Fathering Raya

Wednesday, February 11, 2009
THE MALE MIND

This writer wishes to remain anonymous.

I read through some of the posts on Devis with Babies before writing my piece, trying to guage exactly the type of audience I was writing for. I heard about the blog through a friend of mine who is a newspaper columnist. He was approached by Deepa but was unable to write a piece because of internal policies against "potentially embarrassing moonlighting". Something about the phrase "potentially embarrassing," I suppose made him think of me. I have been known to embarrass everyone I know on multiple occasions. I think it's why they keep me around.

Imagine all the cultural and gender issues you guys have had with your partner, your parents, your communities, your friends--based on you being Indian and based on you being a parent--writ even larger. The mom pushing buttons. The in laws disagreeing with you. The confusion over what tradition mandates of you. All of it. See, I am a gay Indian man; and I am a gay Indian man with a partner of 6 years; and we are raising a 4 year old daughter. The story of what we went through to obtain the privilege to raise Raya is a subject too big not only for this post but apparently for my heart and for my head: I still don't have perspective on it and I am not sure I ever will. I have tried writing about it as many times as I have put pen to paper and nothing can do it justice. Sort of like you can't describe, I imagine, exactly what it felt like to give birth, I can't describe exactly what it feels like to get to parent this little girl. It is a joy that levels me. I can imagine it is vaguely "maternal" or "female" if I were in the business of throwing labels.

And at the same time, I am a man and I do consider myself to be Raya's father. So does my partner. So it's double time in terms of the slippery slope fears about your little baby dating one day, losing her virginity, having her heart broken. Except for us, those things seem so simple compared to the issues she is going to have to deal with way before those ones. Being without a mother. Having gay fathers. Trying to figure out an Indian identity within the whole puzzle.

Already we get so many stares. We are used to the stares. We have dealt with them our entire adult lives. But what will it be like for our daughter? Will she have to defend us? Will she be ashamed?

And will she ever know where she comes from? My parents have not met Raya. Their friends do not know I am gay. My parents know. I told them eight years ago. But after the conversation in which I told them it was never spoken of again. Ever. Before Raya, I had taken my partner home to my house. In fact, the very first time I took him home it was to celebrate Diwali with my parents and my grandmother who was visiting from India. My mother begged me not to come out to my grandmother. I agreed immediately, almost relieved. My partner was my "friend" from college and this didn't seem too much of a sham for me as my parents referred to the girlfriends I had had through the years as "friends" anyway (don't all Indian parents?). My parents were extremely nice to my partner. They have always been hospitable, I can't remember a time my mom wasn't offering somebody a snack. And after that visit I had this feeling of hope that, despite where my parents came from, despite how traditional they were and are, despite the fact that they think "the gays" are distasteful--that they loved me and would eventually accept who I was.

But when my partner and I decided to get married that changed. My parents wouldn't come. And, what was worse in my eyes, they wouldn't discuss it with me. They just told me they couldn't be there. When I sent photos of our ceremony in Massachusetts, they didn't respond. When, two year later, I called to tell them about Raya, my mom cried and my dad said they had to go. I don't call them anymore. But I write them letters every month. Raya has begun writing letters to them too. She calls them Ba and Dada. She has seen pictures and she knows about them. Every Diwali, we send them a diya that we make together.

I can understand where they are coming from. I was born in India, though I moved here when I was a baby. I don't blame them their cultural heritage. But I do wonder how much of it I am supposed to pass onto my daughter. How do I give her the very thing that has robbed her of her grandparents?I have written a few drafts of this and have gone back and forth on what to include about my partner, who, even now, is not as "out" as I am. I have struggled with whether I want you to know that he is Indian. That he is first-generation Indian. That, the three times his parents have visited since I have known him, I have stayed at friends' homes. That they don't know who Raya is. I don't want you to judge him harshly. But what I do want you to know is this: In your struggles as parents, remember that others are struggling too. I don't say struggling "more." That would be presumptuous. But there are many struggles to be had and, as Deepa wrote in her email to me convincing me to write this piece--after I had said yes, and then no--we should all be in this together.

And at the same time, apropos of many of the comments that began this series of posts, I think we have an almost exactly even co-parenting situation. I don't know if it's because we are both men or because our values and priorities are almost exactly in line. To paraphrase, we would both know how much milk is in the fridge.

Pros and cons right?

Your mother in law may judge you. Mine doesn't know I exists.

Your husband may ignore you at times. Mine won't hold my hand in public.

You may find juggling all your roles post-parenthood to be exhausting. I find it to be both exhausting, alienating, uncharted and, more often than I care to remember, ostracizing.

