Charting New Paths

Judy Persaud dawdled and dithered. Finally she gathered the courage to reveal her sexuality to her family. Her Indo-Caribbean mother was shocked that her daughter was lesbian and she couldn’t do what her hurting child wanted most -show some affection.

“I just wanted her to hug me. That’s all she needed to do,” Judy says.

David (not his real name) also hoped he could count on the love and support of his Guyanese-Muslim family. But those hopes were shattered when his mother fainted after hearing of her son’s sexual orientation.

Judy and David are two of the 10 youth featured in an audacious documentary called “Rewriting the Script: A Love Letter to Our Families.” The film looks at sexuality in the South Asian community and is designed to help South Asian parents and families in their journey toward understanding and accepting their lesbian, gay and bisexual children.

The producers of the video say they wanted to come up with a resource tool to help communities and families deal with homosexuality in a more loving and constructive manner. The 45-minute production took three years to produce.

“They were coming to the whole process with a lot of love. They wanted to do this primarily as a way of speaking to their families and drawing their parents to them,” says Mark Haslam, the director of Toronto’s Planet in Focus Film Festival, about the group of youngsters.

The film is an intimate journey into a world where hurt, pride and shame battle with acceptance.

“In many (Asian) cultures it (homosexuality) is strongly related to faith and sin. There is a lot of strong cultural pressure that would make you feel shameful about coming out,” Janice Dahl, a youth worker at a Toronto-based settlement agency, says.

“It’s a huge challenge,” she says.

Within the South Asian community, a fear exists among many young homosexual people of losing their place within the delicate settings of family and social relations. “It is very difficult to open your mouth and say something that will jeopardize your support network,” says Dahl.

Thankfully, in most major Canadian cities there are organizations that assist young people who are gay and lesbian. These groups help young people accept and understand their sexuality as well as deal with the social disapproval that may be attendant to it.

Yet, there is still a long way to go in making this community feel accepted. In 1989, suicide was the leading cause of death among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Luckily, Judy does not harbor any thoughts of suicide. Her family now accepts who she is and her relationship with her mother is growing. Even though she may face discrimination and ridicule in other places, every morning she goes out knowing that her family is behind her and that makes a difference.

David’s situation has not changed. A thick stands between him and the family he loves. He longs for the day when his family can look beyond the barriers, and give him what he needs and cherishes most – their love.

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