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Here are some more details about our upcoming Sarbat Social in Manchester
A few of us from London are coming over to Manchester on 1st December.
Saturday 1st Dec
Sarbat coffee 16:00 hrs @ vivID cafe, 149/A, Great Ancoats Street, Manchester M4 6DH
Followed by Dinner (Mancunian recommendation for a venue ! )
After dinner you are most welcome to join us for a fun night out in Manchester. We’ll be very pleased if you come along.
Sunday 2nd Dec
10.45 am breakfast at vivID cafe for a morning catch up .
12.30 pm We will visit Sri Guru Gobind Singh Gurudwara, Upper Chorlton Road for about an hour . You are most Welcome to join us for the Gurdwara visit. After this if time permits we may visit one of the shopping mall or any other place of interest in the city.
By then it will be time to Wish Goodbye to all.
Hoping to see you all.
P.S. You are free to join or leave us at anytime during these two days. You may come just for the coffee , dinner, the night out or even just for the Gurdwara visit.
We are open to any ideas or suggestions that you may have. So do not hesitate in forwarding those to us.
Sarbat phone will be manned over the weekend and you can reach us on: 07500 410 993 .
See you all very soon!
Sarbat will be at World Pride on Saturday 7th July 2012, and we want you all to join us.
The details are:
Date – 7th July 2012
Location – Baker Street W1, near the junction with Paddington Street – ask the organisers for section “Yellow 30″
Time – 10.30am SHARP
The procession is due to start at 11am, so please get there by that time if you wish to walk with us. The Sarbat helpline (07869 429610) will be manned from 8am on the day, so feel free to call us and check our whereabouts in the procession.
If people are walking with us, please wear traditional Punjabi outfits if possible. We will be having dhol players walking alongside us, so there will be plenty of music to keep us in the celebratory mood!
If you don’t wish to walk with us, please support us from the sidelines. The more of our members and supporters on the streets, the better for us to raise the profile of LGBT Sikhs across the globe. The details of the route can be found at http://www.pridelondon.org/parade/
Pride di lakh lakh vidai hovey!
An anonymous article – London, UK
11th July 2011
There is the rose. The English rose. It is beautiful, sensual and represents all that is elegant and fragrant of what a flower ought to be. It is symbolic of a great nation. It is seen and used by many as an emblem. There are a number of varieties but the red rose is greatly favoured among others.
Now there are other flowers as well, which are equally sensual, tropical, beautiful, and bring great pleasure to many. Some say only the rose can bring pleasure like no other flower. But we have seen there are a variety of flowers, and when bunched together, they all look beautiful.
So are God’s creatures. We have the yellow skinned, black, brown, light brown, children, women, men, tall men, short men, fat men, fat women, tall women, heterosexuals, homosexuals, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims… All beautiful in their own right, but when put in a bunch of others like flowers they are even more fragrant and beautiful. When left alone because they are single parents, suffering, homosexuals, etc. Like flowers, they wonder and wither and waver and struggle alone.
Like flowers, our creator wanted us to be all together to learn and share, whatever the colour of our petals, because we are all His gracious creatures. It is no use for the orchard to pretend and struggle to be like the rose, because then as a rose she would be the symbol of the nation, brought by millions on Valentines day and celebrated. The orchard may struggle and even try, but it would be no use as she will still be an orchard. However, the orchard is still beautiful, is still elegant and will be even more respected if she stays as an orchard to true to herself and her faith.
Why am I writing this when I am a happily married mother of two? I have a few nephews, and I think one of them may be what others have described as ‘confused’. I suspect he is bisexual or homosexual. As a ‘massi’ I love him and want the best for him forever. I want him to be true to himself and I cannot say this to him, but I can write it, and write it for all the other nephews I have, for I do not now distinguish between my worldly family and spiritual family as a Sikh. Be true to yourself and do not destroy a girl’s life by trying to fit in to the pressures of society. It is far better to live the life you want than to live for others and struggle with your own life. Just imagine if, when Sikhs came to the UK decades ago, they lived the life of what English people wanted? We would have no Sikh faith or Gurdwaras in the UK. Have the same courage as those Sikhs. In the end, God created the bunch of flowers, not a single red rose. All his flowers are beautiful and precious to him.
