugs, but he has also seen moments of pleasure. They take it as artists when they don’t want to feel nervous or judged.”

  • Aspects

(1) Defining addiction or dependence

“Addiction is a behavior that gets in the way of normal day to day duties and life, doesn’t let you achieve your goals in a persistent way. There is a correlation between factors like loneliness etc, but not necessarily causation.”

The role of neurotransmitters, high and low effect of drugs (highs included feeling loved, acceptance, absence of stress), secondary effects (like weight loss), and difference between physiological (body effects like tremors) and psychological addiction (rationalization with ‘but I only have…’), excitatory and inhibition lowering drugs were discussed.

(2) How it begins

“Friends who are not into drugs, met persons through dating site, and try it on their behest. How to be careful about not getting into it?”

“Curiosity, peer pressure, low self-image, thrill, boredom, ignorance, propensity to try everything once, the need for pleasure, the need to appear cool, narration of a user’s positive experience, cause people to begin. There are few healthy spaces for gay men to meet like picnics or socials. Meeting is largely on hookup sites or parties, where you don’t want to talk about anything, just enjoy. Clusters of guys are formed which are very tight, and these may drive behavior of drug use.”

“Nobody reads the “conditions applied” fine print in life. Blame it on the modern world, but we want something more all the time.”

“I have many friends addicted to methadone, with the idea that it gives you glorious sex, though it is not true, as it kills the erection but makes it horny. Before shooting up, they take Viagra and shoot up, so two substances are taken. And it works. Sex is a sure-shot biological way of feeling accepted, desired and wanted, to be let inside their body, a biological evidence of acceptance.”

“Use not only associated with sex, but there is also the party, socializing drug. People do it for these reasons too. Can you be a healthy user, become an abuser, or get out?”

“It is tough to be disciplined all the time, get to work on time everyday, so these parties become our way to unwind. It’s also a way to process past hurts, like a breakup. When you are emotionally low, you are vulnerable and likely to.”

“Drugs replace some kind of a void, like not being successful at work. It may have nothing to do with sex.”

“A friend who does a lot of weed says it is a natural product so it is good for digestion. Is it really good? Medical marijuana was offered to my mom to reduce pain. A form of heroine, morphine given in a way people can manage, dosage on advice of doctor. Frequency, duration and intensity has to be decided by prescriber.”

For Aspects (1) and (2) please see the website provided in the Resource List above: “The Science of Addiction”

(3) Problems from usage

  • Financial both in terms of cost, as well as lost earnings in future.
  • Health: physical and mental aspect.
  • Socio-cultural
  • Interpersonal
  • Productivity

“In India, a big problem with all illegal substances is there is no quality control and adulteration, side effects. Bad stuff may cause higher intake, without knowing the adulterant.”

“One very common substance right now is Meow-Meow: There is a strong desire to re-dose, craving to recapture initial rush, to increase dose to overcome tolerance, uncontrollable changes in body temperature, dehydration due to not drinking water, impaired short term memory, insomnia, teeth grinding, etc”

“If you have sex with a drug user, does it heighten your risk of infections?”

-“ In case of unprotected sex, yes, but consumed drug is likely not transmitted through body fluids. Please look at resources indicated for accurate information.”

“I feel that drugs help with the creative process when taken correctly. I have a friend who does marijuana every night, but is very spiritually evolved, and talking to him makes me feel better. Sensitivity is different in people, and hence effects vary based on internal make-up.”

“There is a spectrum of education available on different substances. For alcohol, the message nowadays is enjoy responsibly. After a few years, that may be so for certain drugs too. There is not enough support for drug usage, forget about for LGBT.”

“MDMA is the main focus, as that is happening a lot in the community. Risks spiral out of control. People who can’t afford, start injecting (slamming) rather than oral. Then issues with needles begin, most don’t know how to inject, no equipment, not sterilized, bacterial contamination, leading to blood to blood contact for sero-conversion.”

“Initially everyone conscious of individual needles, but in a users party, as progressive control of reality is lost, needles start getting shared.”

(4) Usage Persistence

“Human propensity for short-term pleasure, the attraction of forbidden fruit.”

“A person started seeing someone and quit friends, and when broke up, was all alone. Hence took solace in drugs. When you want to leave it and are not able to you must ask for help.

“A doctor didn’t know what weed is, can we have access to doctors who know more about drugs?”

“Drug use and failure can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Low frustration tolerance is one of the major reasons to continue any addiction.”

For Aspects (3) and (4) please see the websites provided in the Resource List above: “Commonly Abused Drugs and Prescription Medicines” and “Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse”.

(5) How to help

“I have a friend who badly needs help, but if I tell him, he reacts badly. How can I help as he can afford it. Do we have support system within the city?”

“If someone is not willing to get help, when they are in good mood, keep encouraging them by giving them resources and support contacts. Talk to a counselor in earlier stages to figure out the need to get help. Psychotherapist can work on deep seated issues. Clinical psychologist can give you intervention based on which drug you use.”

“In case of an overdose, rush to emergency department of any Grade 1 hospital for anti-toxic treatment.”

“Harm reduction techniques include the ‘gatekeeper policy’, or having a trusted person at hand to make sure one doesn’t do anything harmful to self or others, addressing loneliness and leaving an authentic and social life.”

