Pratibha Parmar: Interview

Crazy. So, do you have any particular advice for gay youth?

It's a tough journey for all of us. You never stop coming out, even when attitudes have changed so fundamentally since I came out. In fact, I'm going to have a civil partnership ceremony with my partner when I get back to London in December. But when I first came out, I would never ever have imagined that was a possibility.

From a legal sense or an 'I don't want to ape heterosexual conventions' sense?

From a legal sense. You know, I think that even though we might not want to ape heterosexual conventions, and I totally understand the whole position of marriage and ownership and all of that. I'm a feminist, so that's something I wouldn't agree with.

But at the same time I feel there's been such a long lesbian and gay struggle for our rights, our basic civil and human rights, and in different countries it's taken different shapes. And there are so many countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal. So, where we have won the battle, at least legally or within the Constitution or whatever, then let's make the numbers count.

I've been with my partner for 20 years or something, so I don't need a ceremony to make me feel secure about being with her. We already committed to each other, but one of the main reasons we're doing this, and we're both going to do a civil partnership ceremony, is I want to be counted. I want to be counted in those numbers of gay and lesbian people who use the law that has been so hard won, and say OK, in the first year or 18 months of it becoming law in the UK, so many thousands of gay and lesbian couples committed.

For me, it's as much a political thing as a sentimental one, where I do want to share that with my friends and my family... well, some of my family... the love and declaration of commitment to my partner. It's not about owning, it's utterly equal.

Obviously, living here, you hear all sides of the issue, pro or anti. And I always used to think there was something special that every day, gay couples stay together because that's where they want to be, not because we did this thing, and this stuff, and the mortgage.

Absolutely. In my case, 20 years is pretty good going. It's not as if we met last year and we're doing this.

So, after twenty-some years, are the curries Indian or Pakistani?

(laughs) I think she won out, actually. For a long time, they were much more Pakistani. But, actually, in the last couple of years, they're becoming much more Indian.

There's no fusion, it's either-or?

Sometimes there's fusion, definitely. I got her to use curry leaves and they don't use curry leaves that often in Pakistani cooking.

And she is also vegan?

No.

So, it does work. I always wonder if you can have the mixed marriage thing.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.. but she's not allowed to cook any meat in the house, and she won't either. She doesn't want to, it's not that she's not allowed to. It smells and I can't stand it. My parents were strict Hindus, so I grew up in a house where even eggs weren't allowed. I did lapse when I went to university. I got into eating meat, that was my rebellious thing. But I got sick, so I gave it all up.

So, it was more of a spiritual thing and less an animal right thing?

Well, it was just more how I'd grown up and everything, but now I'd say definitely, I couldn't eat meat after knowing how they treat animals. I don't know how anyone can, really.