Tag Archives: acceptance

Parents

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Mother and childNowadays people say…

A straight friend of mine said she’d be cool with her daughter, who’s currently aged two, “if she grew up to be gay or anything else,” as it makes no difference to her whatsoever. “And it shouldn’t.”

But, isn’t there always, well let’s say often, a period of adjustment?

My mother expressed surprise, disbelief; she even thought I was joking in her confusion to understand. This was followed by shock, in fact a mighty blow! Whatever future she saw when she first held that baby close to her breast shattered in a moment… Leaving an apocalyptic vacuous residue…

There was a period of grief, for the future that will never be. And then the difficult feelings stirred, when she tried to comprehend what it all meant: being gay, having a gay son, what others would think?

Often time is a healer; often, but not always. Time allows for grieving. It allows for adjustment. Time, allows for love to heal.

I think my mother has tried to understand what having a gay son means, the way she knows best.

Parents too, of gay and bisexual children, are on a journey. They learn to experience their difficult feelings. They may talk to others, or not. They may try to become informed. They try to reason in their heads. They learn to live with it. And over time, it’s kind of OK. It’s not that bad. Bobby, is still Bobby.

Here are two dramatised parents’ perspectives as monologues interspersed together. Ravinder is a father being interviewed for a project. He talks about his daughter. Pooja is in a café with her son. Use headphones for the best quality experience.

Audio monologues: written by Carl Miller; performed by Dharmesh Patel and Rochi Rampal; Directed by Steve Johnstone and Kate Chapman; recorded and engineered by Adam McCready and produced by Bobby Tiwana. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England. Co-commissioned by GEM Arts.

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Aashi Gahlot writes for Safar

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On the 23rd of May 2014, I was blessed with the opportunity to speak at Southbank Centre’s Alchemy Festival in London at, “The Love That Knows Much Shame” after being invited by Bobby Tiwana. Exploring South Asian LGBT lives and experiences, the event explored the issues and triumphs of being South Asian and LGBT in the UK today. Aashi Gahlot

I run SHOR, an online creative portal exploring the messages and experiences of South Asian LGBTQ persons and supporters across the globe.

We recently interviewed Devi, a mother whose daughter came out to her as lesbian 12 years ago. Initially, Devi felt angry and hated the thought of her daughter being a lesbian. But now, not only does Devi accept and embrace her daughter for who she is, but she also accepts and embraces her daughter’s partner.

One prominent thing that this interview brought home to me was the fact that it is not easy for a parent when their child comes out as gay, or LGBTQ.

In my own experience, I ended up becoming estranged from my family for 4 years. My sexuality was a huge problem. But now, I am completely accepted by my father.

The interview with Devi and the panel made me realise that actually, my father has always loved me. He has never hated me for being gay. It was society, the taboo, the stigma that surrounds homosexuality that contributed to the 4 year separation.

What happened was not easy for my family, nor was it easy for me. Krishna South Bank (2) I still have a very long way to go.

My work at Shor is a vision to get to that day where a LGBTQ South Asian person can come out completely to their loved ones without fear and without shame.

Sexuality is not a choice and neither is it shameful. What matters is that an individual can safely express their love for another.

I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you – a thank you that no matter how many times I say it, it just can never be enough.

This thank you is to Lord Krishna, the most beautiful and truest best friend who is always in the heart of every individual no matter what.

When I was away from my family, it was Lord Krishna who helped me through it all, the good and the bad. It was Lord Krishna who watched over my family and kept them strong, able to face all that came their way.

In fact, around a week before the event I was at Radha-Krishna temple in Central London. I was feeling a bit down. That’s when a fellow devotee approached me and we had a (very) quick talk about life. I did not mention anything about my work or the talk.

A few days later, that same devotee handed me a hand written note that read:

“Always remember KRSNA

Strength lies not in victory against the 10,000

But in facing the 10,000 before victory”

Thank you Krishna for always being there and being my best friend

Aashi Gahlot

Rob blogs Birmingham

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Hello again, dear readers. I am writing to you, not from Glasgow as suggested in my last post, but from the safety of my own home. It appears that, as is often the case with me, I was stressing rather too much and it turns out my journey to Midland’s Arts Centre (Mac), MacEntrancein Birmingham, though now re-branded as mac birmingham, was easier than I had anticipated.

For future reference, it is a very simple bus ride from the centre of Birmingham – although I’m sure you’ll have a much better sense of navigation than I do! The building itself is gorgeous and I was surprised at how picturesque it was!

