Aruna Desai: Embracing Motherhood Like No Other

Aruna Desai: Embracing Motherhood Like No Other

Success Stories Women

On 6 September 2018, the Supreme Court of India ruled Section 377 as unconstitutional, and legalised homosexuality, a step towards ending discrimination and promoting equality. Coming out about one’s sexuality can be an exhausting task, especially in a country like India, where people don’t know much about homosexuality. In such a situation, we have leaders like Aruna Desai, who are playing an active role in fostering acceptance and understanding by supporting and advocating for the LGBTQIA+ community.

She is the Co-Founder of the support group ‘Sweekar: The Rainbow Parents of India.’ She started this support group when her son came out as gay. Rather than being angry or thinking that her son might be joking, she accepted him as he was and started her research about homosexuality, which led to the inception of the support group Sweekar. 

When Aruna’s Son Came Out To Her

Aruna shares, “I vividly remember the day when my son came out to me on December 3, 2007. We as a family have always discussed several topics, but I never knew the meaning of the word ‘Gay’. To ease the revelation, Abhishek (her son) and his friend concocted a story about their imaginary friend facing rejection from the family as he was gay. The story touched me immensely because how does it matter who your child loves? Subsequently, I began to educate myself on the topic of homosexuality.

However, with all the information I got, I thought that Abhishek’s friend was gay, but I could see that Abhishek was emotionally disturbed the whole day and wanted to say something to me. I finally realised and asked him straightforwardly, ‘Are you Gay?’ He anxiously questioned whether I would hate or accept him. I was calm and then took him out to dinner and assured him that I would love him unconditionally regardless of his sexual identity.”

She further shares, “Most parents do not accept their child’s homosexuality and go into denial as they start thinking about what their extended family, friends, and neighbours will think. In this entire thought process, they forget about their own child’s happiness and mental health. However, I didn’t feel any societal pressure because my son’s sexuality is my and my son’s business, and what truly matters to me is his happiness.”

Sowing The Seeds For Sweekar: The Rainbow Parents of India

After Aruna’s son came out, he took her to an event at ‘Gay Bombay,’ where a parent’s meet was happening. At the event, she met parents of different people from the LGBTQIA+ community. She realised that not all parents accept their children as they are. Combining these experiences with her research on homosexuality, she co-founded the support group ‘Sweekar: The Rainbow Parents,’ which now has a nationwide presence. Furthermore, she has spoken on several forums and counselled many parents and children. 

Sweekar’s goal is to create a multicultural network of parents with LGBTQIA+ children who can offer support, challenge conventional ideas about gender and sexuality, advocate for rights and become a parallel support system. Highlighting a very crucial point, Aruna says, “The coming out process is not solely challenging for children but for parents as well. When they come out to their parents, they should give time to their parents to comprehend it.” While some parents accept it, on the other hand, some resort to shaming or pressurising the child into being straight, due to societal pressures.

Sweekar began with ten parents in February 2017 and has grown to include 400+ parents in 7 years. Starting as a WhatsApp group, it has expanded its reach through Facebook and Instagram handles. It is a group of parents who not only accept their children but also advocate and teach other parents to help accept their children. In the initial stage, parents often grapple with understanding terms like sexual orientation, gay, or lesbian but they eventually understand it. Furthermore, two parents within the group actively participated as petitioners in the Section 377 case, contributing to the broader advocacy for LGBTQIA+ rights. 

“As a support group, we comfort other parents by sharing our own experiences, giving answers to their questions, and helping them to become comfortable with their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity. We work towards ending discrimination towards the LGBTQIA+  community and help them get all the rights they deserve,” explains Aruna.

Message From Aruna Desai

Aruna Desai, Co-Founder of the support group ‘Sweekar The Rainbow Parents of India

As parents, you should accept your children wholeheartedly, as nobody can choose their sexuality and gender identity. You need to ensure that you are there for them and support them. 

I encourage parents to have an open dialogue with their children and avoid immediate reactions. Patience is key as you will learn and unlearn new things from your children. As a parent, you need to understand that by coming out, they haven’t changed; it’s your perception that has changed. Let’s prioritize understanding, empathy, and unconditional love. Let’s pave the way for a more inclusive and compassionate world.

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