The following article was posted on UrbanDesiRadio.com by Petz on 21.01.11.
We have been given kind permission to republish it on our website.
I could do a mini-series of interviews with Kanwar (Sikh Knowledge) he just has so many ideas and well rounded thoughts. He’s one of those artists, where you can give him any topic, he will have something to say and there’s a profound message behind his thoughts. For the past two days, I’ve had some of his tracks on replay and I feel the way he uses particular words could best describe the darker days of his childhood. Where his innocence was robbed from him at a very young age, his coming out and coming to terms with his sexuality. I’m very grateful he took the time to tell a complete stranger, a journalist, for that matter, his story. If you didn’t know much about Sikh Knowledge before this interview, you’ll walk away knowing the true definition of a warrior – Kanwar Anit Singh Saini
Petz: I’m very impressed how you stepped out on stage and mention how you were proud, gay Sikh man at Non Stop Bhangra (Monthly Bhangra party in San Francisco, California) did people approach you after your set?
Kanwar: Surprisingly no. I was hanging out after the performance, I saw a few people pointing and whispering around me. A few people came up just to say, what’s up! One dude addressed it, but he was more connected to me by the fact he was from Montreal. No one really seemed to care. I felt it was necessary to mention it because most of the shows, I do are festivals and rallies with a political tinge to it. And this was a Non Stop Bhangra show, something I’ve never done before! I felt the need to mention it, although some of my music is danceable, there’s a message behind it. It sort of just came out to the audience. I just think everyone wanted to dance and to have a good time.
Petz: As a child, when did you start feeling different from the other children?
Kanwar: Right off the bat! I was somewhat of a “bubble boy” which means I always had some sort of allergy from being away from home too long, I was always creative, I was attached to my sisters, I was so different in that respect. Intellectually, I always did things differently compared to the other kids. I was always beat boxing on my way to school. In terms of my sexuality, on a certain level I always knew, but like I said, the sexual abuse confused things for me. As soon as we hit 8, 9, 10, we have a Meta awareness of ourselves, maybe even earlier then that. When the abuse started, my Meta awareness of myself, I explained these feelings being a result of the abuse, when later in life I realized it wasn’t a result of being sexually abused at all. I was confused with the reasons why I felt this way, but indelibly, found out there’s no reasons why, that’s just the way it is. It took my own self-awareness to separate the abuse from who I am. I was introduced to sex way too early, let’s just put it that way.
Petz: Do you get annoyed when people tie sexual abuse to homosexuality?
Kanwar: Oh totally! I’m not going to lie; my family did that when I first came out. They did out of fear, my sister approached me a couple of times and tried to make me realize it was because of the abuse. I realized they were just saying that because they needed a reason because they’re not me, so they just didn’t understand it. After awhile, they just accepted it for what it was. They saw beyond the sexual abuse. It really aggravates me when people assume you’re gay because you were abused. Sexual abuse itself is a monster, especially when it’s an old person and young person. I remember reading statistically, a couple of years back, how attention is attention, and a child who might have homosexual inclination might give off these susceptible signals to predators. The numbers of those being sexually abuse, who are gay, are just higher because of those reasons, not because of the abuse itself. Of course that’s just a statistic and even statistics can be way off. From me, it kind of resonates, like I said I was a bubble boy and very sensitive. I think when my abuse started, the root of it was basically attention, I loved the fact attention was being showered on me. Abuse isn’t always physically pain, a lot of it is being too young to know that the pleasure you’re feeling is completely fucking you up. That was completely inappropriate and not meant for me to experienced or showered on me in any way, shape or form. It really disturbs me when people compound my sexuality to the sexual abuse. Or abusers and homosexuality, abusers exist in many areas; there are heterosexual abusers as well, so it’s very different. If someone finds out your gay, they may never want to leave their kid with you again. It makes it difficult to adopt a child. It aggravates me for sure.