But (and here comes the cheesy part, you know it was coming) I love my partner in a way I didn't believe was possible. I look at Raya's face and I wouldn't trade anything that led me to it for anything in the world. I hope my parents and my community can come around but I know that if they don't I will still have my place, in the arms of my partner, in the sphere of my life, doing my thing, fathering Raya.



35 comments:
Anonymous said...

Jeez, wow. This is a beautifully written piece. And it kind of makes me feel like an ingrate...

Rupa Dutta said...

Thank you so much for writing this! There is a character in my daughter's current favorite movie (Ratatouille) that talks about "perspective" and that word is always bouncing around in my head (in part because my daughter would watch the move 24 hours a day if we let her). This piece is all about perspective to me. I can't imagine what you've been through and continue to go through, and I wish you all the best.

Anonymous said...

My son goes to preschool with a few children of gay parents and I have to say: I don't envy you. As progressive as most of the people at the school are, there is always this...recognition, for lack of a better word, of these particular kids. And this is in California, I can't imagine what it is like in the Midwest or less liberal places. I hate to think that gay people shouldn't be able to have kids because I just don't think that, but I feel really badly for the children who have to face such social visibility and judgment from such an early age.

Nali P. said...

A beautiful piece. I wish you all the best.

Pinky said...

Sorry, I didn't know where to drop a tip.

I'm surprised no coverage of the Pink Undies Campaign and it's offended male counterpart The Pink Condom Campaign going on in India right now as a reaction to the Sri Rama Sena's antics on women in Mangalore.

Undies here; http://www.boingboing.net/2009/02/09/indian-women-pink-ch.html

Condies here; http://thepinkcondomcampaign.blogspot.com/

The gender wars and Clash of Civilizations are full swing in India right now!

Janie T said...

Finished reading this piece and surprised myself in realizing I couldn't come up with ONE gay Indian that I know. My hat's off to you for having the courage to be out and live your life. Thank you for sharing, all the best to your family.

ARP said...

Hate to be a hater but would like to know why you choose to be anonymous if you say you are out???

Veena said...

A child needs solid parents for a solid future. Period. Full stop. If you can provide this to your daughter then she is going to be just fine. Thanks for adding another voice to all the gender wars.

Rekha said...

Indeed it is very interesting to think about a same sex couple, and how the division of labor that has so consumed much of the commentary on these posts this week would play out differently. Count your blessings in that you have a true co-parent. Like you said, pros and cons, but having a side by side partner through parenthood, I am finding, is the most important indicator of how happy we are.

Anonymous said...

This is such a wonderfully written post and it makes me thankful for the fights that I DON'T have to fight. No matter how difficult our marriage gets nobody questions our right to be together. I don't know how you face that sort of scrutiny but I applaud your efforts.

Anonymous said...

I know this is going to be unpopular: But am I the only one who doesn't find it quite fair to put a child into such an emotionally charged situation? A stable, happy same-sex union is one thing, but one in which one person isn't completely out etc.--it seems unfair to the poor girl.

Janie T said...

Oh come on now. Don't pay any attention to the people who question whether you are the right parent for your daughter. Your piece clearly shows that you are.

Anonymous said...

This is so very sad. I think about your parents, and how they are missing out on such joy as grandparents. And I think about my own child, and how it would feel if I wasn't speaking with her. She is only 2 so I cannot imagine any set of circumstances in the world that would make it so that I wouldn't want to see her and hold her and hug her every single day. And I can only imagine that some part of your parents feels like that too because once you are a parent a part of your BODY belongs to that child. So I can only imagine their heartache, and yours. If anything can bring them around it will be your daughter...

Ashwin Sodhi said...

wow. reduced to cliche, so...

Nikki said...

"I know I will still have my place." We should all be so lucky, I think. THANK YOU.

Sonali said...

Don't really have anything to add but want to say how moving this piece is. I love it and am forwarding it to everyone I know.

Nita Joshi said...

You know? Judging from many of the comments this week, I would guess you are better off and happier than many of the people in "traditional" marriages. I add my thanks to the bunch, for giving us a moment to pause and really reflect.

Vani said...

Like everyone I enjoyed reading this. I would be fascinated to learn more. Like, do you guys take on anything resembling traditional gender roles in your relationship? Does one of you cook and the other, not so much? Did your roles, and the tasks you took on, change post-child? Super curious about the similarities and differences, especially because your depiction of a co-parent truly has me jealous.

Anonymous said...

Such a well written piece it does indeed put things in perspective. I was actually going to ask Deepa if she could get some gay/lesbian parents to chime in, given all the discussion related to co-parenting and gender roles and their contribution to marital happiness. I had not realized the depth of the non-acceptance, I appreciate it so much more reading this.