For Aspect (5) please see the website provided in the Resource List above: “Providers Guide to Treatment for LGBT individuals”

LGBTIQ-positive counseling and support in Mumbai:

1) The Humsafar Trust

2) Ascend Psychology

15th Gay Bombay Parents and Relatives Meet: A Mumbai Pride Event: Report (02/2014)


By Sachin Jain

  • Date and time: Sunday, February 9, 2014; 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Venue: Seva Sadan Hall, Grant Road (West), Mumbai
  • Participants:
    • Family members: (record-breaking!) 17 [9 mothers 3 fathers(!), 3 sisters, 2 aunts];
    • LGBTIQ community participants: 65

The session had 3 thematic parts:

  1. Personal strengths and struggles
  2. Family and Society (also includes a part of LGBTIQ children telling their parents what they feel)
  3. Politics

The parents meet reports are especially written as personal narratives, and not summarized or altered, because we believe there is a lot of power in recording, as-is, the testimonies of the parents. The questions posed by the facilitator or others to the parents are placed in italics. The ‘parents meet’ events are a safe, welcoming non-judgmental space where parents with all opinions, including those that may be perceived to be hostile to LGBTIQs are welcomed and respected.

Deepak Kashyap, facilitator, introduced himself, Gay Bombay, Gay Bombay’s Parents Meet and how they have been held as a part of ‘Queer Azaadi Mumbai’. He narrated a story of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians) founder Jeanne Manford. At night her phone rang – a police officer called and asks if she was Monty’s mother. “Do you know your son was in a gay bar and caught? Do you know he is a homosexual?”, he asked. She replied, “Yes I know leave him alone.” She marched in 1972 New York Pride with a placard that read “Parents of Gays Unite in Support of Our Children”. Since then familial acceptance and love became powerful ideas in the gay rights movement. Our panel today of 17 parents and relatives epitomizes this support and love their kids and their kids’ friends or their kids’ friends’ parents in realizing dream of unconditional love for their child. A love that asks no questions without explanation or reason. It was made clear a little later that even parents with views opposing queer sexuality and not accepting of their children’s sexuality were welcome in this space and it was a safe and non-judgmental space for them. How Gay Bombay’s creation of social spaces leads to solidarity and confidence and ultimately empowerment was also explained. It was the marriage anniversary of one of the parents and yet she came, and she was presented with a bouquet. The context of Gay Bombay’s Parents Meets and their part in Queer Azaadi Mumbai was explained and there was a round of introductions.

Introductory narratives:

“I am very proud of my brother.”

“I learned about my son 8 years ago, and have been connected to Gay Bombay’s parents meet movement since then. I have come not just for my son. You are all like my children and I have come to support you all.”

“My son came out to me 15 years ago. For 6 months I did try to take him to psychiatrist. After that the doctor said it is inborn, we cannot change him. Why not accept it gracefully? It’s not in my hands.”

“I’m a psychiatrist, and coming out is very important. My son came out and everyone has accepted him in my family, they have even started accepting the gay community. If he is so good and successful why should it hamper anyone’s life? Parents are afraid their children will suffer and be discriminated against. If you and your relations accept, society will also accept. When more people come out you will no longer be called a tiny minority. Successful gay people should be role models so that people think there is no difference between you and others. Tell your friends to come out.”

“I have met so many parents in the past few years. , Ultimately they say “Maybe I will take my son or daughter to a psychiatrist so they can be cured. My daughter is a professor abroad. She came out to me in 1992. I accepted her immediately and all my family friends accepted her. One of my family told me later we were shocked initially. She insisted on going and telling people she was close to herself. Thinking logically and deeply we realized she’s the same person. All these years we have loved her. What has changed? Nothing. If she falls in love, it will be with a woman, that’s all. If she sets up a family it will be with a woman too. How has it made a difference in our relationship?”

“It was not easy when my son came out. I said don’t tell anyone. But he went about telling everyone that he is gay. So he made me come out of my phobia. Otherwise I would have made him sit at home and be quiet about it. It is very important for children to come out. I have seen him flowering after that. He used to be very afraid to speak even a word.”

“I am a proud mother also a proud mother-in-law to my son’s partner. I’ve accepted both of them, they stay with me together. I will support them throughout my life and support the whole gay community throughout my life.”

“You all call me bua. It has been so many years we have been in touch and we have such a strong bond. I wish from my heart that things are easier for your all. Never say your sexuality is a choice, it is not a choice.”

“My son came out in 2007. I have supported him since then and will support all of you forever. I know the situation you all are in. You can call me 24 hours a day. It was difficult for my son to come out. He took very long to tell. It was I who asked. He started crying and said yes. He asked if I hate him or feel shame. I said no I am very happy so stop crying. We went out for dinner in a restaurant and we slept well. I am very proud of him.”

“I teach sociology at University of Melbourne. Deepak invited me, as I had researched and documented gay men’s life stories across the globe. He wanted to speak on importance of parents and coming out experience. “

“I am meeting you all for he first time. My sister and I never talked about this but my niece knew. She said we want to go to this program. I asked my sister and she said, what’s the big deal? A load was taken off my shoulders. Humans are humans. I had a dream of his marriage. He said I will marry and your dream will come true. It feels very good to meet you all and hear your thoughts. I would like to participate in future as well.”

“I am a father, our son told us 6 months ago. Seeing the support system here I’m feeling better. Didn’t know what is gay and lesbian and have started discussing now.”

Section 1: Personal Strengths and Struggles

What inner strengths did you discover when your child came out?