Petz: What happen to your abuser?
Kanwar: It’s fucked up, nothing happen. I blew the whistle on the abuse that I was experiencing and perpetuating. I’ll be honest about that; I was kid and a property edition as well. At some point, at the age of 16 or 17, I saw my whole family down and I told them everything. I blew the whistle on everything. My immediate family knows who the abuser is, my father knows who the abuser is and I know who the abuser is. The abuser knows who the abuser is and he knows that others know too. What’s funny is that, my abuser has never come to me to try to seek forgiveness. I haven’t made my peace with that person, but I made my peace with who I am. And who I am in relation to this abuse, especially it being known to my family. That’s huge and that’s really enough for me. This person, it’s funny, our parents generation has a weird way dealing with these issues, which we might consider very weird. It’s not that they don’t choose to talk about these things, but in fact for them breaking relations off with somebody is a very bad thing. Especially if the reason is something like this, they might not actually understand. In this instance, my abuser was my dad’s nephew. For my dad to break off the connection with that family, my dad just probably doesn’t understand, how he can do that and doesn’t know what to say. Which is sad, it’s not something I would do with my kid, but we have to understand they come from a different time and place. Just look at Monsoon Wedding, I would love it, if that was my life. If my father figure protected me in that way, that’s just not reality for a lot of people, it wasn’t a reality for me. I’m not living a fairy tale either, but thing is I can be loud about it, piss people off in the process and that’s fantastic to me.
Petz: When you were a kid, did you try to date girls just to fit in?
Kanwar: (laughs) I did, I had a girlfriend in grade 2. As I got older, I remember I tried to be intimate once or twice, not even just to fit in, but more just to prove to myself that I wasn’t gay. This was before shit hit the fan, I was really young, but I never tried to date girls just to fit in. I think I asked somebody out once, it lasted a night. (laughs). That was the end of that.
Petz: As you mention before, it is a long and difficult road out for a lot of folks out there in the Desi community to come to terms with their sexuality. And how you came out, it’s definitely different from other coming stories, because you blew the whistle on the abuse you endured as a child. From that point to your family developing a sense of acceptance to who you are, what happen in between? What made them come to terms with your sexuality?
Kanwar: I don’t think it’s acceptance for some people, I think if you are going to be a family member to Kanwar Anit Singh Saini, you are just going to have to deal with the fact I’m not going to care what you say. I’m lucky my family stuck around, I basically said, fuck you, I’m going to be who I want to be. Let’s just say my dad, this isn’t the ideal situation for his son. If you have a kid, think about it logically, you want your kid to succeed in “life” and you want your kid to have every opportunity to succeed. The reality is that includes not being gay, that’s a minority, if you are rallying for the maximum success for your off spring, obviously you are going to opt for them to be normative. So in terms for accepting, I think for somebody like my dad, he even says it himself, as long as my education is locked down then he just doesn’t care. I don’t think I could use the word acceptance with him. He tolerates who I am. For my sisters, on the other hand, who grew up in the western world, who know these terms, they accepted me. It’s a non-issue with them. My nieces are down with me, they are super proud of me. One of my nieces told me I was cooler because of who I am. (laughs) If I can take a handful of Punjabi kids and desensitize from this hetero normative macho crap that goes on in modern, pop, bhangra, movies and shit then I win. Between that point and now, my sisters are great, my dad is ok with it, but he comes from a different time and place. I can’t really blame him for that.
Petz: There are some people out there, in the Sikh community, who are still struggling coming to terms with their sexuality. They feel like they can’t be gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender, because it makes them a “bad” Sikh. What are some ways you overcame your guilt or is that still a work in progress?
