MICHEL MARTIN, host: Now we're going to switch gears and talk about coming out. This is, as we've mentioned, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender pride month. The White House made that designation for the third year in row. So we decided to ask some friends and colleagues on the program if they would talk about the experience of revealing their sexual orientation to those closest to them.
And we start the series on the heels of a pivotal vote this past Friday by the United Nations, which endorsed equal rights for gays, lesbians and transgendered persons for the first time. That vote was close, though, with some African and Muslim countries leading the opposition. Here to lead off our series of coming out essays is Amita Parashar. She is a journalist and a member of the TELL ME MORE staff.
AMITA PARASHAR: My mom and I were walking down 28th Street in New York City past a line of Indian restaurants when I blurted out, can I tell you something? I'm dating someone, but you might not like it. It's a woman. And, actually, you know her. It's Sarah. I had procrastinated until the last few hours of her visit, and she was rustling through her purse, pulling out money to give me before she left - she always does that. My stomach was doing flip-flops.
She stopped and gave me the long look she always gives me when I do something wrong or say something sharp. She said, that's not nice. She stood there for some time. I could tell she was trying to think through what I just told her. Well, that's not really dating, she said, as if I were 10 years old again and I didn't know what dating meant. I was 24.
I was surprised by her response, but I quickly launched into my defense. It shouldn't really matter who I'm with. I mean, I know it does, but it shouldn't, right? As long as I'm with someone who treats me well, right? I said I didn't want to keep anything from her, and not saying anything felt like I was lying. I wasn't asking for her permission, even though I desperately wanted her approval.
She started to cry. She said more to convince herself than to convince me, that maybe I would change and start dating men. She then asked if this meant I would never get married. To Hindus, marriage is considered a necessary stage of life like birth and death. There was a long pause, and she added - to a man.
My parents have always hoped that my brother and I would get married and settle down in California. For my mother, that image of her future was now put in question. She also knew Sarah, and knew she's from New York. So she asked if this meant I wasn't moving back home to Southern California.
I remember thinking, of all the things to worry about having a gay child, that's the one she picked? But I also knew it meant she understood how important Sarah was to me.
I have a good four inches on my mom and at that point, I put my arm around her. I said, you know I'm still the same person, right? And because she's a mom, or maybe because she's my mom, she put her hand on my back and asked me if I was happy. She told me she loved me and she handed me twenty dollars before she left.
That conversation felt like ripping off a Band-Aid. For a long time, I was worried how she would respond. But then I realized that I just needed to trust that she would be able to deal with it in her own way. And at least I'm not hiding a really important part of my life from her.
This spring, when she came to visit me in Washington, she introduced Sarah to my family - as a new part of our family.
MARTIN: That was journalist Amita Parashar describing her coming out experience.
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