“The Most Important Thing For Me Is That My Son Is Happy”
The Village Kazakhstan does a lot of reporting on the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, primarily because the editorial staff sees them as an important part of human rights issues.
This interview is a touching and kind story about acceptance, that addresses the special topic of relationships between queer people and their parents. It is a story about Azat, who is openly gay, and about his mother. As a religious person living in Kazakhstan, she talked about unconditional motherly love and her relationship with her son.
In addition, the story includes a commentary of the organizer of local projects and meetings for parents of queer people, on how these meetings work and why they are so necessary.
Azat, an openly gay man
I am 23 years old and I live in Astana. I have been involved in activism for two years now, and in April I founded I AM, a safe space and bar for the queer community in Astana. I came out to my mother last year, and surprisingly it went quite well. It was both exciting and frightening: I took a long walk to get myself together and to prepare what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. At that point, it was extremely important for me to be myself in my own home. I didn’t want to lie to the people closest to me. One day I decided: I’ve had enough of silence, I’m going to tell them, and come what may.
On Azat’s Coming Out
Azat and I live together, just the two of us. We have a very strong bond, a close and friendly relationship with each other. That’s why I suspected that he was different.
One day he came home looking very gloomy. I was running around, doing housework, and my son was sitting there and suddenly he started crying! That scared me and I asked him, “What happened?” He said, “Mum, I’m gay.”
I replied, “So what? Why are you crying? Thanks for telling me. There is not much I can do. I can’t change you. You’re my son, I accept you the way you are.”
I gave him a big hug and a kiss. I thanked him for telling me. He was very happy. We hugged, cried, had tea and engaged in a light-hearted conversation. Azat then went to see his friends and when he came back he told me, “Mum, everyone said you were the coolest mum in the world!” Unfortunately, not all parents are capable to accept their children.
I was very happy for my son. I am glad that he was honest with me and did not wait until the last moment when I would demand that he marry and give me the joy of having grandchildren. Now I know exactly what to expect in the future. And the most important thing for me is that my son is happy – what more could I ask for?
On unconditional Love
My son and I are different. I am a Muslim and he is an atheist. Sometimes I ask him to read the Quran with me, and he never says no. He sits down, we read and pray together, and that’s it. We accept each other with our differences because we love each other.
It seems to me that in many countries, including Kazakhstan, parents react negatively to their children’s coming out, but we are a democratic state. My son has friends from Russia, and he told me that they are amazed that we have programs in place to support queer people. Or that the state provides LGBT people living with HIV with drugs, information, free tests, and other aid. Not everything is perfect, but this help is there, and I think it is cool.
When Azat was young, one of my colleagues at work was gay. I only know the good side of him, he is a great friend, always supportive, a nice guy! We live in the same city and still see each other sometimes. I think my friendship with this colleague made me realize a lot of things.
When my son confessed to me, I just thought, he is a good person, so what difference does it make who he is into – men or women? Now I can’t even imagine that Azat would be any different.
The rest of my family don’t know about my son’s orientation, they don’t need to know. He is my son, not theirs. He has chosen to confide in me and I respect that. My best friend knows Azat is gay. She has a daughter with whom Azat likes to spend time together, we visit each other often.
How to Accept Your Child
First of all, you gave birth to this child, you raised them, you kissed them, you hugged them, you solved problems together, you studied together, and you spent time together. How can you give them up? Parents don’t give up on their children for mistakes and bad deeds. In this case, it’s just a person with a different orientation. He has done nothing wrong, he has not harmed anyone, he was just born with different preferences.
I think parents should accept their children the way they are. No matter how much you want to change them, even if you throw them out of the house, it won’t change anything. You can’t choose or change orientation, and you can’t abandon your child, they are yours. They love you for who you are, so how can we do otherwise?
You have to support your children. For example, if someone comes tomorrow and insults Azat because he’s gay, I’ll destroy them. I will not allow anyone to say anything bad about my son, I will stand up for him and be on his side.
Unfortunately, many parents indeed can’t accept their children in any other orientation than heterosexual, but a child loves their parents however they are. If we take coming out, it’s one of the most important manifestations of love – a child wanting to be real with their loved ones. Of course, a person who opens up to their parents expects to be accepted, loved, and not discriminated against.
I recently watched a video about how parents often raise their children to live by certain rules that they set, and anything outside of those rules is abnormal and unacceptable to many parents. Unfortunately, many parents are not flexible and do not really try to understand their children. To understand that they are human beings, that they can be different – and that’s OK.
On Groups for Parents of Queer People
There are meetings for parents of LGBTQ+ people all over the world. At these get-togethers, parents can provide each other with support and valuable experience, get closer to their children, and learn a little more about queer people. Such meetings are held in the USA, and many European countries, and they used to be organized in Russia.
Among the Central Asian countries, they have only been launched in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. For example, the ALMA-TQ community in Kazakhstan held an event for parents of trans people in 2019. In Kyrgyzstan, a similar event was held together with the organization Labrys – it was a field camp called Medusa. Later they organised a club for transgender parents called
LGBTQ activist and coordinator of the Safe Space community center in Almaty, Yuri Shandrik, told us about the Letters to Parents project. As part of this project, a collection of letters from LGBTQ+ people to their parents was created and published by Groza Media. According to Yuri, the project achieved its goal and was useful for its participants and other people in the queer community.
In Almaty, there is a safe space for LGBTQ+ people called Amirovka. Its founder, Amir Shaikezhanov, was also involved in organizing parents’ meetings and the Letters to Parents project.
Amir Shaikezhanov, a founder of the Amirovka Safe Space
For some time, we have been running meetings for parents in different formats. Sometimes they were support groups, other times they were just meetings where we brought together people from the community and parents so that both young people and older people could communicate and understand each other better, and perhaps make the connections closer. We organised a series of (Parents, Loved Ones, and Friends) parties to which we invited parents. Mostly mothers of queer people came. Now we don’t hold such meetings because we don’t have enough capacity and people to do it, but maybe we will start them again later.
As part of the Letters to Parents project, queer people wrote letters to mums and dads that were later sent or published. The letters were mostly about feelings and inner pain of authors, and by participating in this project, they were able to address that pain. This time we want to make a similar project, but the other way round, with letters from mums to LGBTQ+ children. The letters will be from mothers who accept their queer children and realize that many queer people are not accepted by their parents and need support. The participants of the project are willing to give it through warm words in their letters. We believe that such activities are very important for both parents and children.