India too will embrace gays, says Indian-American lesbian (With Images)

July 28th, 2008 - 12:07 pm ICT by IANS  

By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, July 28 (IANS) Indian American researcher Pamela Roy raised quite a few eyebrows at a seminar during a North American Bengali Convention here by openly debating homosexuality among Canadian-born Indian youth. The first second-generation Indian woman in North America to declare her lesbian orientation a few years ago, Michigan University researcher Roy wanted to fathom changes in sexual outlook among second-generation Bengalis here.

To her surprise, Roy found a few boys and girls talking openly about their sexual orientation.

“I was happy that a couple of them revealed their gay and lesbian orientation in front of everybody. There is definitely some change in attitude among second-generation Indians,” the Kolkota-born Roy, who came to Canada when she was just one, told IANS.

She felt that in time all cultures, including India, would embrace gay and lesbian people.

“To come out is a painful experience in any society,” said Roy, who kept her lesbianism a secret from her family and friends for years.

“I knew I was attracted to them. At the age of 14, I had my first lesbian experience in school,” she recalled.

Immediately after her first lesbian encounter, Roy said she told her brother and her friends about it. “But I told my parents when the timing was right, which occurred after I had gone away to college, I was 20 years old at this point,” she said.

“But my brother, mother and father have always loved me and are supportive. I have been able to bring home girlfriends and partners ever since I started dating women. Ultimately, my family wants me to be happy,” she said.

And to be really happy, she added, “I do plan on getting married/being in a committed relationship and having a family and children.”

Roy moved to the US in 1994 and is currently conducting a nationwide study on South Asian Americans who are LGBTQQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning).

Excerpts of her interview:

Q: How difficult was it to come out and reveal your sexual orientation?

A: Coming out is a continuous process - coming out to oneself, family, friends, colleagues and co-workers at school and work. I have had good experiences and also traumatic ones. Coming out is a daily occurrence.

Q: When did you realize that you were different and how long did you keep it a secret from your family?

A: I do not consider myself different. I knew that I had feelings for women when I was 7 or 8 years old. My first lesbian experience occurred in high school at the age of 14. I came out to my brother immediately and told him about the relationship. I also told many friends, some of whom I lost.

I told my parents when the timing was right, which occurred after I had gone away to college, I was 20 years old at this point.

Q: What was their (family’s) first reaction?

A: My brother, mother and father have always loved me and are supportive. I have been able to bring home girlfriends and partners ever since I started dating women. Ultimately, my family wants me to be happy and have educated themselves throughout the years about queer topics. I have also been intentional about educating them and have bought books and watched queer movies with my family. With my recent research in this topic, I have been very open and shared findings from my study.

Q: You said about 10 to 15 percent people have this sexual orientation. How prevalent is it among South Asians?

A: It is commonly believed that 10-15 percent of the population has had thoughts, feelings or interactions (emotional and physical) with members of the same sex; however there is no current research about the prevalence among South Asians.

Q: Do you think Indian culture will one day embrace gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people?

A: I strongly believe that in time, cultures around the world, including India, will embrace it. People need to be educated on this topic and have an open mind before cultural perceptions and attitudes are changed.

My co-researcher Raja Bhattar, University of Redlands, and I have conducted a study on South Asian LGBTQQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning) in the US to understand the issue and future trends.

Q: Finally, have you any partner now? Will you marry her?

A: I am currently not in a relationship. But like most people, I do plan on getting married/being in a committed relationship and having a family and children.

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