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.