Chanchal Jain, 25, is an NGO worker from Jabalpur. Born a woman, Jain is in the process of getting sex reassignment surgery to become a man. When Jain worked up the courage to broach the subject with his small-town parents, he was in for a larger surprise than they were: his father, quickly recovering, only said, “Well, do you want to get the surgery done?”
Kicking off with Chanchal’s story last week, a new seven-part web series, Coming Out, features inspiring tales of members of the LGBTQ community coming out to their families, across India and across sections of economic classes.
Watch: Chanchal Jain’s coming out story
For instance, Gautam, 25, an activist from New Delhi, is the son of an autorickshaw driver, gay, and HIV+. Gautam told his parents about being gay at the age of 17; once they came to terms with the idea, they offered their full support, and continued to after he was diagnosed.
Justine Mellocastro, 25, a hairstylist and fashion entrepreneur in Mumbai, is bisexual. In the episode, her mother is shown saying, “First, I went into turmoil, frankly. There were so many things flying through my head. You worry about society, that’s the only thing that comes to mind. And then I said, finally, “I love my kid”.”
Watch: Hairstylist Justine Mellocastro’s story of how she came out to herself, her friends and loved ones
Produced by youth content company 101India, these stories are told in a matter-of-fact, conversational style, and are not overly emotional or depressing. Four episodes are out online.
“Usually, all you hear are negative stories,” says Mellocastro. “My story is only positive — my family was ultra-supportive, and I’ve been in long-term relationships with women too — including a live-in relationship. We’ve got so many nice comments on the video, most of them congratulating my mum for her attitude. I think it’s mainly the government that has a problem with homosexuality.”
“This series isn’t about the Bollywood-isation of the issue,” says Cyrus Oshidhar, founder of 101India. “We don’t want to overlay the videos with any message, but show snapshots of real stories. The clear subtext is about parents and acceptance, and that it is possible to have a normal, loving family unit.”
Software engineer Pawan Thakur, 27, was “blown away” by Chanchal’s story. “I grew up in Jabalpur, so I know it is a huge deal for Chanchal’s family to accept him. It’s a very small, conventional community, the kind where many girls aren’t allowed to work. When Chanchal’s father made the decision to accept and support him, he must have been fully aware of the kind of attention it would garner. Such families deserve all our respect, and I’m sure the show will fill many LGBTQ people with hope and courage.”
What: Coming Out, a seven-part web series showing stories of members of the LGBTQ community coming out to their families