As a child, lot has intrigued me. Queer community (especially transgender) is one such aspect. Whenever I travelled in train I would see trans-people asking for money from other passengers. Some passengers would be happy to give them money and get their blessings. Some passengers would deny money. I was always curious as a child to know more about them. I wanted to know who they are, why do they take money from others, where do they stay etc. As I grew older, I started to hear negative things about them. I still remember being told that they will take all the money from you if you open your wallet in front of them. Now I started to become more cautious and curious about them. When I came to know that they are neither men nor women, I was damn curious to know about their body parts especially their genitals. In search of answers to these questions that I had about them, I started to read books about queer community. I did not have great exposure as a child and one day I happened to come across this Tamil autobiography novel (“Vellai Mozhi”) written by a Trans-woman (Ms Revathi). I was having silly questions about their genitals and what I found in that book just shook me. It was an overwhelming experience for me at that age.
For a child who believed world is a good place and everything is fair, reading that book changed the way I looked at things. I started to see that world is not fair after all.
For my post-Graduation, I chose to do my thesis on “Experience of being a Transgender and their outlook on Life”. I really had some questions (no, this time it was not about their genitals) and I wanted to interact with them in detail. I spoke with around 7-8 Trans people (male to female). These individuals were from different places, cultural backgrounds, religions and castes. They had multiple differences, but the crux of their life experience was just the same. They had all realized at one point of their lives that they wanted to be women. When their family found out about this, they suffered abuse and abandonment, and eventually these individuals had to find their own community (the hijra community), had to take on sex work for survival, had at least one abusive intimate relationship and now all of them were involved in asking for money from train passengers. I still remember a few of them telling me that they regretted leaving their home and undergoing a sex transition because of the lack of support and harassment they faced on a daily basis. I did not know what to tell them and was shocked by the realisation that things that seemed so basic to me were actually a privilege. At the time, some of them were trying to construct a home for themselves using the little savings that they had. They had been trying to build this home for past 10 years!! This was in 2017. I hoped that education and financial security would empower them in the future as most of them did not have this at the time.
Today as a Clinical Psychologist in 2021, I see clients from Queer community who are different from my research participants. These clients are educated, financially independent and have better exposure. Initially I was happy to see that things are changing and that my clients have more agency in their life than my previous research participants. But I was wrong. Their families may not have pushed my clients out of home, but they have not accepted them either. Their gender expression have been restricted, from their length of hair to choice of partner, they have been denied their share in the family property and have been guilted into feeling disfigured and dysfunctional. Despite professional success, my clients still hope to be accepted by their families one day. Some of these clients (in their 30’s) still have not come out to at least one of their parents yet! These clients have literally paused their entire life and waiting to resume it with parental approval.
I know my job here as a therapist is to help my clients accept the reality and move on with their life. But, how much can a human accept? These individuals from queer community is accepting and tolerating a lot on their daily basis in this heteronormative society. For a change, why can’t they be accepted for who they are without any terms and conditions. If not for this unconditional acceptance, why do we even have a system called Family.
After my sessions with these clients, as a therapist I feel so helpless in knowing that I do not
even have a space to converse with these parents about this.Hence I thought I will use this space to write to parents who have difficulty in supporting their queer children.
1. I empathize with you – as a parent I know you would have had your own dreams and hopes on how your son/daughter is going to be and it can be a shock to know that your dreams are crushed. I understand your difficulty in accepting things immediately and how distressed it can be for you as a parent.
2. Talk – many of my clients have told that the parents do not talk to them about their sexuality at all. After they come out, there are no conversations about it at all. Coming
out is not a one-time thing, it is a process and feel free to ask all the questions that you
have about their sexuality to understand better.
3. Seek help – no I am not saying this as an insult. If things become too overwhelming for
you, it would be helpful to talk to a professional about the same. This will give you space
to talk about your difficulties and you might learn some healthy techniques to deal with
4. Educate yourself – read more about queer community to know about them (of course
choose a credible source) and understand the identity of your family member.
5. Protect your children – you accept their queerness or not, make sure you protect your
children from rude comments/treatment of extended family members, bullies at school,
and teachers at school. If you are a parent of adult queer person, then look for signs for
them being in an abusive workplace/friendship/intimate relationship and support them as
Please remember that as someone from queer community, they have their own set of challenges and battles to fight with this whole world. And when you are a supportive parent, it means the world to them.
And yes, by the time I finished my MSc thesis, the 10 year long house construction work was
over and I was even invited for the house warming ceremony!!