I Want the World To Know

Today is National Coming Out Day and when I used to live in L.A., I’d join the annual parade of South Asians walking down Pioneer Blvd. chanting, “We ‘re here! We’re queer! We’re on Pioneer!” As you can imagine, the South Asian community is not quite so accepting of ‘The Gays” in the community. I supported as an ally because I wanted to be a supporting Desi face even when their family members couldn’t be.

But sometimes, coming out to your family may not be right for everyone. I came across a touching story from Nancy Haque titled Coming Out About Not Being Out from the Western States Center. It addresses the complexities of understanding your parents enough to know when and what to share with them. Despite the fact that mainstream LGBTQIA community may encourage coming out, it may not be the best thing for every family, particularly immigrant Desi parents.

I’m not out to my parents – the gold standard of being out. I haven’t done it and don’t actually plan on doing it. The truth is I have a very complicated relationship with my parents. I’m not particularly close to them and haven’t been since early childhood. I’m the youngest of four and was raised by my sister and two brothers as much as I was by my parents. I came out to my siblings 14 years ago and have always been supported by them. I love and respect my parents, but beyond my sexuality, they don’t understand the work I do, don’t know my hopes and dreams, don’t know the majority of my friends, and have never visited the home I purchased three years ago.


Yet my relationship to them is important. It’s important for me to be able to go home. I know in my heart my parents can never accept me having a female partner. It’s beyond their life experience to understand it. It’s not because they’re bad people, it’s just the way it is. I don’t feel like I’m living a lie because I’m not. Yet by not telling my parents, I’m taking a very unpopular stance in the general queer community…. I know that I’m not alone, that we all find our own ways to navigate our lives. I know that being queer and being raised Muslim is who I am, and it’s a complicated way to be. That’s why it was important to me to share my story… [westernstatescenter]

You can read the rest of her essay here. I could empathize with her essay – there were many things that my parents didn’t know about me or my personal life even to this day. But even though Western society dictated I should tell my parents every aspect of my life, in some ways it was just easier to play to their Desi narrative whenever I was home. It was dysfunctionally functioning for hyphenated surviving. And like for Nancy, it was just fine.

You can watch Nancy share her story (along with other LGBT APIA stories) in the video above from the Our Families campaign. Please take a listen. Power to the people struggling through this important day.

14 thoughts on “I Want the World To Know

  1. Thank you for posting this!! Few white Americans can really understand WHY someone may need to remain closeted to their parents- it’s becomes a black/white matter and so much guilt usually heaped on anyone not 100% out and proud. I don’t think this will open many eyes, but it’s important to get these stories heard, especially from females who (pardon the generalization) tend to be invisible anyway in desi families.

  2. “even though Western society dictated I should tell my parents every aspect of my life…”

    Really? This assumption does not match my own experience (born and raised in the USA). My siblings and I did not (and still do not) tell our parents everything — far from it!

    Was our family was the exception to the rule? Or maybe this idea has been created by all those “happy family” TV sitcoms and movies. Or maybe this really does happen (kids tell their parents practically everything) in certain families depending on geography, race, class, or some other factor?

    I’m truly curious to understand this because I had never even heard of this assumption (aside from “Leave it to Beaver” type TV shows) before today.

    • Sorry for the typos in the comment above (I cut and pasted without fully proofreading the final thing).

      Also, going back to the original point, I completely support the idea of each person making his/her own individual decision on when to come out, who to tell, and so on.

  3. this was unbelievably well produced and powerful. and although i am not LGBT, it really resonated with me and may have made me a lot more sensitive to the difficulties LGBTs in the asian american community face. i am asian, in a heterosexual interracial relationship with someone of another asian ethnicity–and my parents have never fully been able to understand or come to terms with it even after 11 years. on any given day it stirs feelings of frustration, sadness, guilt, bewilderment, and confusion in my head. seeing the korean child’s reaction to his mom’s struggle in this video stirred up so many similar feelings in me. these are feelings i myself have experienced, albeit in a different context, and seeing the experiences of these lgbts featured in the video made me realize we are all universally human, with similar feelings of needing to be loved and accepted. and the indian girl’s experience made me realize that no action we take in these situations is right or wrong, and that we have to cut ourselves some slack and not feel so much like a failure when we can’t gain the acceptance of our parents. profoundly grateful for this video. best of luck to all those featured and to those lgbt’s going through similar struggles.

  4. i have to apologize–i inadvertently assumed the brown woman featured in the video was indian. she may indeed be, or she may well not be– should not have just assumed.

