Growing up as a member of the LGBTQ community comes with its own set of challenges, and more so when it is in the society we live in. But what must it be like from a mother’s viewpoint? To discover this, we spoke to Sabrina Court, whose son Sherwin Court is an LGBTQ individual, and we asked her how it really is to deal with the society we belong to.
Is India really being progressive in the LGBTQ area?
Parmesh Shahani, author of Gay Bombay in an article to Livemint says that coming out sets you free in a way. “Though it is challenging, I am a strong advocate of people coming out. I know of so many families that have become much closer after people decided to come out. I would say seek the help of a good resource group and an LGBT-friendly counsellor if you can. When you come out, you are only sharing who you are with others. You are not seeking their approval or acceptance. Be willing to give them the time they need to process, ask questions, and accept you."
Metro cities may have accepted that ‘Love is Love’ and moved on but rural India still sees regressive attitudes when it comes to this subject. While social media is galore with posts advocating coming out, and encouraging activism, there is still stereotype and beliefs that surround this subject. News of a 21-year-old student being found dead after being coerced into conversion therapy, a lesbian couple committing suicide in the state of Tamil Nadu after being forced to break up and many such incidents make you question if India is actually progressing or whether this is just for the privileged. Sabrina Court lets us in on what it really is like to be the mother of an LGBTQ individual in India.
Prior to your son coming out, what were your views on the subject of LGBTQ?
Sabrina Court: I never gave it a thought. Unless you go through a situation, it is difficult to understand what people face. Since my son started showing signs of being gay, I educated myself by asking my doctor friends questions, googling for answers and when my son came out, I allowed him to educate me. Today, I am a member of Sweekar, an LGBTQI support group in India as well as Ambassador for Naz and Matt Foundation in the UK.
Did you ever have to choose between conforming to norms or supporting your child?
Sabrina Court: Plenty of times! One in particular - when Sherwin was a little boy he was fascinated with dressing up Barbie dolls. I used to buy them for him against everybody's wishes. He used to spend many a happy hour dressing them up!!! It made me happy just seeing him happy and I used to spend time with him playing "Barbie is a model". I am glad I did that. It motivated Sherwin to be creative. Today he is a budding fashion designer, a stylist, is very good at hair and make-up and is a competent photographer!
“It's not just the mentality of India. The whole world needs to sit up. It is cruel to make somebody uncomfortable just because they want to "Be who they were born to be!" As long as people don't cross unnecessary boundaries I think, a world with diversity is just nice.” — Sabrina Court
Have you ever felt conflicted due to society’s pressures?
Sabrina Court: I can say I was very hurt to see how badly people can behave with each other when you don't conform to their ideas of what's normal. I have seen people sniggering at my son or even passing remarks or bringing their religious beliefs to the fore. That is when I knew that I would not have my son talked down to. And again, he put a smile on my face years later, when he told me that he didn't really deal with the usual issues the other LGBTQI children face because people knew to cross Sherwin's path, they would have to cross ours as a family and so they dare not try!
Parents of LGBT individuals often try to get their kids to ‘change’. What would you like to say to them?
Sabrina Court: All children seek love and acceptance from their families and living in the 21st century, it's high time that abuse like "pray the gay away and "conversion therapies" stop. Nothing changes after your children come out to you. They are the same person you loved moments before they told you the truth about themselves. It is important that as a parent, you trust them and strengthen them with love and understanding. Chances are your child wrestled long and hard with the decision to confess their identity to you. They braced themselves for judgment and rejection. And that is why it is all the more important that you let them know that they are valued and loved as much as ever.