Kanwar: I guess a few words on Sikhism, my name is Sikh Knowledge as an artist, and I got this name from a Black Jewish friend of mine. I didn’t give myself this name, because I was Sikh; my black Jewish friend had a double entendre and just gave me this name years ago. So people often approach me and think I know a lot about Sikhism. I do know a thing or two, this is the number one argument, and people say it’s against Sikhism because they assume it to be hypersexual. From what I understand, within the frameworks of Sikhi, to move away from worldly attachments, which includes sexuality is basically the goal in life. It’s not the sexual preference, it’s sexuality in general, and that people should be moving away from – under that framework. Even heterosexuals are anti-Sikhi, the difference is preference and it’s not the amount of desire one has for the act. In terms of Sikhi, I just say its sexuality; people should be moving away from, if that’s your argument. Another argument that often comes up – it’s unnatural. To love another human being, is that unnatural? I don’t think so. We have to look into these arguments, when someone says it’s unnatural, what they are referring to is anal sex. They are referring penetrating in the asshole. What you have to realize, this isn’t the end all and be all of what it means to be gay. The goal isn’t anal sex. That’s very wrong, because people have sexual preferences, it doesn’t mean they all fall into this “anal sex” category. There are many gay people out there, who don’t have penetrating sex; they just need the companionship of the same sex. What about lesbians who don’t have penises to penetrate each other, the underline assumption – gay people are just running around looking to penetrate something else or be penetrated. Which is so stupid, foolish and it’s a big misconception. It’s so King James, because King James wrote the bible and that shit went all over the world, and then everyone wrote laws against homosexual at some point in history. Sikhism was founded on inclusive principals. So when some people use it to exclude anybody, not even gay people, just anybody – I resent the hell out of that. Right then and there, they are being preachy. I find that to be the antisepsis of the faith.
Petz: Do you think the younger Punjabi community lacks knowledge and acceptance towards the LGBT Punjabis out there?
Kanwar: Hell yeah! I told you Punjabi Sikh culture is hetero normative and too macho for it’s own good. If I had a function in arts, other than music, it would be desensitizing these idiots to what it means to be a human being. Which is basically what I am. Are they ignorant to it? Yessssss! Sooooo ignorant to it. Think about it, when do we often get exposed to different types of people? University. What happens in University? People group themselves into cliques; there will be a Punjabi clique, a Hindu clique, and a Gujarati clique – people stick to their own cliques. It’s familiar; it’s a homely feeling, it’s funny HA HA. What ends up happening to their detriment, they become less cultured as people. This isn’t an absolute truth, even in the Diaspora, people can grow up not ignorant and just knowing their own, not experiencing the world for what it is. They need to come to terms with this fact that gay people come from this world. 10% of people in this world are gay, I don’t care what culture you’re from, I don’t care what President Ahmadinejad says, how gay people don’t exist in Iran, of course there’s gay people in Iran. Trust me, they do exist. It’s foolish.
Petz: What would you like to do to bring awareness to the community?
Kanwar: Be me, just like every one else should be themselves. I will just be me, if that can bring awareness, I’m not one to go wave my flag in anyone’s face. I don’t want someone to wave their flag in my face. I will just be there, be me and do the stuff I’m supposed to do. I love producing, I love making music, I love my other career – I love all these things. Just by being me, if I can desensitize these people – fantastic! I’m not at the point yet, where I will march anywhere and infringe or push it in people’s faces. That’s up to them to accept me, one day I might be treating them in the hospital or their kid in the hospital – who will have the last laugh? I’m still a human being, people just need to accept for what is what.
Petz: I love your music, especially the track you did with Humble the Poet, Singh with Me. How will you take your sexuality and compose it into a rhyme?
Kanwar: I talk to Humble about this often, about how I can incorporate this part of myself into lyrics, without being so overt about it. If I had an album, I would probably address in a song or two. When your rhyming, basically hip-hop tracks aren’t about anything at all. Humble the Poet, is one of the emcees I know who can stay on topic; he can have a lot of rhymes on one topic. If I were to incorporate it, I would incorporate it, the way I corporate my views on Israel/Palestine. In other songs, where I just rhyme for the sake of rhyming, I can still incorporate my views in on metaphor. In our song “Slick Slick” I say something like, spark the night, with no reason like Israel. Right then, I’m bashing Israel for whatever my beliefs are, but I just said it in a simply assembly or rhyme. I do actually have a rhyme on Humble the Poet’s last album, on this song “Middle Ring Pinky” I end up saying something like, Knowledge the boggy, iconoclastically breaking fag perception. I’ll incorporate it in my rhymes, like I’m a regular hetero emcee.
