Sarbat volunteer Shraddha Kaur writes this blog post is in response to an email we received regarding being an ally in a religious household.
Shraddha thinks each household comes with its own history, ingrained prejudice and ways of communication that can take a long time to deconstruct, so don’t be disheartened if you are unable to immediately change your family’s minds about this issue. Similarly, do think carefully about how much of this fight you may be able to take on directly, especially if your emotional or physical safety is at stake. Shraddha would like to particularly emphasise this point as she is not sure how you’re placed in life (living with family or not, financially independent or not, etc.). There may be steps you can take that do not involve an argument with your father/other family members. A few examples here:
Start with the younger cousins or more open family members as they might be less prejudiced. Provide them with a narrative that is able to counter the homophobic/derogatory remarks or insults that is perpetuated by other family members. Seek individual conversations with them and give them space to reflect, ask you questions, and gently give them food for thought. Some examples include:
(1) If they believe in equality and love between people, then ask them why does it matter if its the same gender and explore their reasons with them, guiding their thoughts towards acceptance;
(2) Ask them how would they feel if somebody made fun of their feelings or aspirations or indeed racial identity, and compare that bullying with how an LGBT+ person might feel to help them stand in our shoes;
(3) Explore what safety, tolerance, acceptance means to them and how can they inculcate that for LGBT+ individuals in their surroundings, just as you’re doing.
Contrast culture and religious values. Try to not simply label someone’s comment as homophobic, but explain why you think it was inappropriate, and contrast that against the values that Sikhism preaches (especially if you’re talking with a religious member of the family). Sikhism fundamentally calls for equality, acceptance, and selfless service; the Guru Granth Sahib does not discriminate against homosexuality or trans folk. If you need, look through our website for information on Sikhism and LGBT+ issues. There is a great disservice that the Punjabi (and related) culture does to the LGBT+ community, as true religious values get blurred in cultural prejudiced, so you could try to pick apart the two. Other issues that undergo similar blurring are divorce, remarriage, infertility, adoption, non-marriage, women’s rights, patriarchy etc., so you can draw parallels if you like between these and LGBT+ issues.
Use movies or documentaries as a way to prompt thinking. This is a fantastic documentary – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIUQJN1B0aQ – especially if grandparents/parents are fans of the Bollywood actor Amir Khan and they understand Hindi. You may also be able to find subtitled versions of the episode, I haven’t looked far enough. If documentaries and talk shows aren’t their thing, you can try to watch LGBT+ movies. Some examples of full feature films with central LGBT+ characters exploring coming out issues include ek ladki ko dekha toh aisa laga – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8108164/ and Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10309906/. The latter is CURRENTLY running in cinemas, so maybe make it a family movie night?!
Support Sikh LGBT+ projects. Attend our events if you are based in/around London or Birmingham. If not, facilitate an event where you’re based (we can help you with this, just reach out). Write a blog for us on your reflections about being an LGBT+ ally in a Sikh family – what are the triumphs you’ve had and challenges you continue to face? Any points where you also had a learn something new, or what helped you on your journey to becoming more accepting and inclusive. Bring your family to a Pride event – there is one in almost every city in the UK and a lot to be found in other countries. We regularly attend London Pride each Summer so if you’re there cheer us on! Advertise this crowdfunding project and support it yourself if you can – https://www.ketto.org/fundraiser/documentary-on-lgbtq-sikhs?payment=form.
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