I was not there to witness one of the bravest acts of my parents. I was not even aware that to make my life easier, they had, yet again, done the unimaginable. This seemingly-ordinary middle-aged Sikh couple had gone to every single house in their Punjabi neighbourhood, sat down the members of each household and explained that their son may have been born male, but was never a boy. That they now had a daughter.
I’m oftentold by someone or the other – something that I already know. That I’m blessed. On Satyamev Jayate, when Mr. Aamir Khan said that my parents are the real heroes of my story, he couldn’t have been more right. Heroes are people who save others, protect them from harm. My parents shielded me from every difficulty humanly possible. Financially, they took care of all the expenses of my transition. Socially, they answered every question on my behalf; even when they didn’t have answers, they always had faith in me. And above all, emotionally, they gave me a home where love was not conditional. A home that gave me the space and the freedom to heal. A home that may not have always understood me, but still, a home that never stopped to hear me out.
That is one thing that kept me sane through decades. The feeling that I was being heard. That my desperate calls for help were not falling on deaf ears. That even though I was an unusual child – unlike any other my parents had ever seen – they never let me feel that way. They kept the dialogue open, just as they kept their minds.
Some people say that education makes a big difference in making parents broad-minded. Perhaps it does, to some extent. But what truly matters is a parent’s understanding of parenthood. There are parents who think that the child owes them, because they brought him/her into this world and took care of him/her. Hence, they have huge expectations from the child, and they attach their own worth and social respectability with the child’s actions. With my parents, that has never been the case. They have loved me, and in equal measure, respected me, my mind and my choices, but never have they expected anything in return. Interestingly, that has only made me respect and love them more.
Rejection from parents can break a child in the most profound way. There can’t be anything worse than being rejected for one’s very identity. I often wonder – how in the world can a parent value the society’s frowns more than their own child’s smile? The society will, soon enough, move on to frowning upon other things, but that smile you let your child have will live on, making your bond with your child stronger than ever before.
It’s one thing for a parent to love their child, another for them to respect, understand and accept the child, but a whole different thing to be proud of that child against the entire social fabric of their time. My parents went a step even further. They made their entire social fabric proud of me. Simply, by standing right beside me. All along.
And that’s all it takes to be a hero.
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