Another guilty confession, readers, but despite professing to be a theatre-maker who has spent eighteen years in the West Midlands, I had never visited Mac before but boy do I wish I had. Clearly I have spent far too much time in the likes of Manchester and London and have neglected the amazing venues us Midlanders have on our doorsteps.

Well anyway, to the matter at hand, by which I mean Beneath the Surface event number 3!! I don’t know what it was about this performance but I really thought it was the best one yet. The performed extracts were very well done (apart from a slight mix-up on the sound levels…anybody sitting on the right-hand side of the room might be ever so slightly deaf in one ear now) and once again there were plenty of surprises in how the audience reacted to parts of the script.

MacRiverThere seemed to be a more relaxed and vocal atmosphere in the room with audience members laughing harder at the jokes in the script and exchanging glances with one another throughout. This may have been to do with the number that we had in – our largest audience yet – and once again an eclectic mix of men, women, white, Asian, straight and gay. There were also a significant number of older people which I found very interesting and made a point of talking to after the show – but more on that in a bit.

One thing I really noticed at this performance was how the audience in Birmingham was very keen to dive straight in to talking about the issues raised by the piece and to discuss these with much greater ferocity than I have thus far witnessed. Indeed, there was very little talk about the theatricality of the piece but a much greater emphasis on the themes raised in the work.

The discussion at one point intensified with one man saying how he would have preferred some lighter stories which celebrated tolerant parents as well as the stories that condemn the prejudices of others. While one woman countered this by saying the whole point of this piece was to raise awareness of those who find being gay and South Asian extremely torturous and that by including too many “happy” stories risked diluting the poignancy of the piece. Personally, I think that both are right. This work is not simply about telling horror stories of people who can’t/won’t be true to themselves and are tortured by it but should very definitely celebrate those who are open and proud and have found a way of gaining acceptance. Yet the piece should be about balance with both the lighter and darker stories being given equal airing. At the end of the day, the purpose of the piece is to tell stories about contemporary British Asian gay lives and to do that the whole spectrum of experiences must be examined

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I mentioned earlier in this post how there was a significantly larger proportion of older audience members at Mac than there had been at either London or Smethwick. I think this is a very interesting point to make and may have led to one of the most fascinating discussion points of the evening. The piece itself is made up of both younger and older voices. Indeed, the voices of the two Indian parents (if this isn’t making much sense to you then it is possibly because you haven’t seen the show and I would therefore direct you to the bookings page where there are still tickets left for two of our three remaining dates) represent the older generation who still have trouble accepting and might even find the idea of homosexuality abhorrent. Yet it is simplistic to state that the older generation is prejudiced and the younger generation tolerant. One older Asian lady that I talked to described the piece as “completely new” to her – she had seen the event listed and thought she would give it a go. Yet as our conversation continued I saw how adamantly she believed that supporting those you love and care about, no matter what, was what made you a family and I found myself thinking that her presence here was no mistake. She wanted to learn more so she could continue to be supportive to those that she loved. This was put into stark contrast when I heard about the abuse a young Asian teen had received from his peers when he came out at school. It struck me that in many cases the older generation can be instrumental in teaching the younger generation to be tolerant too. Cast your minds back to my London blog, the story of the young boy teaching his grandmother about tolerance through his unbiased innocence and you’ll find, as I have done, that every generation needs to be taught tolerance and that it is down to families and communities to do this teaching and that if we all practice and teach acceptance then suddenly the world might begin to change.

As well as these incredibly deep revelations, we also found the time to have some fun with the discussions. For the first time in the workshops so far we had people sharing the ten words they would like to impart to a character in the script. While they were all very insightful, I do remember one lady using her ten words to ask one of the characters out for a coffee! I’m smiling to myself as I write this as I can just imagine that character going on a date with one of the audience – it just seems like something they’d do! I also remember the words “love risk” being mentioned as part of someone’s ten words and I thought that was such a great phrase…I think I might have it embroidered onto a cushion!

So a slightly longer blog this time but one that I think deserved a few more words. I left Birmingham buzzing, both because of the performances which I think are getting better and better with each venue and also because of the discussion and the topics we touched upon. I hope our next event in Sheffield will be just as good! So until the next time – stay fabulous!

