Sometimes I wonder whether my decision to come out as a gay man to my religious parents was the right decision for me.
Oh, no, they did not disown me (which I dreaded most before I had the courage to tell my parents the truth), nor did they urge me to see a therapist (my father suggested this but he did not push me to do so).
The funny thing is even though they were – and still are – very supportive of me when I revealed my HIV status, my parents still have a hard time accepting the fact that their youngest son is, in fact, queer.
I don't blame them, though. We still love each other, unconditionally, even when they disagree with my life choices and I disagree with them for thinking that my being gay is unnatural. You see, they came from a religious background, especially my mother.
To this day, even though they rarely mentioned it again, I know that they still want me to find a girl, marry her, and have many children (it is not impossible, though, for current HIV treatment is sophisticated enough that both the partner and the children may not get HIV as long as the HIV-positive is treated properly). But marriage is just not for me, and I love my parents for (at the very least) not bugging me with this whole marriage crap anymore.
Still, when I first told my parents, I could not help but thinking how sad and disappointed they were. I understand because, from their point of view, being gay is not only wrong, but also will not lead me to a happy life.
Sometimes I wonder whether I should’ve just stayed in the closet and never “officially” come out to my parents. Whether I should’ve let them wonder about how I never once had a girlfriend or why I never considered settling down. In the end, I chose the latter, but they still don't want to acknowledge the identity of their son.
To put it into perspective, I can understand why my parents think like this.
You see, some of my mother's colleagues were gay (even though they didn't talk about it). My mother used to do bookkeeping for a beauty salon back in Jakarta and she also once ran a dance studio back in my hometown, so I'm sure she knew some gay people (okay, that sounds a bit stereotyping, but you get the picture).
One of these gay men was a family friend (let's just refer to him as Om Jordan). He was such a kind soul. It was this guy who encouraged my little sister to become a child model. Even though she didn't stay in that career path, my little sister currently studies visual communication design because of her love for arts. Om Jordan was definitely one of her mentors and, in addition, a friend of my mother’s.
Sadly, Om Jordan, who also lived near our house in Bandung, died alone at his house as an aged, lonely man a couple of years ago.
My mother mentioned this to me after I came out to her (Om Jordan died two years before I came out) and, in her own words, she basically said that she did not want me to end up like him.
I wanted to assure her that I would not end up like Om Jordan but I know that it would be no use. For my mother, it's either being gay and dying alone or being straight, marrying a girl, and living happily ever after. Being gay and living happily ever after is not possible according to her book (again, I love my mother, this is just the way she thinks and I respect that).
So, my mother and I have reached that point where she will not ask me about my personal life again and, in return, I will pretend to not have a personal life.
This is sad, but this is the least I could do to my mother: to spare her the details of my personal life because, apparently, it hurts her so much.
I have made a choice to accept who I am and, since I can't make my parents happy by lying to them and find a wife, at least I don't need to flaunt my gay life to them.
Amahl S. Azwar is an openly gay writer who currently lives in Shanghai, PRC.