Raga Olga D'silva says she had to come out twice. The first time was when her mother "dragged" her out. An undoubtedly traumatic experience that also cemented in the author and YouTube host, the desire to be accepting, caring, and compassionate to her children. A tumultuous marriage, anxiety and fear because of confusions surrounding her sexual orientation, the guilt of not knowing how it would impact her children, and the madness that comes with extreme uncertainty, Raga was at a point in her life when this was her every day. As fortune would have it, her mother found an unsent letter documenting these complicated emotions, and like many orthodox Indian parents, she treated her with anything but acceptance. Raga still remembers the anger in her mother's eyes and words that tore them apart.
With your mother, you expect to feel safe, you expect unconditional love, and when that doesn't happen —you grieve— and I think I'm still grieving.
Today, Raga D'silva is in a different universe. In her book, Untold Lies, she talks about the change she experienced after deciding to publicly come out at 50. The journey has been anything but easy, but she wouldn't exchange its rewards for anything. Raga recently proposed to Nicola, her long time partner and pillar of support for nearly 15 years now.
As a mother, Raga and Nicola both want their children to grow up in a society that is more accepting of unique identities, preferences, and differences. They understand that coming out and accepting their non-normative identity and continuing to live wholesome lives is a privilege. A privilege that they both have decided to pay forward by helping others share their stories. They strongly believe once a person comes out, it is empowering, and he/she/they can truly become a voice for others. This is why in her YouTube series Coming Out Stories from India, Raga encourages conversations around the difficulties associated with coming out in a country like India.
Pride for Raga means living "truthfully." It's hard to come out, but what's even harder is to shed our own internalized homophobia. We accumulate so much fear within us — the judgment of society, friends, family, workplace — it just stops us from being authentic. This is where Raga believes stories can create a difference. Each one who comes out with their story inspires others to come forward. It creates a cascading effect. She wants to normalize queerness and queer families. "Nicola and I have the same problems like any other regular couple," Raga says. They argue, fight, mostly about who will do the cleaning, but they are a typical functional family.
Your child has come to you. No matter how old they are, they have rehearsed, feared for years and years. What you need to do is hold their hand and listen. Instead of making it all about you.
Raga, a devoted mother, shares the cornerstone of being a parent to a queer child like herself. Indian parents worry so much about what society thinks of their child and family that they forget to consider their child's perspective. Parents even take their children to psychologists, force them to undergo conversion therapies, and anything else to help them suspend reality. As Raga explains, the key to maintaining a healthy relationship with a child is to listen to them, not make everything about yourself, and create a safe space for them.
Raga acknowledges the anxiety that her children must have also gone through during her separation. But Raga stresses the need to be open with children as well. She believes in their intuitive power and ability to absorb change. For Raga, difficult conversations need to happen at dinner tables. All children need is the absolute faith that they would continue to receive only love and support. Something that Raga says she has always ensured her children feel. Her children are growing up to become beautiful allies, who have come to accept Nicola as their mother while also maintaining good relations with their father back in India.
Raga's unusual story of being an Indian mother who decided to come out at 50 will also be the subject of a movie made by the film director Onir. The story of how it came to be, however, is fascinating. Raga - who is by now characteristically unapologetic about what she wants and open about what she thinks is right - happened to ask Onir, her friend - "Why not a movie on lesbians?" It is pretty safe to say, the idea enamored Onir, and Raga soon got a call back from him saying hers is the story he was inspired by.
Raga has already had to shield herself from homophobic comments, discrimination, and hurt. And for her to agree to Onir's idea was difficult, considering it would expose more of her private life. But in the end, she did agree because of her faith in the power of stories. Although the movie will be loosely based on some instances of her life, it will be a love story, and we believe Raga when she says, "it will be a beautiful love story."