 Rob Beck (is guest blogger for Beneath the Surface) 

Rob’s Beneath the Surface London blog

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Well readers, that’s it – the event is now up and running. The hard work that has gone into the rehearsal period has paid off and we have now performed to our first audience! It’s great to get people in to watch what we’ve created and to see how they react to it. I don’t mind telling you there were some parts that they reacted to quite differently to what we had anticipated and the whole thing was a real eye opener for us all…but more on that later.

So let’s start at the beginning. Driving down with the producer, Bobby Tiwana. I met him in Wolverhampton and together we made our way down to London. Generally a good ride…apart from at the end when my perhaps questionable navigational skills sent us over Waterloo Bridge an extra time (the other way) than was necessary…oops. Never mind, we made it to Southbank Centre in one piece and met up with the rest of the team who had arrived and were ready to go.

There’s something electric in the room before a show. The nerves and the anticipation of the performers and the production team. We knew that we’d put the work in but we all just hoped that it’d pay off; that the odd line still escaping the performers would be cemented; and that we’d get a good crowd in who would be up for discussion and giving feedback.

So at 5pm the doors opened and in they came. A real mix of men, women, couples and people on their own, black, white, and Asian. I counted seventeen people, which for the first event was a great number. It was also a friendly audience, made up of several project acquaintances and supporters. Some of our interviewees from the research phase were in; as well as a few participants from Bobby and Carl’s Alchemy workshop from earlier this year. My friend from uni (if your memory needs refreshing then please refer to my very first blog) was in the audience too. A good audience to start on, not that it did much to dispel the tension from the performers who were about to present their work to a paying public and to the directors who had invested so much time and effort in the piece.

From the very first moment there were surprises. The audience reacting to one of the characters whom they did not realise was part of the show was something we’d talked about but not really come up with a plan for. In this instance, the friendliness of the audience threw Dharmesh and for a second I thought he might trip up. However, he carried on masterfully and it was interesting to see how the ripple of understanding spread throughout the room.

Similarly, reactions to the seating changes were interesting. While we had expected people to turn around to face bits of performance that were taking place behind them, the general attitude of this audience was that these moments were to be listened to and not watched. Therefore, parts of the direction may need to be reworked in order to take this into account or not. Of course, we will have to see what other audiences in other cities do as well.

I hope all this description isn’t too mind boggling, readers. There was so much going on that evening and much of it needs to be recorded. You might like to view it as me trying to capture the essence of the evening; the magic that was happening and the chemistry in the room. If bits of it don’t make sense then I implore you to come to one of the events and experience the content for yourself, then you too, will have a view on what most worked for you and what might be re-worked.

The discussions that followed the presentation of the rehearsed extracts were fascinating. I guess one thing that I will try and do too is to assess how each city and the people from it are different. I think that London, being so metropolitan and open attracts people who are not afraid to speak their minds and discuss, certainly in a venue like this. While there was maybe an initial shyness, people were quickly volunteering information on what the concepts of family and community mean to them and how they reacted to the piece and what might be done differently. I took heart that many of the LGB Asians who had come along we’re happy to share their experiences – it was truly amazing to hear what they had to say. One lady hadn’t spoken to her father in seven years and had built her own family from friends who supported her and her lifestyle in a way her family couldn’t right now. Similarly, one gentleman revealed to us that once he would create different personas for different communities and that it was both tiring and frustrating having to be so different depending on who he was with. Stories like these make the whole project seem worthwhile and made me realise that what we’re doing is creating a platform for these ideas and experiences to be shared with the world.

Perhaps one of the the most touching stories was told by a woman of African descent. She drew comparisons between her community and the south Asian community; how both are still very traditional communities and that this can often lead to prejudice. Yet she told the story about how with every generation there comes a greater level of tolerance and that the younger generations can be instrumental in dispelling the prejudices of older ones. She gave the example of her five year-old son who, when taken to a wedding some months back, asked what kind of wedding it was -“…two daddies?  Or two mummies?” And when told that is was a wedding between and man and a woman replied “HOW STRANGE!” Touching and lighthearted yet, apparently, this child’s indiscriminate tolerance had affected the views of his grandmother who herself has become much more accepting of different lifestyles. It was a story that made us all smile but also affected many of us and made us think.

So that will probably do for now, readers. London has provided us with an excellent start to the run and has already given us loads to think about. I can’t wait for the next workshop performance event on Wednesday at Smethwick Library. Now if you’ll excuse me – as you can imagine, there was much celebrating after the success of the first show and I was somewhat delicate the following day… To catch an event near you. Until the next time, stay fabulous.

Rob Beck