Race / ethnicity and being an LGBTQ+ Sikh
A Summary of the Open Minds (Khula Mana) LGBTQ+ Support Group which took place on the 28th of August 2019
Thank you to St Luke’s Community Centre for hosting August’s Open Minds (Khula Mana) LGBTQ+ Support Group. The group was facilitated by Dr Kuljit Bhogal on behalf of Sarbat and Taraki. This is a summary of some of the group discussion.
We started our discussions in small groups. People were asked to think about whether their race or ethnicity had any impact on their day to day experiences of being LGBTQ+ and Sikh/Punjabi. We then came together as a large group to develop these discussions further.
We talked about the idea of identity and it was interesting to hear that some people feel much more comfortable with labels like ‘British Asian’ or ‘Punjabi-Sikh’ than others did. Being born and raised in the UK didn’t guarantee that people felt completely British and for some members of the group, they felt like they didn’t belong in the UK or in India. In contrast some members of the group felt at home wherever they were and hadn’t experienced any negativity due to their perceived race or ethnicity.
Some members of the group felt that growing up without ethnically diverse role models made their lives harder. They also felt that more Sikh/Punjabi LGBTQ+ role models in mainstream media might make it easier for the topic to be discussed in Sikh/Punjabi communities.
We heard from members who had knowledge of the amritdhari Sikh community. Being an amritdhari Sikh and openly LGBTQ+ may mean that you lose the support of the Sangat. This could be devastating for some people and as a result they choose to keep their sexuality private. There are no specific spaces for LGBTQ+ people from the amritdhari Sikh community and this is a hidden group which may need further consideration by Sarbat.
We spent some time talking about the challenges that women specifically face in the LGBTQ+ and Sikh/Punjabi communities. Women are constantly negotiating pressures to conform to mainstream ideals of behaviour, appearance and sexuality. Romantic or sexual relationships between women are made harder due to the lack of safe spaces for women to meet. We also talked about the fact that Sikh / Punjabi women may want a separate support group for them to meet outside of the monthly Open Minds group. This item will be discussed at the November Open Minds Meeting.
The next Open Minds meeting will take place on the 30th of October 2019 (6-8pm) at St Luke’s Community Centre.
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