Family support for LGBT community, reveals study by Mumbai institute

Study highlights the journey of the family members of lesbians and gays in India

At a time when the country is still struggling to embrace the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community with an open mind, a study conducted by a city-based education institute has highlighted the reactions of their family members.

LGBT
Mumbai Queer Pride Parade at August Kranti Maidan. Pics/Satyajit Desai

While parents have previously voiced their support for its decriminalisation as unnatural sex under section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), little has been said about their reactions to their children’s sexual orientations.

The study, supported by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), was released earlier this week. After the historic judgment by Delhi High Court in 2009, which decriminalised homosexuality, it was challenged in the Supreme Court. During this time several parents of people belonging to the LGBT community came together and filed a petition supporting their children and their sexuality.

“A few support groups of parents have also been formed. A need to document the journey of the parents and family members once they learn about the sexual orientation of their children/kin, in Indian context, formed the background of the study,” said Ketki Ranade, assistant professor, Center for Health and Mental Health, TISS.

Parents converse with kids to learn more
The findings reveal that while most family members’ initial reactions were that of shock, denial, silence and even withdrawal, most came around to discussing their feelings and looking for more information. “Most family members spoke about the need to know, have more materials to read, counsellors/doctors to talk to.

Talking to people facing similar situations seemed to help. Relationship with own lesbian/gay daughter/son was very important for most respondents as they said that it was finally conversations with their own child that helped them reach a comfortable position,” added Ranade.

She added that meeting the partners of their son/daughter also helped reduce their anxieties. “For most parents, marriage and grandchildren was a dream they had for their children. Some of the challenges that parents experienced were in deciding about how much to disclose and to whom,” she said.

Siblings are more supportive
The positive light, however, came from the siblings who were mostly supportive right from the beginning and did not have to struggle as much as the parents.

Reactions of parents were very different. “Sometimes acceptance was partial and parents were open to the relationship of the child and saw how happy it makes their child, but they continued to have reservations due to their religious beliefs,” added Ranade.

The study stresses the need for awareness and openness regarding the issue.

“Many parents found help from other parents who have accepted their children’s sexuality. We found out that counselling and support from other parents helped many overcome their inhibitions,” stated Ranade.

It also highlights the need for the society as a whole to be more open towards the LGBT community. “And the onus of achieving this utopia is on each one of us, whether we have a lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender family member or not,”
she concluded.

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