Petz: This has been a wonderful interview; I believe people out there will feel truly inspired by your story. We are truly blessed to have you open up the way you did. I’m truly blown away by you. Thank you once again Kanwar.
Kanwar: Don’t mention it. It was great, thank you for letting me speak my mind.
The following article was posted on UrbanDesiRadio.com by Petz on 20.01.11.
This has to be one of the most candid interviews I’ve ever done. Kanwar Anit Singh Saini also known as Sikh Knowledge, underground producer and artist, let me into his world where he spoke openly about being gay, his suicidal/self-mutilation tendencies and sexual abuse. As much as some choose to ignore these important issues that plague our community behind close doors, it’s important we talk about them. I would like to thank Kanwar for speaking openly about these issues, let’s us all continue to talk about them and not turn a blind eye on these matters.
Petz: How has suicide affected your life?
Kanwar: I think suicide plays a role in a lot of gay people’s lives, especially through the coming out process. I know a lot of gay people who have contemplated it, when they were coming out, especially at younger ages. The first generation as well, who are from North America, but whose families are immigrants. It’s difficult because it’s a compromise, everything you have, which is essentially your family. The first generations aren’t as established, as the North American general heritage counterparts. It’s impacted my life only for the better; obviously I’m still here today. I did contemplate the thought of suicide; I did have to seek professional help when I was younger, for these thoughts and tendencies. I did exhibit self-mutilating behaviors at one point; I would burn my hand. Unfortunately suicide amongst young gay people is very high, especially among minorities. It impacted me for the better because I went the opposite direction, I went ultra positive with myself. I gave myself the emotional resources I needed to succeed in whatever I wanted to do.
Petz: How old were when you had the suicidal thoughts?
Kanwar: 18. It lasted 18 to 20. And 20, I formally got help; I took a pro-active role in my own coming out and living life.
Petz: When you came out, did anyone directly or indirectly tell you “Oh you should kill yourself!” “You are better off dead!” “You’re worthless!” “How can you call yourself a Sikh, when you’re gay?”
Kanwar: No, no one really said that, I’m lucky; I have three amazing older sisters that protect me from a lot of negative attitudes. If anyone said that, I didn’t hear it.
Petz: What took place, when you finally reached out and got help?
Kanwar: It was scary; my case wasn’t as severe as a lot of people. I was still a relatively stable person; I had some sort of control over myself. It was very humiliating, very embarrassing, it’s a different type of humiliation; it’s a humiliation at your own hand. Until you realize that it’s necessary, and it’s no longer humiliating – it’s just a reality. You tend to grow proud of what you’ve conquered. It helps you find a way to get past it, I took a very pro-active role in my life, and I attended a sexual assault group for men. The reason why I attended a sexual assault group for men was because a lot of my suicidal thoughts stems from the sexual abuse I endured. A lot of this stuff, I want to address through music, I’m doing it right now. I was sexually abused as a child for many years, during that time I also participated in sexual abuse and it was all within the family. I find this happens a lot within the community, I would say within the Punjabi community, first generation and so forth. There’s a lot of confusion to what sexual abuse is, what pederasty is – an older and younger person type of relationship. Some people think sexual abuse and pederasty are the same thing, but I feel there’s fine lines between the two. I was a part of the latter – the sexual abuse. This was all bubbling up inside me, in my late teens and early 20s. The humiliation and embarrassment came from that aspect, I just had to look at it in the face and deal with it.
(Petz) It’s rare for me to become speechless during an interview, normally I have my questions lined up, I have them memorized and I’m ready to have them answered. But after what he shared with me, a flood of emotions took over; I was truly in awed by Kanwar’s honesty and bravery. Sexual abuse for example tends to get swept under the carpet. Kanwar broke the silence, not just for himself, but for others who are going through the same suffering he went through as a child.
