There is an unspoken tension between my parents and I in my Indian household as Australia’s postal vote on legalising same-sex marriage is delivered into our mailbox.
While it is fairly recent, 1 year ago, since my parents have openly acknowledged my identity as a gay Indian woman, we have made a lot of progress in that time, with them meeting my partner as my partner over Diwali last year which is phenomenal. But things haven’t been a steady upward increase in progress and there is a lot of re-education and re-affirmation that needs to be done in part.
And one of those things is marriage. Indian culture has a very long-standing traditional focus on marriage. Indian weddings are arguably the biggest event for an Indian family- it is the event marking the transition of their child to an independent adult; the event bringing all family far and wide together; and the event which fulfils their duty as a parent.
So what about gay marriage? I am heartened to see on social media that there are instances of queer Indian marriages – xx. While these are extremely rare, this representation instills much hope in my envisioned Indian wedding.
I want to marry my partner, don my red sari and walk around the hawan. To make my dream true, it is important that I remind my parents that their love for their daughter, as it has in the past, should prevail over any fears they may have. It is important for the sake of my future and so many that I have this conversation with them in a way that is conducive to my wellbeing. It is terrifying to think about talking this openly to them in person. Hence, I will encourage them to vote ‘Yes’ in a way that makes me feel safe, through telephone conversation.
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As Australian-born Chinese Alexander Lau did in Q&A on Monday night – when he explained that his mother would vote “Yes” out of love for her son but many of his Chinese community still held homophobic views which resulted in him being unable to talk about his relationship at family gatherings. He explains, “they’re not hostile to my relationships or me as a person, they’ll chat about other things, but in their way it’s accepting my sexuality in their own way. However, my sister or my cousins, if they’re seeing someone new, they’ll have conversations with my aunts, uncles, cousins about their relationships. So in that sense, you voting no is really a reflection of my relationship because what you’re saying is that I’m not allowed to have a marriage or I’m not allowed to have a relationship that is worthy of marriage because that is something that only you can have as a person in a relationship of opposite sex. So when you do go to cast your ballot of ‘No’, you are saying that your relationship is worthy of marriage and mine is not.”