“Knowing about something makes it easier to accept. If you find out suddenly, without knowledge, acceptance takes time. I’d studied about homosexuals in medicine so I knew about their existence. I’m a cancer survivor. During cancer counseling, when I accepted it I faced it and could find a way out. It’s the same thing. Without knowing something we should not oppose it.”

“It is very easy to accept my brother is gay. He came out on Facebook to me. Being born in this generation I can relate to him very easily. He is brave and inspires me. Being born in a conservative Maharashtrian family and loved so much by parents, he is doing what he is doing. Sometimes if I’m stuck I take courage from his example.”

“When the whole world tells you what you should want and your body and mind tells you something else, this fight is very hard. Hence those who come out to parents who can reject you, it is very courageous.”

“I was always strong, but that opened doors for me, made me observe more, be compassionate and tolerant. It shook me. Helped me move ahead with broad-mindedness.”

If you knew someone gay or lesbian before would have been easier for you?

“Not for me. When my son explained I got it.”

“I didn’t feel bad when she told me. She was 20-21 years old. She knew from the age of 14-15 of being different from her friends. Then why didn’t she tell me? She gave me the reasons that in the early 80s, novels, literature, films were only heterosexual. Any feminine boy or delicate boy was called names even by grown-ups. She was afraid her parents and other may treat her badly. I considered myself so liberal and progressive but I had not given her support when she needed it most. Maybe I make up for that now by trying to support others. I keep telling mainstream people never to take your child’s sexuality for granted. I knew almost no gay people in the 1970s.”

“Sexual behavior is one of the important facets of life. But people are hesitant to talk about it, it is a closed topic. Even with normal sexual behavior many people don’t know what is right or wrong. People don’t know that homosexuality does not mean pedophilia. Homosexuality is not antisocial behavior, pedophilia is. I think it is very good that things are now openly talked about. Once people understand that it is not abnormal or bad, it is not sinful at least as far as Hinduism is concerned. Even things like abortion considered a sin earlier have been accepted now. It is important to educate the public. I am happy that three fathers are here.”

“Are there any other mothers of lesbians? None. I have a complaint, we say LGBTIQ community and while the gay aspect is visible, lesbians are invisible. I would like the lesbian friends to be brought and invited and their parents whether accepted or not they should tell their experiences.”

“I discussed with my sister before taking him to the psychiatrist. The extended family never makes him feel he is different. My husband has not told his side of the family but I want the nephews to know.”

“Frankly I don’t care if people know or not. There’s no question of acceptance as he is what he is. When my son was in the 2nd standard his teacher hit him, his hand was red and swollen. He was scared to tell him and knew that I would fight so he didn’t tell me. At night I saw it and asked. Crying he told me what happened. The next day I went to the Principal’s house at 7am and told them about what happened. I asked are you going to talk to her should I? I have not allowed my husband or me to touch him. If this continues I will take my son out of school and teach him myself. So now that he is gay nobody can dare to open their mouth.”

Can a gay man get married and still leave a happy life?

“Yes he can but he won’t get happiness or satisfaction, he will keep going outside the marriage.”

“In 1970 gay men married women and saved themselves from social hatred. It began when feminism was strong, it was fine for the man, no way fine for the woman, as it treats the women badly.”

“If you try, solution comes. For me this is simply unnatural sex. You should make people be able to have a normal life.”

Will you allow your daughter to marry a gay man?

“You will be happy but the woman will suffer. Marriage is between two people, so any third person will create a problem. If a gay person marries and is loyal to his wife and satisfies his wife, but if he expresses his sexual behavior outside there is a problem. Without trust there will not be a happy marriage.”

“LGBT includes bisexual persons as well who are attracted to both genders. I have met people who are bisexual who are married to opposite gender, they could be bisexual. If they are gay, they can be happy only with other guys.”

Was there any point you regretted your child’s sexual orientation? Why?

“None of my sisters have sons, so we had hopes for daughter in law so we feel sad that will not happen.”

Section 2: Family and Society

How do you deal with relatives and neighbors who ask questions like why is your child not married yet?

“For a long time I didn’t understand that a political act was not just to demonstrate and march in the street, it is by telling their friends and members of their family and a political change takes place by the single act of coming out. Then people know a gay man or woman so they cannot be homophobic in abstraction.”

“My answer when they asked me about her wedding was to say girls don’t get married etc. and sometimes I’d take refuge in a joke. Just as she showed the courage, I must also come out and live honestly and not be hypocritical. I told my close friends who knew her partner, but nobody mentioned her name and it was insulting for her partner to be treated always as a family friend. Despite the Supreme Court judgment, I look people in the eye and talk about my daughter and her partner. Just be confident and talk about your child’s achievements.”

“There was no challenge when he told me. I’m a single parent. From the beginning I love my children very much. I used to watch movies at night and one day he came out to me. I made a comment about one gay person in the movie and he went inside and started crying. I asked him what happened, and he told me. So I said I know and I had sort of guessed. But till he told me I could not come out. I said I love you very much and whatever you are I accept you. My sisters-in-law love him as mothers, and even their daughters have come today. But my side of the family knows everything but don’t want to acknowledge. They don’t ask me anything. I have told those who have asked. Those who don’t I don’t go and tell them. For wedding invitations, they include my son’s partner now. Once step at a time.”

Why did you come out about your daughter to your domestic help?