It is interesting to hear that the co-parenting was not an issue in your case. It seems to imply these kick in only in a man-woman marriage then, indicating something to do with difference in sexes causing the co-parenting conflicts, not marriage causing it.

kar a. said...

wow.. this piece definitely hit home. thank you for sharing! Its such a hard place to be and such a delicate balance to juggle it all.

I often wonder if I'm selfish for wanting to have a kid; and go thru the exact same questions that you have had raising your daughter.

More and more everyday I realize, that I'm surrounded by love and support from my other members of the family; and the many friends even though my mom doesnt quite still acknowledge that you can be Indian and gay!

Anita said...

That was beautifully written. Thank you for your perspective. I too wish you, your partner, and Raya the best.

Broom said...

This was a very timely post for me. I plan to come out to my father by this weekend & I am frightened to death.

I hope that someday your parents come around. I hope that someday your partner can come out. I hope that someday Raya enjoys the love of her entire family.

x

parutron said...

wow. you three have my support! and i hope that the three of you, at some point in the future, can have a new? different? relationship with your family and your inlaws. or at the very least can come to accept and understand one another......

Broom said...

@ARP - My partner is completely out to her family, but if she were to post something like this on a popular forum I would be very worried, because I am not completely out. I am out to friends and colleagues but not to family. (yet).
So I completely understand his need to be anonymous.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for writing this. i am an indian american woman who is not married and does not have kids, but i am so thankful to read this posting.

neha said...

This post just made me weep.

Parul said...

What an amazing person and parent you are, we are a better world for you and Raya is so lucky to have 2 incredible, loving fathers.

Anonymous said...

Your courage and commitment will inspire your daughter to handle anything ugly that comes her way. Your partner and your child are your foundation, everything else is just noise.

Anonymous said...

It is possible to be "out" in the real world, but still preferring to be anonymous in a public forum for the world at large. You can be openly gay on your own behalf, but some people do not wish to put the identity of their entire extended family up for public display. That's a personal choice that I think most of us can respect.

This family clearly does not fit into "normal", in the statistical sense. But the fathers are clearly determined to make it work, no matter what. They did not bring Raya into their lives on a whim or an expectation of familial duty; they did so against the grain of their own families and the expectations of most of the Indian community where they live. It isn't going to be easy, but Raya will grow up NEVER doubting that her parents love her and would do anything for her.

I hope that Raya's grandparents come around. I can understand and appreciate their confusion and fear. But if their lives conclude without having ever seen their granddaughter, they will have only themselves to blame.

Vikram said...

Congratulations on fighting for your freedom in the face of prejudices and social stigmas.I am a gay Indian man myself and I too hope to raise children some day. I don't know if my folks will be supportive (I plan to come out to them later this year).I don't even know if I will be fortunate enough to find another gay Indian for a partner who doesn't need to cover his true self in discretion.I do know that I have had good fortune to make friends (gay and straight,Indians and others,men and women) who have promised to stand by me when testing times arrive. They have stood by me in the past and their reassurance strengthens my confidence tremendously. I only wish I can help other gay Indians successfully deal with the pressures that we all face. Perhaps then, a good majority of us wont have to lead lives in the dark, stay silent when one of us is victimised or even post comments anonymously for fear of being outed. Thank you for speaking out with this post.

My Life Postponed said...

Happy Valentines Day Raya's dads!

Nino's Mum said...

big hug, Raya's dad.
I can't even begin to talk pros and cons with you, my life has been much easier. Your post is an unrelenting spotlight on how parents can let their 'needs' from their children overpower their love. It's a warning sign.
I hope your parents come around soon and I'm sure Raya will be very proud of you, your choices.

Anbu said...

Dear Pal,
Being a lesbian myself it is tough in our country. My only worry today is to share my life with someone and take the next step of adopting a child. Your blog is revealing but i really am stumped by the positive energy. Way to go and wish you all the best!

I struggled to be out with my close friends but am happy i have such many friends and their spouses who have showed great acceptance. My parents are no more and i am not sure if am happy that i never got to tell them about the real me! I am happy that one day i might have a chance to raise my own "Raya"! Our paths maybe different, struggles many but the vision is the same, to be accepted in the mainstream and not for sympathy. Nobody dares question someone who is straight as to why they are straight!! I always wonder! Hope is probably one of the best things and i sincerely wish to see my India change in this aspect and much more in the next 10 to 15 years. Cheers buddy!
- Anbu.

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

Hi! Really liked your honesty that came out strongly to me in the peice as well as your obvious struggle to be objective about your parents' reactions as well as your partner's silence.
I'm not gay myself but I did write a post about my thoughts in my blog on proposition 8; I'd be happy to know your comments on it.

ra said...

What a moving piece. You have great courage and forbearance. Allt he best to all three of you.

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