After I thanked him, Kanwar continues…
Kanwar: It’s not a problem, I don’t care whose pointing fingers at me, and I have the greatest family in the world. My sisters are truly amazing. The embarrassment in the community, none of that shit matters to me. Or what people are going to say about my family, I lost my mom when I was 16. I know she’s looking down at me, she knows I’m trying to help other people. There’s no sense in communal embarrassment or whatever people might fear. If I can be a voice in this community or any community for that matter, just by being me as an artist and what I’ve been through – so be it. I will take that bullet, I’m 29 now, I’ll do it and I’ll be loud about this. These are pervasive problems that no one addresses.
Petz: When you look at your mutilation scars, what comes to your mind?
Kanwar: My scars haven’t healed in fact they remain on my hand. I have areas of thin skin on my hand, which often flares up in eczema because I used to burn my hand. Even my two sisters don’t even know about this, I used to burn my hand with hot water. The group I attended when I was younger, I used to tell them the pain made me feel alive because I was so disconnected from myself. I created this reality for myself, to help myself cope with a lot of the pain inside. The pain on the outside of my body would help unify the pain within and it felt great. When I look at the patches of thin skin, it’s a constant reminder to just take care of myself. I need to take care of myself physically and emotionally. If I don’t take care of myself physically, these scars are just going to flare up again. If I don’t take care of myself emotionally, that was the cause; it’s a case of metaphysics becoming physics. I don’t doubt when my soul is trying to tell me something, I try to listen to it because I have scars on my hands. At one point of my life, I created a reality for myself; I was that strong in my mind – totally false. I just need to stay grounded and rooted. I need to take care of myself.
Petz: For the people who are thinking about killing themselves, what would you like to say to them?
Kanwar: It’s not fair for us to say it gets better. During the time, when I had these thoughts and feelings, you are literally physically, chemically in your brain; a different person. At this point, whatever you are going through, someone has it a lot worse. Imagine your threshold and imagine it way beyond what you think it is right now. You can get past whatever it is; I would encourage the readers to seek professional help too. It’s ok to talk to someone and to be in a professional setting with a group of people who are going through similar thoughts and tendencies. It doesn’t make you any less of a person; it will help pull yourself back from committing suicide.
I think in many ways my background is atypical in the British Asian community as my parents were very liberal. My upbringing was never as strict as that of my cousins, and that is something I that I have only come to appreciate in hindsight. I don’t come from a rich family, I was brought up on a council estate. My parents married young and came over to the UK in the 1960s. They wanted to get us out of the council estate, and they both worked hard to do that. The main thing that my parents instilled in all of their children was to strive be the best that we could, to educate ourselves in order to have a good lifestyle.
We didn’t have a religious upbringing, it was more a case of instilling us with moral values. My parents didn’t bring us up to follow a certain religion. We were told that there was a God and that it’s important to have faith. My family’s religious background is Sikh/Hindu Punjabi, but we would only go to the Gurdwara for weddings and funerals. In the absence of having a religion to subscribe to, I found it easier to come out than others. I wasn’t constrained by any sort of religious pressure or feeling like I was doing the wrong thing. Religion wasn’t a barrier or hurdle to contend with when coming to terms with my sexuality.
I kinda knew from a very young age that I was gay. I started to get my head around it by the time I was in secondary school, aged about 12. My best friend and I were both bullied at school for being gay, but neither of us actually told the other that we were gay until a few year ago. It was never a shameful thing for me. I just thought that if that’s the way I am, then that’s the way I am. It did take me a while to accept it, but my being gay was never a major issue for me.
I’m the youngest of 4 children. At the age of 14, my dad asked me outright if I was gay a couple of times when he was drunk. At the time, I didn’t say anything as I wasn’t really sure about things. He never asked me again. It’s a shame, as one of my regrets is that I didn’t get to tell him I was indeed gay as he died when I was 15 years old. That was also the only time that religion formally played a part in my life, and I turned to Christianity. I was a Christian for 2 years, but I didn’t find what I was looking for, whatever that was.