“In Indian families the driver, domestic help are like a part of the family. I didn’t want anyone to gossip behind our backs. I take them in confidence and tell them. I told my cook that my daughter and her friend are lesbians. She is not only a friend, she is her partner like a husband or boyfriend and girlfriend. My driver is from a small town in Uttar Pradesh and educated only till 8th grade. But he accepted it.”

“One of her classmates in late 80s was very delicate. After 12th standard he came back as a girl after his operation. When everyone got into a car, the driver said he could still hear a boy’s voice. My daughter explained. Call him by his new name. The driver says he is so lucky that his father had money to do the operation. ‘In our village they don’t have money and so they can’t do it and have so much trouble.’ Let us not think that educated people are qualified or tolerant. There are good human beings and bad human beings.”

How did you talk to your son’s partner’s parents?

“When I found out he was settled I was very happy. Hence I told everyone the news at once. Reactions were weird. I thought I did something wrong. “Is it because he went to US to study? Call him back. We will do it a puja. How did this happen? He was such a good boy.” I didn’t get angry because they were ignorant. But after all these years all of them have accepted him. Some prayed for him to change. When I found out I said what will happen to his partner if your prayers work? What about a girl if he marries? I am proud that he has accepted himself, I feel proud that he is not taking a wrong path. Both lives would have been destroyed. Being gay is not a crime. I saw his life there, and his partner’s parents. His partner’s mother started crying. She said both our boys are good but I don’t agree with this. I asked her to stay with them. Along with food, clothing, shelter, in life we want companionship. It doesn’t matter if it is with a boy or girl.”

“Our nani lives with us and I never came out to my grandmother. That time I was dating a boy, and I told her that I love him. First she asked me if it’s a Punjabi. Then she asked Muslim? Gujarati? Then she asked Telugu? Bengali? After everything she asked South Indian? Tamil? Brahmin? Then she says thank God he is a Tamil Brahmin.”

Do you fear that your child will not find a partner or be alone or miserable in his or her old age?

“I think it’s a powerful myth. I came across it while interviewing gay men. Parents said it’s sad you will be lonely in old age. There are 3 interpretations of their reasoning: First, they don’t know any older gay men and have no picture of how life could be lived without an opposite sex partner. The second possibility is the assumption that by having children old age gets better, which in some cases is true and in some not. The third is a rather negative view of gay men as those who don’t settle down, can’t hold relationships and are destined to be alone. This is the least helpful view. The first two may be rectified on exposure. During my research I met a bunch of men in Mumbai in their fifties, leading fulfilled lives, both on and off scene, creating alternative families. A single life is not necessarily a failed life, and not necessarily what gay men are destined to have.”

“8 years ago I met a 60-year-old gay man. He said, ‘In my time there was no internet hence finding a partner was difficult. For kids now it’s not that difficult. Your son is your son, but I am also his mom, as much as you take care of him I will too.’ We come alone into the world, go alone. Why worry? And the fact is yes, they may be alone. Expecting children to take care of you all life is not necessary. This idea of birthing children to be caregivers is wrong. The important thing is that they are happy.”

How is it different from fathers as against mothers to deal with a child’s different sexual orientation?

“Fathers love as much as mothers but don’t know how to express it. Mother doesn’t care about prestige but father does.”

“Fathers identify with sons with ego. More aware of the difficulties the son will face. Hence more difficult to accept.”

“Initially there was a lot of disturbance, my father would see me on TV and say derogatory things. Even my brother would. But they never stopped me. After I came back from the show, they would speak. Now they are very mature. My brother talks about it, my sister said to her to-be husband ‘I will only marry you if you accept my brother.’”

LGBTIQ kids tell their parents present there what they feel:

“I love her a lot. My mom says you not going to the temple but for me my parents are my gods.”

“My mother has been put through a lot of torture because of me. Every show I went on, I said she didn’t support me initially. Yet she stands by me now. On TV shows against Section 377, she accompanies me. Till today my father didn’t accept but now he does and talks about it himself. I am really thankful to them for accepting me. They have worked for many years to understand so I am grateful.”

“I came out 6 years ago and today to get my mom to a Gay Bombay Parents Meeting is history in the making for me. Rather than mother and son, we are like best friends. We fight everyday and the next moment we go and cook together. For 6 years it was ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ and now she came here. I can see that she is happy and my sister is here too. I am really glad. I hope the discussion will go on and on and we will fight the battle together.”

“I have three mothers sitting here today. The one who gave birth to me exemplifies love. I can’t imagine my life without her. Most of my decisions are based on thinking of her first and then me, and it’s same for her. she is my best friend. I can’t imagine not being honest with her or even not being with her. After I came out to her I came out to my elder bua in a paper letter. She wrote back to me. She said I accept you. I don’t care what you are. I love you for who you are and for what you mean to me. She has been a pillar of support. Lastly my other bua. She is the one I am very close to. She took me to discotheques and hotels. I lived the high life with her. I didn’t come out to her first surprisingly. If the social butterfly accepted me I supposed she would too. The three of them have made me who I am. I hope I am a good person because they are just brilliant.”

There was an interval of half an hour for tea and snacks, and many of the LGBTIQ persons approached the parents and had private conversations.

Section 3: Politics

Suddenly your children are now criminals before the law after 4 years of freedom. What is your reaction? How do you advise parents dealing with this new situation?

“Why is the Government after gay people when there are so many issues today?”

“When the verdict came, I was at Azaad Maidan. Before that I was thinking what to wear to celebrate, a party dress. When I heard the verdict I started crying. I waited for years to hear good news which didn’t come. So I felt very angry and sad. But later I realized that whenever change has to happen, it takes time. What we can do is spread awareness, talk openly so people will understand, and one day it will change for the good. A golden day will come someday.”

