I hated the thought of my daughter being a lesbian… My perception has vastly changed in that I accept homosexuals for who they are…”
Coming Out to a parent can be daunting – perhaps on of the scariest and liberating moments of a LGBTQ person’s life. A myriad of emotions may run through one’s mind: What will they say? Will I still be loved? Are they going to be ashamed of me? Am I doing the right thing?
However, what perhaps is overlooked and not emphasised enough is the parent’s experience of having a child come out. What goes through a parent’s mind? Fear? Anger? Rejection? Acceptance? Confusion? Guilt? Maybe ambivalence?
SHOR interview Devi, mother of Davina Shah.
Davina, a lesbian of South Asian descent, came out to her mother, Devi, 12 years ago.What once came as a shock to Devi making her feel upset, ashamed and angry, has now developed into understanding and acceptance- not just towards her daughter, but her daughter’s partner too.
We explore: how she found out that her daughter is a lesbian; her feelings and fears when Davina came out; the support she reached out for; her familiarity with LGBTQ persons prior to her daughter’s coming out; her perspective towards homosexuality now.
We portray Devi’s advice to LGBTQ persons coming out to parents; Devi’s advice to parents whose child has come out as LGBTQ and how homophobia needs to be challenged.
We hope that this profound interview will provide support, encouragement and courage to both parents and their children who are facing LGBTQ issues- as well as to anyone who is revealing something to their parents that goes against what had been envisioned and breaks the “norm”.
1. How and when did you find out that your daughter is lesbian?
I suspected late 2001 early 2002- but shrugged it off. Davina had split up from her boyfriend and I became suspicious when she started having more female friends. At one point I even asked her to consider going out with another boy.My suspicions were founded when I received a phone call from Davina whilst at a neighbour’s house.
Unaware that Davina had written a letter to me that she was gay, Davina said she had something to tell me and I remember responding, “don’t you dare tell me you are gay” to which she replied, “how did you know?”
2. How did you feel? As a mother, what were your biggest fears when you found out?
I was very upset and ashamed. I cried for many days. I felt angry that her female companions had corrupted her and refused to believe that she was gay. I felt disgusted and angry with Davina.
I said some cruel things out of anger.
I hated the thought of my daughter being a lesbian. I also felt it had been my fault as I was a single parent and that perhaps I had turned her gay.
My biggest fears were people finding out and not only the embarrassment I would have to face, but also be blamed for it.
3. What support have you had to help you as a mother of South Asian descent?
As soon as I found out, I called FFLAG (www.fflag.org.uk) to talk to someone about it as I could not accept it. I cannot remember how I found out about this organisation but I was introduced to an Asian Muslim lady whose son was gay and she consoled me.
She told me not to be angry and that she loved her son no matter what and that I should do the same; but I was still very emotional and angry.
I turned to a gay friend of mine for support and he reassured me that Davina was still young and it was just a phase she was going through. I was so desperate to believe this, but deep down, I knew I was kidding myself.
4. Did you know of any LGBTQ (Lesbian; Bisexual; Transgender; Queer) persons before your daughter came out to you?
I had had no contact / association with any LGBTQ persons prior to 2001. I had no idea what it was all about to be honest.
At the time I thought people chose to be gay hence why I was so angry with Davina. I had a male friend who I suspected was gay but we never spoke about it until Davina came out – then he told me about himself.
I hate to admit that I was ignorant about the whole thing and could not understand it at the time.
5. How has your perception on homosexuality changed since Davina came out to you?
6. What advice would you give to a LGBTQ person who is thinking about coming out to their parents?
7. What advice would you give to a parent who has just had a child come out to them as LGBTQ?
8. How do you feel homophobia should be challenged?
Interview by Aashi Gahlot and included on our website through kind permission from SHOR