Six months after he died, things came to a head and I decided to write my mum and my older brother a letter stating that I thought I might begay. I left the letter for them in the morning, before I went off to school, and that evening I was scared to go back home. My mum’s reaction was confusion, and she found it hard to grapple with it as she had never met anyone who was openly gay. She said that it was probably a phase, that she would take me to the doctor, that she could get some medicine – the typical South Asian reaction. Being a parent, and a recently-widowed single parent at that, it was a really difficult time for her. I’ve never really got along with my older brother, but his reaction was the coolest I could have imagined. He said “You’re 15, you’ve got your GCSEs this year, we’ll support you, but you need to focus on your education. We’re still your family.”
I do question whether it was a good thing to do at that time, but I needed to tell somebody, I’d missed out on telling my dad who was the one person I thought would have understood, and so telling my mum helped relieve some of my pressure. It was really important for me to tell my family because I wanted them to be part of my life. I didn’t want to keep anything in my life secret from them. I also realised that if it had taken me a while to get to grips with my being gay, that it would take my mum a bit of time to readjust too. I gave her space, and the fact that I moved away from home for university helped a great deal as I had my freedom then. When I returned home after university, things had changed for the better between me and my mum. In fact, my former long-term partner came and lived with me and my mum for a period of timen before we bought our own place together. My mum is now ultra-cool, genuinely.
The first time I went to a gay bar was when I was 18, just before starting university. It was dark, dingy and depressing! It felt secretive, seedy, and my overriding feeling was disappointment more than anything else. I kind of expected to walk in and for people to be welcoming and really friendly, almost like being treated like an honoured guest. When I was at home, we didn’t go out to pubs with friends or partake in under-age drinking, so when I got to University, I went mad on the gay scene. I caned it! It was a different experience – being away from home helped. I started making friends at the bars, and it was only a few months down the line that it struck me that there weren’t many Asians or non-white people on the scene. The things I thought were compliments initially, such as being called ‘exotic’ or an ‘Arabian prince’, I grew wary of as the person calling me that seemed to be more interested in the colour of my skin than in me as an individual. I understood that I was a bit of a novelty on the gay scene, and it did on occasion work to my advantage, but after a while it felt stale and I got bored of that.
When I finally met Asian men on the gay scene, I was disappointed that a lot of them were married and for them, going out on the scene was a few hours away from the wife and kids. I’ve never had that pressure of being married, and can’t empathise with it. I felt like they were letting my side down.
I’m 38 now. In the next five years, I want to be married to a man and be a dad. I don’t regret my life thus far, as I knew that my 20s would be filled with partying and not about settling down. Since I turned 30, my wants changed. I feel like I’ve done as much as I could do with the gay community, and now feel like the time is right to find a partner. My mum often asks me if I’ve met anyone, mainly because she wants me to be happy.
I have simplistic beliefs of God and of a Heaven and a Hell, but not as part of a formally subscribed religion. When I have a child, I wouldn’t actively encourage or discourage the child from any specific religion, but I’d adopt the approach of my parents and bring the child up with a general understanding of religion.
I hope that more British Asian gay guys and girls have the balls, the courage, the strength, the motivation, the inspiration to take some responsibility and live their lives honestly and happily. I don’t mean that they should hurt their families in any way, but I have heard far too many stories over the years where people have taken what I consider to be the ‘easy route’ by conforming to their expectations by getting married and having children, even though it’s self-sacrifical and a detriment to their own happiness. I believe that you have only one life. We as Asian people are taught to be selfless, and I like that, but there is a time in one’s life where you have to be selfish. I don’t think that I’d clever enough to lead the double-life that so many British Asian gay men and women do, and I’m fortunate that my family have been as accepting as they have about me. I don’t know of any openly gay British Asians, and it would be good to have a handful of them as role models. Even if it is just to say “They did it, and they’re successful and out.” It would be good to see people happy about who they are and enjoying a healthy, functional relationship with their families.
My family come from a traditional Punjabi Sikh background, with my parents coming to the UK in the 1960s. My parents were not baptised Sikhs but they did go to the gurdwara regularly, and as children, my sisters and I would also attend on a regular basis.
