I actually can’t remember when my sister came out to me. I feel like we always talked about who were attracted to and for her that included people of multiple genders. I do distinctly remember when she came out to our parents. Needless to say, their responses were not what I hoped she would hear. Our mother said she still loved her but the rest of our family won’t accept it. Our father did not really get that she was coming out and misunderstood her to be discussing being queer as a hypothetical reason for why we should support LGBTQ+ rights. Exasperated, my sister then asked me to process her coming out to our father on her behalf. I felt nervous and awkward at the prospect of becoming my sister’s proxy for coming out to our father. I also felt that it would be better for me to have a more candid conversation with our father without my sister around to protect her from his potentially harmful reaction. My parents were born and educated in South Asia so I understand the culture and time they grew up in were vastly different to my own experience as a South Asian American. Nevertheless, sexual orientation and gender identity should not determine how a parent will love and treat their children. I had to step up and become the ally my sister deserved.
The next day, I told our father that my sister was attracted to both males and females. He asked if that meant she needed to get her hormones checked. Part of me was relieved that my sister did not hear our father verbally process her identity, but the other part was deeply disappointed in both of my parents. I falsely hoped my parents would be accepting and provide a safe space for my sister. I was angry at their lack of support and kindness for my sister when she told them a truth about herself she struggled with for so long.
I wanted to ask someone for support but I did not know anyone personally in my south Asian network who’s out with accepting parents. That realization made me understand a little bit more of how lonely my sister must have felt growing up. We have many out LGBTQ+ friends in our network but none were Desi or Asian. As an ally, I knew cultural stigma, shame, and fear of being ostracized from the community keep many queer Desis from coming out. My sister has come out to our parents and a few friends but she is not ready to come out as bisexual publically. One year later, my parents are not exactly supportive of my sister’s bisexuality but they have become more accepting.
Coming out to our father on my sister’s behalf shaped how I view what an ally should be. I gained insight into the challenges and burden of coming out to an unaccepting parent and how to advocate for my sister. I practice this through watching movies with LGBTQ+ storylines with my parents, educating them about what sexual orientation is, and having frank discussions about loving my sister for all facets of her identity. I also learned how I can leverage my role as an ally to bridge the LGBTQ+ community with the South Asian community, like writing this blog (with permission from my sister). As a cisgender straight woman, I have the privilege of default acceptance by the South Asian community for my gender and sexual orientation. Therefore, it is up to me and others in a position of privilege to lift marginalized members of our community. Coming out can be difficult so it is important to tell your friend, loved one, or relative that you love them and they have your support. Keep in mind, your role as an ally is not to push someone to come out or tell them how they should, it’s up to them. Your role is to provide support and speak up when someone says something offensive—even if they’re your parents.