March 26th, 2009 by goodasyou
1. The Drivers in the Parent- Child relationship:
- What do we feel towards our parents - Love? Fear? Respect?
How we relate to our parents (and the extended family) color our expectations and experiences. Where we mostly relate to them in a fear-respect manner first, we tend to always keep a reverential basis to the relationship. Where love and a feeling of even friendship is really the driving force, then we might choose to be over-protective of them or take them in our stride.
For some of us, we really look to our parents to validate our lives and want them to fully recognize and celebrate our lives. For others, there is no such need, and they are content to keep the distance at an arm’s length, or even further. In the extreme, just as there are parents who disown gay kids, there could be gay kids who disown their parents.
- Are we on an adult-adult relationship? Or is it still parent-child?
With some, the relationship with parents always remains in a parent-child mode, and they do not really relate to the person as an adult. This is reflected in avoidance of relationship/ sexuality topics and other ’sensitive’ discussions. Where it gets to an adult-adult relationship, parents discuss things fairly openly with their kids, including such conversations as ‘who does what to whom and how’, lesbian rape etc.
- Other circumstances
Extended family, current family situations etc. are crucial. Being the only son (or only child) adds a major dimension in terms of ‘family continuity’. Changes to parents’ lifestyle (viz. separation, re-marriage etc) also change how they relate to a gay child.
2. The Discovery process:
- How do the parents come to know?
In your face: Where the parents are told ‘I am gay. This is how it is. Deal with it’
Gradual letting in: Through a slow process of familiarization and elaboration
Discovery as a kid: For some an early incident where one gets caught in a sexual act, or talks to a parent after such an act out of fear of disease etc
Discovery thru net: Based on explicit content on a PC, personal journals, magazines or even online on a blog or a website.
- How do the parents react?
Most go through regular cycles of showck-denial-depression-understanding-acceptance-approval-celebration, quite a few get held back at some stage or the other. Where there has been a discovery as a kid, some parents have been especially astute and talked to the child very gently, reassuringly and yet being quite specific and non-judgmental. The general consensus was that such a conversation helps, rather than a ‘Don’t do that, (unless you are) gay’ kind of reaction which might induce guilt or repression
In many cases, parents come around to just wanting the gay child to be happy - irrespective of the gender of a partner, and worry more about their general happiness. Some parents do take a far more active interest and want to learn more and network with other parents. ( If your parent wants to meet other parents of gay people, please write in. We could have them join in speciifc Good As You sessions also if people are Ok with that)
3. The Dependency factor:
- What if we are financially/ emotionally dependent?
When one is a student, especially of medicine or other such long-term courses, one tends to be far more dependent on parents and that forces you to wonder if coming out is worth it, and one tends to balance gay life completely outside the house as it were.
- What if parents are dependent?
Where parents are getting older, or not keeping well or just need you around-this especially if you are the only kid and have enjoyed an especially close relationship with mom/ dad.
- Comfort zones
Sometimes, it is really not about any dependency really, and one has just got so much into a comfort zone with parents, with a great understanding of how to live with one another – how the errands get split, what TV shows to watch and all that. That in itself is very precious, and could be cause to say one will keep the gay side of life outside anyway
4. Obligation vs. Responsibility vs. Gratitude factor
What is obligation? What is gratitude? Did our parents have us for their happiness? Is their love our right? Is our ‘being there for them’ an obligation? A responsibility? A must-do? A privilege that our parents earn? An act of love?
5. The life-style choices:
Not very different from hetero-sexual arrangements, really speaking
- Scenario 1: Parents comfortable with sexuality, visit/ live with self & BF (permanent/ current)
- Scenario 2: Parents comfortable with sexuality, live in same town as self & BF(permanent/ current)
- Scenario 3: Parents comfortable with sexuality, live elsewhere. Visit sometime. Not OK with BF, who lives separately
- Scenario 4: Parents (un)comfortable with sexuality, live with self. BF lives separately. Self & BF have an understanding
- Scenario 5: Parents uncomfortable with sexuality, live with self. Gay life not predictable
- Scenario 6: Parents uncomfortable. Live apart. Contact sporadic
5. The Deciding factors:
- The Happiness factor: Decide on what makes self happy. Keep that in focus
- The Responsibility factor: Decide on what are other non-negotiable priorities w.r.t family
- The Guilt factor: Decide on what compromises work for you; but try not do something just out of guilt. Could boomerang later.
- The ‘My decision – no regrets’
Finally, there is really no one true answer. There are so many of us with perfectly content relationships with both family and gay side, and they are not all similar – any scenario above could be happy. What matters really is that one takes the decision and makes the moves, and talks to friends to vent/ learn as and when needed J
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