“When the Supreme Court verdict came I felt very bad and disappointed. I cried a lot. I felt bad for my son. Rome not built in a day. Maybe the LGBTIQ community has to struggle more. Freedom definitely will come, it will be possible. Don’t get caught in legal problems, be aware of cops.”

“Criminals harm society. Consensual adult sex can’t be called criminal. What you do in your own house and bedroom cannot be called a crime. The judicial and political class needs introspection. I’m sure they will change. I sincerely hope within the next 2 years it will change.”

“When we failed in the Supreme Court, I wondered what would happen to my son as he is openly gay and the law is now against him. I never expected this. I was very dejected. In the last 4 years we had gone so much ahead but now we are back to square one. There is always something good in all bad things. So much awareness and debates happened. Those who didn’t know all know now. This was evinced by how many people came to Mumbai Pride 2014. More people will come out, and we hope for the better in the future.”

“Because of the decision we have got more publicity. People have come to know about gay people and the media has helped quite a lot. So we should wait and watch, we cannot do anything else. I would just give a message that gay community should be more careful not to get caught.”

“Everyday there should be one article in the newspaper on sexuality so people are kept aware. Who went to ask the law? If there is no law for heterosexuals then why for homosexuals? Why worry so much about the law? Tell the law we will not change, it will have to change.”

“If you reflect on life even five years ago, men in Mumbai had already been in long-term relationships. This slight interruption is not gong to stop anyone from conducting intimate relationships lasting the distance. They have been conducting them in times of meticulous hostility in the past. If the state starts to peer into the bedroom, then it will be a good reason to take to the streets. But the Indian police won’t have money to spy on people. It will slow down the movement towards same-sex marriage. Take heart in what you did from 2009 and continue doing that in the face of this hiccup as history is on your side. This hiccup will reverse. Thing will be better. This will hold up inheritance rights etc. but that will eventually happen too.”

“We must educate our relatives that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Speak openly.”

“Be cautious that you are not caught, take precautions, the law is against you. Misconceptions like gay people will increase and HIV will spread abound. Some gay people don’t take precautions while doing sex since it is not going to produce a child. Just be careful when roaming around.”

“Society will be perverted, more people will become gay by watching, this is the accusation. This is not a choice. There is not going to be more gay people, some are intelligent, some are not, most are average. Are we going to reject those who are not within the average and who are at the extremes?”

The parents were given a standing ovation and presented with mementos. The meet concluded with thanks.

14th Gay Bombay Parents and Relatives Meet: A Mumbai Pride Event: Report (01/2013)


Venue: Liquid Lounge, Charni Road, Mumbai

Date: January 20, 2013

Time: 4:15pm – 7:15pm

Attendees: 70

Parents and Relatives: Mothers 5 (including 1 in the audience apart from the 4 on stage), 1 father, 1 aunt.

Language: Hindi and English.

 

We had 15 first timers at the meet. Umang began by setting them at ease, saying that they would not be asked any questions that they were not comfortable answering, and that they could come and go as they chose. Of the attendees, 8 wanted to come out, and 30 were already out.

 

This meet featured a surprise: 3 role plays of coming-out scenarios by Umang as a gay son, with the wonderful Mrs. Doshi as a parent.

 

Mother and Son: Role play 1:

It was a moving exploration of how an Indian son searches for ways and terms to explain his sexuality to his perplexed traditional parent. It touched upon attraction, sex, love, marriage and psychiatry. Denial, ignorance, fear, anger, secrecy show up in parental reactions. they went on to show how to access support like Parents Meets and meeting other members of the LGBT community.

 

Mother and Son: Role Play 2:

This was a modern parent. They spoke openly and in a friendly way. The son tried to explain his sexuality with a film as an example. Here the mother was shocked but knew about the gay identity already as against the previous example where it was all completely new. Here again doctors, invoking religion, blaming cinema and company, persuading the son to change were motifs. It ended with a sort of barter where the son says if you take me to a doctor, you have to meet my friends. Here the mother is inquisitive and curious to meet another parent of a gay man.

 

Mother and Son: Role Play 3:

The third mother was ultramodern and urban. The son asks the mother to guess why he is not getting married: she thinks he is not ready, not wanting to take responsibility, that he may do it maybe later when he is ready. On being probed, about anything being amiss or wrong she talked about him being alone, and not playing cricket while growing up. When the son comes out, she does not find anything wrong in it but asks if it is just a phase.

 

Mother, Son and Doctor: Role Play 4: Umang as gay son, Mrs. Doshi as the mother and Mrs. Dash (who is a retired psychiatrist), as a psychiatrist.

Mother: “He told me he is gay, I don’t know what you mean by gay.”

Doctor: “It means that his sexual orientation is towards the same sex. As we grow and reach puberty, there is a normal attraction to opposite sex, in some children, towards the same sex. Usually a boy of 16 interested in girls, but a gay person, would be more interested in guys, e.g. In John Abraham rather than Kareena Kapoor in a movie.”

Mother: “Will his sexuality change? Will he be attracted to women also?”

Doctor: “There are many ways of homosexuality – one is situational homosexuality, like hostels or jails, a person may have relations with the same sex. But in most other cases, the cause is genetic in nature. Up to the age of 12-13 most children behave similarly and are not aware of sex, but as they attend puberty, certain hormones start circulating: pituitary, adrenaline, testes or ovary, and behaviour changes. In girls, oestrogen and progesterone are more. In boys testosterone and steroids more. Sometimes due to different wiring, hormonal differences are present.”

