‘Maybe it’s just a phase’: Parental Reaction to Non-heterosexuality
The scant academic work on Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender and Intersex (LBGTI) community of Nepal concentrates on the LGBTI movement, their legal status after the recognition of LGBTI as the third gender by the Supreme Court of Nepal, and considerations to recognise gay marriage. This acknowledgement is considered historic for the community, ideally paving the way for greater social acceptance. However, the legal and policy strides have not been able to ensure social and individual acceptance. Even the state level policy implementation has not been very encouraging. Research in many parts of the world have shown that LGBTI are still excluded and hidden from the social sphere, and ‘coming out’ can be a decision fraught with lasting emotional, physical, social challenges for the LGBTI person and their family.
The exclusion starts within the most intimate aspect of people’s lives: their families. Past studies have disclosed that parents tend to react in a negative fashion upon the disclosure about the child’s sexual orientation. Michel Foucault states that talking about sex and sexuality are taken as a taboo in many societies; when societies accept only the sexual relations between two ‘legitimate’ heterosexuals, it is of a great infliction for the families to accept the fact that their ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ is a homosexual. The paper digs deeper into these negative reactions and seek out the various nuances to these reactions within the context of homophobia and heterosexism.
With five in-depth interviews with the families of LGBTIs and five key informant interviews with LGBTI rights activists, the paper focuses on identifying and analysing the drivers influencing parents’ reaction and the impact it has on the LGBTI child’s existence in the predominantly heterosexual milieu of society. Some LGBTI people have been fortunate to be supported by their parents to identify themselves as a sexual minority; but majority of them have had a lonely existence or form their community for greater support. The paper argues that despite some positive initiatives towards legalising homosexuality at the state level, the stigma and fear attached at the societal and individual level towards the LGBTI community, and the intolerance towards homosexuality continues to brand it as an acquired and unnatural way to be.
Key words: LGBTI, Nepal, homosexuality, parents, stigma, intolerance