Stories Under the Rainbow (Gökkuşagından Hikayeler) is a book about love and family. This powerful collection of twenty-nine stories is a candid celebration of families connecting and reconnecting with, understanding and supporting their LGBTI+ child. Each story, told by a parent, reveals the many aspects in which the cultural upbringing and societal pressures of heteronormativity create unexamined and limiting belief systems that configure the world of parents for most of their lives. These long-standing belief systems, however, unexpectedly fall to pieces when their child comes out to them as LGBTI+. In these narratives, we read how many of the parents experience similar feelings that impart sadness, worry, incomprehension and indignation in reaction to a reality that at first challenges them. The challenges bring changes that alter their modes of living in positive ways. They come to realize, as they are forced to reexamine their convictions, that what they held to be true can be challenged to show other possibilities or acknowledge what is fundamentally flawed. When families find new ways to reconnect with one another, they begin to explore what it means to fully embrace, support and love their child for who they are. We read how beautifully their worlds expand in their reflections on their fears and struggles to dismantle learned homophobia and transphobia.
These narratives are also a meditation on how much our worlds and thinking are shaped by society. Many parents recount similar sentiments on how little they knew about other lives, how it was impossible for them to imagine the lives of LGBTI+ people or the fact that they even existed due to their own lack of knowledge, fear or merely holding onto misconceptions based on what they had heard from others. A parent puts it, “In this society, there are actually a lot of people who hide and suppress who they are and who do not express themselves for fear of judgement because this society is not a tolerant one.”
At first focused on denial and worry, the narratives evolve to celebrate love and life. “This process allowed me to understand and get to know all the other marginalized groups in society and learn more about the experiences of disabled people, Roma, Aleviis, Kurds and women” reflects one parent on how much their world view has expanded and adds, “I see now that the biggest hurdle in front of us is the world’s biggest terror organization. This organization, is not an armed terror organization. It is everyone.”
As someone who has come out to their parents as a trans man, it was hard to withhold tears reading about some of the coming out dialogues between the families and how time, love, and support restored many broken pieces and uprooted the barriers to understanding one another. Equally moving was the parents’ profoundly transformative journey from one of loss, confusion, and blame to one of joy, strength, and empowerment. Fully supporting their LGBTI+ child, they stand up to their neighbors, to school counselors, teachers, or their own friends, demonstrating how by becoming their child’s best ally, they are paving the way for other families to do the same.
This is a very intimate book that reminds us how much we need to hear the stories of people that are othered and marginalized in order to fight against discrimination and harmful narrow constraints of existing and living in this world. These stories inspire and ignite a powerful celebration of life in all its spectrum of colors.
Review by Lukka Alp Akarçay for LGBTI News Turkey