“Am I responsible for him being gay?”

“Absolutely not. Many parents feel guilt about not imparting correct values, leaving children unsupervised. Even children themselves do not make a choice. Everyone would want to go to mainstream if they could. It is not a chosen behaviour, they are made like that.”

“How will I explain all this to his father even I have understood all this myself?”

“For fathers, who may not as easily demonstrate a mother’s unconditional love, become sensitive to anything that affects their social prestige.

“How will I face the society?”

“It’s a question of educating society. We have seen so many gay people, who achieve very much, and they have positive characteristics attributable to men and women, and so reach top of their profession and are respected in society very much.

“What about my other children? How they will get married?”

“Why should it affect anybody? Children have different intelligences and we accept them. Homosexuality is not an anti-social behaviour. It is how God has made somebody, so you have to accept it.”

 

Moms: Role Play 5: The mother introduced to 2 other moms: Harwant Bua and Mrs. Iyer.

“Is your son gay as well? Have you accepted him?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know everything about it?”

“I learnt a lot.”

“Are they saying the right thing?”

“Yes”

“Will they have troubles in their future lives?”

“There will be troubles, but lets see.”

“I feel he will do the right thing in the future. But how will I face society, how will my other children get married?”

“I have the same confidence. Even now my husband has not accepted it but has given us permission to live our lives.”

“Those who can understand, you can tell them. Its not necessary to tell all. Say my son doesn’t want to get married as yet.”

“What about taking care of him in his old age?”

“I am a widow without children.  Nobody is taking care of me, you have to take care of yourself.”

 

Son with other moms: Role Play 6:

“My mom wants me to go to god-men.”

“This will not change by accessing god-men or rituals. If you don’t accept him, others won’t. This will be even more difficult.”

“I want her to meet my boyfriend.”

“Wait for some time, give her time.”

“What about making me see girls?”

“You take many years in accepting yourself, and expect parents to understand everything in 1 day. You feel that others accepted quickly but it was not so, it took others also a lot of time earlier.”

“I didn’t know till he told me, I didn’t have a clue.”

“This is the internet generation so different from us. We didn’t talk so openly about sex, never outside the four walls, how would we know? Parents love children more than themselves. They want them to have a bright future, to become something good. They don’t want child to get ill or have bad habits. As parents,  we shouldn’t consider ourselves culpable. Each parent is different in their reaction. Some parents, even if uneducated, have mental balance. They can think and accept their child  immediately. No degree is required. Some very educated people don’t accept their children. But all must try to understand.”

“My mom thought for 2 days, and then asked what do 2 boys do at night together? I used to get friends home and in the kitchen away from earshot, she would ask, if he is like you?”

 

Welcome:

Umang called each parent to the dais and introduced them. He narrated wonderful anecdotes about each one of them, their stories of coming out as parents of gay persons and how they have been involved in and contributed to our community.

 

Rememberance:

We held a minute’s silence in memory of Mrs Jalnawala, proud mother of our Peshdad, and a veteran of many parents meets. She passed a few months ago, and we all really appreciated the mixture of fondness and firmness with which she dealt with Peshdad.

 

Below are some of the themes discussed:

 

Gender non-normative children (effeminate boys and masculine girls):

“There is a spectrum of sexuality and behaviour. We should be more accepting. People say things, one mustn’t pay attention to them. Neglect them and don’t listen to them.”

“There is no difference in my son, he looks like an ordinary man.”

 

Fathers:

“As a father what was your reaction when your son came out?”

“He disclosed it on the telephone from abroad, so we were shocked and it was very difficult to absorb. Slowly we came to a conclusion that he was right.”

Mother: “In the beginning we didn’t know much, but he told us and gave us books to read.”

“Did you try to change him?”

“When he was in another city, we thought it was due to the hostel. We took him to a doctor as well. But later we had confidence that he wouldn’t lie or do wrong things.”

“Did you think his sister would have problems?”

“She was already married. People will keep talking, we live our live and focus on it. The in-laws have been told and they accept it too.”

 

Lineage:

“What do you feel about propagating the family name and having grandchildren?”

“We feel bad, but many who get heterosexually married don’t have them either. We live happily and that’s enough.”

“He had a boyfriend for 10 years and now another one. Did you feel bad?”

“As long as he is happy, we are happy. People keep asking when he will marry. I say if he doesn’t want to, what can we do? But we don’t disclose his sexuality. It’s not necessary, to go and tell it ourselves.”

“Do you try to dissuade him from going to events?”

“Yes, that’s why we ourselves didn’t come earlier either.”

 

Flaunting:

“How do you react to people who wear their sexuality on their sleeve? How do you react with your son being openly gay?”

“Initially I didn’t like it, but I accepted it. However the other family members haven’t. So we don’t talk. My son wants other LGBT children to be able to come out. He doesn’t like duplicity and feels those who are closeted must come out. So he talked about it in the media. Initially I felt bad. But later he made me stand there besides him too. So now i have accepted it and feel good because many gay children say they feel inspired to speak to their parents. If four people get courage to speak about sexuality, then my being open and his being open has been a success.”

“My son is also against living a double life as a heterosexually married person.”

