What does it even mean?” my mother scowled. When she asked again, I thought it was for effect, but I soon saw she really meant it. I had just told her that many people felt that accepting that their children were lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender would be detrimental to family values.
“If we have to measure the value of a family at all, I think it must be on the basis of how much love there is in a family, right?” she asked. I hmmmed. “See, that is all that matters, and having your children tell you about their sexuality, accepting them as they are, letting them live their lives — are all proof that there is love, honesty and communication in the family. That’s a lot of value there,” she ended, marking her emphasis with a quick flourish of her hand.
I was glad that my mother’s guide to family values was short, clear and profound. But since I also loved my father’s expositions on these topics, I turned to him. He was sitting across the room, his face beaming in admiration for my mother. “I wonder what it means, too. At least, what do these self-professed upholders of family values mean by that? Basically, it is a set of social and political beliefs, rooted in fundamentalist religious thinking, that hold the family to be an essential, ethical and moral unit. Each term in the preceding sentence actually means different things to different people!” he said.
He spoke a little fast, so I had to do some mental shorthand and get ready for what was to come. “What is family value, if it is not love? If you find that your offspring is ‘different,’ that is, differing from some traditionally accepted role, isn’t it the duty of a loving parent to provide the affection and love the child particularly needs, instead of hiding behind some set of rules that you don’t even know the real source of?”
I was moved by this, and I wished my parents had some audience other than just me. I have heard these opinions expressed several times in different ways, and am fortunate to experience the value of a family that truly practises love and understanding. But, I guess, as people who do not conduct their lives centred on what other people say, think and gossip, my parents do not feel the need to perform or declare their beliefs. My father continued: “See, these undefined moral and ethical rules can have no eternal meaning. I think it is heartless on the part of parents if they choose to be loveless just so they can please some random people.” So that was that.
Family values. My parents turned this concept on its head and asked the question,”Your family values what?” My family values love, honesty, open communication and mutual respect. Hopefully, yours does as well.
The writer is director of the Shakti Resource Center, Chennai. The article was first published on expressbuzz.com.