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Mom’s Note: What Right to Privacy Means to a Mother of a Gay Child

My son is gay; his private life is very public. But it scares me when he doesn’t return home on time.

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Gay rights activist Harish Iyer with his mother.
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(Harish Iyer – Here’s a letter that my mother wrote in her diary, that I am reproducing here with her permission.)

I applaud the verdict by the nine-member jury on Right To Privacy. As a mother of a child who is different from the majority in the world, there is always the fear of him being treated differently and unjustly or being attacked. More so, because all that he has achieved in life is by transforming the pain and fury born out of discrimination and assault to absolute strength.

But therein comes the fear of him not returning home the way he left.

What if he is attacked by elements, what if he is beaten, arrested, killed for being so open about his life and adventures? I have had all these fears in one corner of my mind. However, when I discuss these with him, he assures me of the goodness in the nation and that there are kinder people in India than people who cause harm to LGBTIQ persons.
As a mother of a child who is different from the majority in the world, there is always the fear of him being treated differently and unjustly or being attacked.
As a mother of a child who is different from the majority in the world, there is always the fear of him being treated differently and unjustly or being attacked.
(Photo Courtesy: Harish Iyer)
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On this note, I would like to share that I am the daughter of an Indian Airforce officer. I know how it feels like when the war siren is on and we are ordered to take refuge in trenches dug up near our building.

I have seen death and fear that close. I have seen complete buildings collapse to rubble at a very young age. I have to confess though, that despite being a patriot, I was shattered when the apex court of my country let its citizens down with the section 377 verdict on the fateful date of 11 December, 2013.

What followed in clear succession after the verdict were many emails of discrimination, fear and angst. Many flowed into my inbox.

There were far many lives that were pushed into the closet. Many kids did not want to come out to their parents. Many parents didn’t want their children to be gay. As a mother myself, I empathise with those parents whose fears are born out of concern. No one wants their child to struggle to find acceptance in the world. No one wants to live in the fear that their children would be mugged, extorted, raped or killed for being who they are. No one wants their child to be stalked and “exposed” to the world in the shameless way. No sane parent would want these things for their child.

My son is gay. He is out on TV channels, writing articles, hosting radio shows. His private life is very public. It scares me when he doesn't return home on time. But he has me and his family supporting him in his decisions. He is privileged on many levels.

My son has me and his family supporting him in his decisions. He is privileged on many levels.
My son has me and his family supporting him in his decisions. He is privileged on many levels.
(Photo Courtesy: Harish Iyer)

But when I go on Facebook, the stories that I see are often of extortionists on the loose finding their next gay prey to tell them “if you do not give me money, I will tell your parents”. These kids cough up cash in lieu of their extortionists’ silence. It is not hard to imagine that some end up attempting suicide.

I was more scared for all children who are out of the closet, when I heard the news of two LGBTQ activists from Bangladesh being killed by homophobic elements.

The law of the country is supposed to provide the right to dignity to people for who they are. Instead, it empowers these unscrupulous elements of our society.

Of the many fears I have, one is that my son has condoms in his wallet. What if he he is asked why he has those? Will he get arrested? And if he doesn’t keep those condoms in his wallet, will he get HIV infected? As a mother who is constantly worried, I ensure that his wallet has condoms. He sometimes gets a little irritated when I ask him to be safe and he tells me that in all probability he’d have to throw them out soon because they’d be past their expiry date.

This is how the law of section 377 affects LGBT people.

While many, if not all, applaud me for being a progressive mother who stood up for my gay son and posted a matrimonial advertisement for him, I must confess that it is a farce. I also wanted my son to fit in and get married to a woman. I didn’t want him to fight this battle against prejudice.
At one point, I also wanted my son to fit in and get married to a woman. I didn’t want him to fight this battle against prejudice.
At one point, I also wanted my son to fit in and get married to a woman. I didn’t want him to fight this battle against prejudice.
(Photo Courtesy: Harish Iyer)

It took me a lot of time to completely understand that homosexuality is ‘non-convertible’ and that one cannot marry a woman and live an entire life of compromise. Even today, when he visits a lesbian friend of his, I secretly harbour the thought that he could get married to her. However, it is my own teachings to him that make him oppose me. I have always told my children to be as altruistic as they can, never think twice before apologising when they go wrong, and to never be shy to wear their true selves on their sleeves.

I am happy that the Honourable Supreme Court stands true to the learnings I have imparted to my children. I am happy that it has finally said that the section 377 judgement needs a re-look to ensure that it doesn’t infringe on the rights of minorities. The Right To Privacy judgement is a landmark judgement that prevents several vulnerable lives from stepping on the landmines of laws.

Thank you Honourable Judges. Now we shall wait with bated breath for the section 377 curative petition verdict. In affirmative hope, we remain. Amen.

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(Padma Iyer is a homemaker, mother and a Mills and Boon lover.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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