“My son we knew all about, he was very beautiful and we indulged him. One uncle saw him swirling in a skirt. Horrified he asked what are you doing to this boy? We replied this is his interest. When he came out to his aunt he asked will you still love me? As far as telling others goes, people who are intelligent enough, I tell them. Others who don’t understand, and are narrow-minded, I don’t tell them. He has a partner for 12 years. We take all this in our stride. He is happy and so we are too.”

Umang shared something about Gaver aunty, Harpreet’s mom, her acceptance and how she went and got a copy of Bombay Dost frmo Humsafar and gave it to her son when he came out.

 

Sex obsession:

 

“Why are gays obsessed with sex?”

“Sex is a thing which is very private, doesn’t happen in the open. What 2 people do is their concern. My advice to all young people is accept yourself first, then others will accept you, no guilt, no shame, no anger, no anxiety. Ultimately it is what you make of yourself in life, which decides your future. Do heterosexual people think of what we are doing in the bedroom, all the time? It’s a minor part, think of your career. You never please everyone so don’t bother about that, accept yourself as you are.”

 

Change therapies:

“A god-man asked my parents to get hormonal tests and to get a balance for that. Can we prescribe drugs and become normal?”

“Playing with hormones is like playing with fire, and rather than that, acceptance is better. Sexual orientation is only known to yourself, your mind is not visible to anyone else. Hence it is difficult for parents or society to understand you. I have not seen change due to hormones.”

“There is no hormonal imbalance in the body of a gay person. Don’t try to change yourself”

“When I was in Std 9, parents gave me hormones for my height and body growth as I was very short and thin. Are these same for sexuality change?”

“Don’t get into these things, be proud of what you are , and accept who you are.”

“I have a sister who is not accepting of me, and is into hypnosis, and past-life regression therapy, I do not agree to that.”

“You can go just to satisfy her.”

Deepak: “As a psychologist, these theories are not scientifically tested, there is a lot of harm in going for these therapies, the installation of shame and guilt, the acceptance of the fact that you need to change is going to do a lot of harm. Hormones act as fuel, but direction is decided by the steer, think of hormones that way as well. When you accept there is a problem, you want to go to an ideal self of heterosexual to bridge the gap by different therapies. First accept the idea of not needing to be cured.”

“Mothers who feel they know their children better than themselves, feel shocked to find something they don’t know.”

Timing:

When my son told me he was gay, I asked if I was responsible. He said no. He told me everything. And gave me books. Why did you take so many years to tell me? He said I can’t live without your support and acceptance so I couldn’t tell you.”

“I get calls from people in cities with parents living in remote areas. Its quite inhuman after coming out, that parents are denied acclimatization time. There are ways to work around confrontation, indirect coming out. For example by just revealing that I don’t want to marry. Being open it’s not easy, my mother gets flak for being open. A lot of strength and perseverance is required, that’s the only solution.”

“A lot of people come out at a very young age, could you tell us what is the right time for children to come out to their families?”

“When they are financially independent, because all parents may not accept it in the proper spirit. Unfortunately they think of it as a sexual deviation. So every parent may not accept, so best time to come out is financially independent. Most parents only know by hindsight. He always had girl and boyfriends so couldn’t make out.”

 

Extended Family:

“How do you deal with extended family? Neighbours, relatives, and their parents?”

“The reactions were very different. Some said how can you be happy and tell others? What will our children think? How will they get married? Why are you coming on TV and talking? There was a struggle, but I was confident that I was right so society would accept it and this would be good for other children. All their children got married and my sons sexuality hasn’t affected anybody. We live in an extended society, but all those are really irrelevant. If you are in deep trouble how many of them come to help you? How many are going to admit you in hospital and spend lakhs of rupees on your treatment? So many people who are non-gay also remain unmarried.”

“We come out because we are brave enough to do so. All these parents and aunts are exceptionally brave people. They are a minority. We live in a society that does not accept your homosexuality. Society needs to be adjusted to. On the other side, there are people who really want acceptance from society. I also believe as LGBT, we should make our parents strong enough to face the world by bringing them to meets like these, to Pride marches. Thus they can see that there are different kinds of people, not just stereotypes within the community. The rainbow flag tell us we are all different. We have to allow for the fact that there are people who believe that opinions of others do matter.”

 

Adoption and Surrogacy:

“If your child wants to have a surrogacy or adoption what do you feel about it?”

“As a straight woman I didn’t want children, because life is difficult, we four brothers and sisters have not had children out of choice. I do not think society is not ready. Adopting is good, but its not good to have children through surrogacy.”

“I agree society is not ready, but as long as my son is financially independent its fine. Day by day the world is moving forward, and questions like taunts etc are not important, soaring prices are.”

“I personally feel that hypothetically if I were to have a child, bringing him or her up would be very different. When my niece sees my ex boyfriend, even now she is attached to him. It’s all about how you condition the child, the upbringing. Nothing is easy. Its like coming out with any disability. The conscious decision and effort by LGBTs to bring a child in the world would automatically ensure better parenting.”

“You are fighting for your rights, you can have a surrogate child. You have to be strong, the child will be strong, that is the future of India.”

“We can’t live in fear of society. Adoption is common.”

“You shouldn’t bother so much about society. If you want a child, why do you ask others? If you can give sufficient affection to the child, it’s good.”

“All children go through challenges.”

“Many in the audience want to get a child. 20 years down the line the acceptance levels will improve to. I strongly believe good parenting let’s a child face anything. We have faced harsh situations, and with that strong will, I can make my child strong enough to face the world with confidence.”

