No other day is a better day for me to tell the world that I am a proud sister of my brother who is an anthropologist, a poet, a painter, a writer, a film editor, a political scientist, a sociologist, a PhD student, and the ONLY child prodigy possibly born in our extended family. Not a single person can deny the fact that no one (and I say no one again) is as gifted as my brother in our extended family, at the same time, the most humble person.
It just so happened, he is also gay.
Because he is gay, he can’t be good! His achievement, his knowledge, his kindness, his compassion- all traits that would make him an “ideal person” is overshadowed by his sexual orientation.
As a sister, and more important, the first person in the family with whom he chose to open up about his sexuality- it has been a tough journey balancing my support for my brother and counseling/convincing my parents about his sexuality. Being from close knit, middle class, traditional South Asian family, I can understand why my parents are affected by his sexual orientation. They have gone through hard times in life, they have struggled so their children have a bright future and they want a perfect life for their children. Being gay is still a taboo in our society.
My parents’ reaction to their son’s sexuality has evolved over time- shocked in the beginning, ashamed for some time and acceptance in their own way. For my mother, it is all about her unconditional love for her son. “Whatever he is, I love him, I accept him”. She now sees being gay as a natural phenomenon. “I cannot go against the nature. There are many things that cannot be described. We must accept it as it is” For my father, it is his ability to embrace life as his destiny. “Whoever he is, I accept it as my fate”. Yet, they are still not able to speak openly about my brother’s sexuality with others.
Writing about my brother’s sexuality has been an important decision for me. Being a politically engaged person, my brother- and I along with him- feels that being public about sexual identity is very important. For many gay people like my brother, coming out as a gay person itself is part of a larger struggle for civil rights for which they take risks. However, it is important for my brother to go public about it, and it is equally important for me to share how I supported both my brother and my parents.
This is what I did.
First, counseling parents. Expecting parents who are so entangled in societal norms and tradition to accept homosexuality in one go is quite unfair. At the same time, your gay sibling gets immensely hurt realizing your parents’ inability to accept his sexuality. Your sibling longs for the same treatment from parents that his straight siblings are getting. That is when you come in. It is your responsibility to counsel your parents and remind them how your gay sibling is no different from you. Remind parents of his goodness, how he is normal and how parents should still be proud of him.
Second, discarding and ignoring relatives who pity parents. I hate when relatives say “Poor parents”. My brother has not murdered any person, he is not a drug addict, and he has never done anything shameful for anyone to pity my parents for his deeds. I call it a sheer ignorance, and I pray to Lord that such relatives are enlightened one day and they get ability to accept humans as they are. Lately someone suggested, “For the sake of the society, why should he not marry a girl and keep his sexuality a secret?” My brother would never do that because he has never been ashamed or apologetic about his sexuality, but gay men marrying under societal pressure is quite normal in South Asia (point is also why ruin a woman’s life for selfish reasons).
Third, counseling gay sibling too. My brother will possibly not agree with me, but unconsciously he thinks everyone in the family judges him for his sexuality. He recently commented, “That cousin has stopped talking with me because I am gay” which is completely untrue because the concerned cousin is the most compassionate and non-judgmental person among us. I realized that my brother is suspicious about others’ behavior, and thus, he tends to isolate himself from everyone. Keep reassuring your sibling that not everyone is against him and people love him the way he is. Remember your gay sibling has gone through and is still going through difficult times that you never faced or will never face. He is the one who is being discriminated, and he needs your support and counseling too.
Finally, have enough courage to tell the world that your sibling is gay and he should not be judged for his sexuality. I never realized this could be a big support for your gay sibling, but apparently it is.
Lastly, this comes from my brother, “I am still very lucky to have parents who have accepted my life in whatever way they can. Not all gay people have that kind of privilege. I am quite proud of my parents.”
Yes, my brother, we are lucky to have such parents who have acknowledged our choices in their own way. They do not need to be vocal about our choices, or completely accept our choices. Yet, allowing us ‘do the right thing’ without putting any parental pressure itself is something that we should be extremely proud of.
So here I am, my brother- doing the right thing- not for you, or for me- but for all those gay people who have to deal with discrimination, isolation and loneliness- openly telling the world that I am extremely proud of you as an individual.
It ‘just so happened’ you are gay, just like it “just so happened” that I am straight.