  5. Few white Americans can really understand WHY someone may need to remain closeted to their parents-

    really? didn’t know you’d done some serious research and concluded that it’s so easy and open to be a gay white person. i’d like to introduce you to some people…. (i don’t deny it is harder in some communities than others, but unfortunately being gay is rarely a piece cake).

  6. I’m a desi queer woman and I am out to my parents. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. They were very upset and still aren’t too thrilled about it, but I can live my life without the lies and the secrets. I can now actually do things that everyone does with their partner – buy a house, plan a family, throw dinner parties for relatives and friends without lying to my parents about any of this.

    I think, unless you’re physical danger you owe it to yourself to come out to your parents, sooner or later.

    • “I think, unless you’re physical danger you owe it to yourself to come out to your parents, sooner or later.”

      Physical danger is one factor to consider, but what about ostracization? Verbal abuse? Emotional damage can be just as painful as physical wounds.

      • L, that is absolutely true. Emotional abuse can be just as painful (if not more so) than physical abuse.

        When I came out, my dad told me I’d hurt him worse than it hurt when his mother died (he was 8 years old). My mom told me she wouldn’t be able to face the family or any of her friends. They told me they would move far away to escape the embarrassment. They wanted to take my brother out of school (UC Berkeley) to “teach me a lesson.” I was sure that the only way to end all of the pain I was putting them through was to end my own life.

        Thank God I didn’t.

        Over a year later, things are far from perfect. I’m still struggling with coming out and letting my parents in.

        But (and this is just my opinion), those experiences that Broom described are my goal. Planning a family, throwing dinner parties, sending out family cards every once in a while, having pictures of my family up in my home, etc. They’re my reason for continuing the internal struggle.

        I guess each of us has to decide for ourselves whether those experiences are worth it. They may not be worth it to everyone and that is totally okay and understandable.

        Anyway, that’s my two cents. Good luck, kiddo.

  7. Thank you so, so much for posting about this, Taz.

    I’m also a queer Indian woman and I’m out to most of my family. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I’m not exaggerating when I say I very nearly didn’t survive the resulting backlash. It’s an issue that is still swept under the rug and ignored and I continue to struggle with determining the extent to which I want to let my family be apart of my life.

    In my humble opinion, we in the South Asian LGBT community desperately need the support of the straight majority. The hate and the stigma have gone on for too long.

    Thanks again, Taz.

  8. I struggle with this … I am out to everyone but my parents. I want to live authentically and that is the last barrier. But, my relationship with my parents is a struggle at the best of times. In fairness though, we have come a long way – i’m in my thirties now – and I could never have imagined the relationship that we have mapped out for ourselves today when I was in high school. So, I am going to to appeal to optimism and imagine a future where I can tell my parents.

  9. Does anyone feel like they can’t have a good relationship with their parents because said parents are too ‘different’ in their thinking and culture?

    • I thought that until recently, Malik. What follows is my own humble opinion and may not be true for everyone.

      It’s true that a lot our parents have had a completely different set of expectations and values ingrained into them their entire lives. It almost doesn’t even matter that they emigrated here, into a society with such drastically different views. At least in my case, my parents have surrounded themselves with friends and family who shared their culture and had no interest in associating with people whose views differed from theirs. Because they had their views and I grew up here, we often clashed on insignificant issues. (Of course, I didn’t think the issues were insignificant at the time of the argument). Things like concerts or sleepovers were totally unacceptable.

      Now that I’m a bit older (24 yrs), I have such a deeper understanding and appreciation of where they’ve come from and the values they’ve held onto despite being surrounded by Western society. Our parents know us better than anyone else can. They’re usually the closest people to us who have known us our entire lives, right?

      I guess my point is that it’s not up to our parents to improve the quality of our relationships with them–it’s up to us. We have to make that effort to show them how much we appreciate them in order for them to understand that we do have good judgment and they can trust us. We have to be the ones who react to negative situations with grace, patience and love. Believe me, this takes conscious practice. However, your parents will see those qualities in you eventually and will respond to it.

      I hope a little bit of that made some sense. If nothing else, consider this: “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.”



  10. I am openly gay and out to my parents but I also understand for other queer people of colour this is simply not possible for a variety of reasons. My parents asked me if I am gay when I was seventeen and so did my siblings. I just did not deny it. Although, I am out to my family and over a decade has passed we don’t talk about my homosexuality that much. So just because a person comes out doesn’t mean it really changes things at least in my experience that wasn’t the case. I do have a problem with the media presenting coming out as something magical and that parents ultimately accept their son or daughter that has come out. Coming out is a personal journey that every LGBT person must make on their own terms and on their own time.