“I wouldn’t adopt because being gay I have gone through a lot in my life. I can make my child as strong as possible in the house but I cannot control all the salient factors outside. My parents when they go outside cant control the salient factors so what do we do?”

 

Break

At 6pm we took a break for tea, coffee and sandwiches. The LGBTs interacted with the parents one on one with specific queries about their own situations, and the parents interacted with each other as well.

 

After the break:

Changes in Parents’ Life after Child’s Coming Out:

 

“How has your child’s coming out as well as your own coming out changed your life for the better or worse?”

“Life has changed. I have become more knowledgeable and a stronger person. Because of him I came to know about gay people, I met you all, I’m very happy about it, otherwise I would not have been here. I would never have bothered to think about gay people. As my son is gay I am always looking forward to helping you and your parents.”

“I am a very introverted person. I never mingled with anyone. I never talked with anyone. My son has made me come here. Today I am able to speak to you all without any fear. That is a big achievement for me. He has made me famous also. People used to look down upon us. Now they look up at as us. He is a support for me. He needed my support for his success. As long as he is in the right path. I will guide him also.”

“I’ve met so many young boys who give me so much love and affection. I don’t have children of my own and you all compensate for that.”

“I have so many friends with other parents of LGBT which is also a very great thing for me.”

“When he disclosed his sexuality, when we found that he was alone, we have supported him. Life has changed, our doubts have gone. He is busy with his own duties. He is handling a business independently and I am retired now.”

“Earlier I used to see to dream of a daughter-in-law. Now I have another son.”

“As far as my attitude is concerned, I became a little protective. You feel protective towards your child. He was always independent, and I have full faith in his intelligence and to his choices in life.”

 

Changes in Child’s Life after Child’s Coming Out:

“Without the support of parents children can’t live. He got confidence and happiness. He knows he is on the right track.”

“After he came  out to me, I see a lot of change in him. Earlier he didn’t have a single friend, now I have to curb his friendships, stop him from talking on the phone all the time. He is very confident, his confidence is soaring. Sometimes he is overconfident. He’s going to dare arrest and go for the pride march. Sometimes he takes it too far. But coming out helps a child. Or else he has a guilty feeling about what he is doing wrong. When you tell your parent your guilt is gone. Now the ball is in the parents’ court. You feel free and light.”

“Before coming out he would lie about his whereabouts. Now he feels relief at not having to tell me lies.”

 

Pride March Permissions:

“Despite three attempts our request to hold permission for the march has been denied. We have recourse to appeal to a higher authority and get in touch with the Commissioner of Police. We were wondering if parents could write a letter in our support or come along with us with us to the next meeting. This would send a very strong statement: we don’t have an issue with our child being gay, why do you?”

 

Conclusion:

 

Umang gave the Get Well Soon card for Gaver aunty to Harpreet, signed by everyone present.

Bala said that parents would be available by email and telephone to children and to other parents, and the wonderful parents were given a standing ovation of applause by the audience.  To give some context, this was GayBombay’s second event as a part of Queer Azaadi 2013, a variety of events by the Mumbai LGBT community concluding with the Mumbai Pride March on February 2, 2013. After the very successful Rainbow Kite Flying last Sunday, we were very happy to offer this unique and signature event as a part of the line-up this year – a conscious decision on the part of the GB core group after QAM 2011 last year where we found ourselves unceremoniously relegated to “one more party organizer”. It was part of our commitment to bring these successful and effective ways of creating networks of support, and of building solidarity to the larger queer community in Mumbai. Never replicated and unfailingly poignant, the parents meets typify how we can take the larger discourse of LGBT rights and bring in the larger mainstream in a unique, irrepressible desi way, instead of segregating and ghettoising ourselves. And for this, we have the fantastic parents, relatives and friends, who over 14 meets in 15 years, have given us their courage, love, support, humour and admonishments to make this possible, so a big big THANK YOU and salute to all of them – Harpreet, Anand, Harwant and Munni Bua and Gaver Aunty; Mrs. Sarojini Dash, Mr. and Mrs. Tapale and their son Mayuresh; Mrs. Iyer and her son Harish, and Mrs. Shobha Doshi as well as the mother in the audience. Also a big thank you to Umang for bringing his heart and soul to the effort, the appreciation and warmth he exudes and to Deepak Mehra for the wonderful arrangements. Thanks also to the wonderful audience who listen carefully, ask questions, and though, finding themselves disagreeing with the parents on multiple occasions, retain the maturity and large-heartedness to accept the multiplicity of viewpoints given the context in which the parents operate. Till the next parents meet, let us remember: We Are Family!

DEEPAK KASHYAP, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST


Deepak-KashyapDeepak Kashyap is a trained counselling psychologist in REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy) and CBT ( Cognitive Behaviour Therapy). He deals with clients with day-to-day emotional disturbances, depression, anxiety and anger. He also takes a keen interest in dealing with parent child relationships, marital and pre-marital counselling, divorce counselling and sexuality counselling particularly for the LGBTQ community. He specifically helps people come out to their families and make their families understand their sons and daughters sexualities.

Deepak practices in Santacruz East in Mumbai and meets his clients on appointment basis and also conducts on-line sessions through Skype. Session charges varies on a case to case basis. Following are the contact details.

Mob:9769331585

E-mail: deepak.j.kashyap@gmail.com

Skype i.d.: deepak.kashyap2