“Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.” These lines by Elizabeth Stone sum up parenthood.
About a month ago, in what can only be described as a liberating order, the Apex Court de-fanged the British era Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which deemed that gay sex is a punishable offence. With the passing of the order, people from the LGBTQ+ community in India are now under no legal threat.
While this is all on paper, the reality, which revolves around acceptance, is still an area that needs a lot of work.
To help parents of members from the LGBTQ+ community, an organisation called ‘Sweekar – The Rainbow Parents’ was born in Mumbai.
The Better India spoke to Nilakshi Roy, one of the core committee members of the organisation, who in her own words, says that she joined the organisation with some trepidation. She spoke to us about the organisation’s work, her journey of accepting her daughter’s sexual orientation, and Sweekar’s way forward.
In October 2016, filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan founded Sweekar, a support group for parents whose children are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Sridhar has directed the 2018 film Evening Shadows and also founded the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival.
Nilakshi says, “For almost a decade now, parents whose kids are a part of the LGBTQ+ community have been meeting off and on in a rather informal manner.”
“This group came into being in a formal capacity when Sridhar set aside some funds to start the organisation and give it a much-needed impetus.”
There were several meets for acceptance that were happening regularly at the Humsafar Trust, but this just gave them a new identity and brought them all together, she shares.
“Sometimes things just happen, without much deliberation. I was told by my daughter about the community, who asked me if I would like to be a part of it. My initial reaction was filled with uncertainty. In my mind, I was looking at it like one more group I would be a part of,” she says.
While she agreed to be a part of the WhatsApp group, she had warned her daughter of her sporadic involvement.
In a few months, Nilakshi became a passionate part of the community. She says with conviction, “Being a part of this community has humbled me, and that truly has been such a big takeaway.”
Accepting a bisexual daughter
“I was accepting theoretically. Being a student and now, a teacher of English literature, I grew up reading and being influenced by writers like Virginia Wolf, Elliot, Oscar Wilde; all of whom had varied sexual orientations. However, discovering that your child is probably a bi-sexual is something that took a long while to settle in,” she says, candidly.
It was a very long and crucial process for each member of the family. Nilakshi’s elder daughter, who was studying medicine, helped a lot in understanding it. It was a process that required everyone to come together and work as a cohesive team, she adds.
“We prepared ourselves to accept her,” says Nilakshi.
The organisation now has 40 parents as part of the group, and it has only been growing from strength to strength. Through the active WhatsApp group of the parents, they stay informed about everything that happens in the LGBTQ+ space; they exchange messages about events and talks that their children are part of, offering support wherever needed.
What began as a space to share stories and seek support has now transformed into a community which helps other parents grappling with issues of acceptance and understanding.
Through all this, Sweekar hopes to become a nodal point for networking, advocacy and outreach for parents of LGBTQ+ children.
Check out Sweekar’s Facebook page to know more about the community or share it with someone who might benefit from being a part of it.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)