I first became aware of the fact that I was homosexual when I started going to Secondary School. There was no particular experience that set that off, just the fact that I found men more attractive than women at my school. It was only at the age of 13 or 14 that I came across the word ‘gay’, and that was how I considered myself to be. I was at ease with my sexuality from an early age, as it didn’t trouble me too much. At the same time, I also knew that I couldn’t come out to my friends at school or to my family because of the homophobia and prejudice I was likley to encounter.
I first went out on the gay scene in the mid-1990s, when I was 18 years old. There were very few Asian people out on the scene at that time. Overall, my experiences on the scene in those early years were positive. I’ve never felt any racism or prejudice because of my ethnicity or for being Sikh. I did, however, feel self-conscious at times when I was the only Asian guy in whichever gay venue I was at.
In or around 2001, I helped set up a support group in the Midlands called Saathi. The main aim was to reach out to gay Asian men who were not accessing other resources at the time, to men who probably felt quite isolated and uncomfortable with going out on the gay scene, having issues with their sexuality, their culture, their family, their community. We just felt the need to provide a safe space for people to meet and talk about the issues affecting them. Certain aspects within the Asian community, be it religious beliefs or cultural traditions, make it more difficult for some Asian gay men to get the support that they need. There was also the issue of men who felt as though they were being forced into marriage and for whom there may be a lack of understanding from more mainstream resources.
Sadly, the support group service offered by Saathi was not as successful as it could have been, and there may have been a number of reasons for that, with the main reason being that it is a massive step for Asian gay men to go to a group and be surrounded by other gay men from the same or similar cultural backgrounds. The guys who did access the group were, on the whole, men who were on the scene and accessing other services. The target group was men who were from the older generations and who were living in the predominantly Asian areas of Birmingham, and sadly these hard-to-reach people who desperately needed the support were unwilling to make the massive step of attending the group. During the course of the project, it became clear that the people attending the group wanted a social night specifically aimed at them. Saathi as a social night was launched in 2001. It was a success from the start and it continues to run today.
Coming out to my family has been a gradual process since the age of 18. Initially, I kinda kept things secret, and I think it was in my mid-twenties when my family began to ask me about getting married. I was not being pressurised into marriage as such, however, there were hints that I should be settling down and having kids. It was at that time that I came out to a few of my sisters. I have seven sisters altogether and I am the only son of the family. My father passed away some time ago. Although the few sisters that I initially came out to were not shocked, my sexuality was something that was not spoken about.
I’m sure that the fact that I am the only son had certain ramifications, as they would have felt that I needed to continue the family line. However, it has taken my sisters a number of years to get to the point they are at now, with being comfortable with the fact that I am gay. I’ve never officially come out to my mother. I think over the years she has realised that I will not be getting married and having kids with a woman. There was a lot of pressure upon her from the extended family and the community to get me married as I am the only child, but I told here recently that I would never get married to a woman and she appears to have accepted it. In her own way, I think she has accepted my sexuality and I think she just wants me to be happy, settle down with a life partner, even if it’s a man.
I have not been able to introduce any of my boyfriends to my family as anything other than as friends. I think it is quite unfortunate as there have been times when I have been in a long-term relationship with a stable partner when I wanted my family to know about him. I still live at home with my mother, and some of my former partners have stayed over with me. I do hope that the time comes when I can properly introduce my partner to my mother, but I haven’t had the guts to do it so far to be honest.
I describe myself as a non-practicing Sikh. I have a strong belief in God. I go to the gurdwara when my heart tells me to, and I do listen to shabads, kirtans. I do pray occasionally. I don’t have any overt symbols of Sikhism. I’m a British modern Sikh man.
I’ve never felt that my religious identity has been at odds with my sexual identity. My strong faith in God has helped my through some difficult times dealing with my sexuality whilst I was growing up. I’ve always felt my religion to be a great help. My own personal understanding on Sikhism is that it is based on equality and that the scriptures contain no reference to homosexuality being a sin or unnatural. I’ve seen that as a sign that the way I am is the way that God intended me to be, and so I should accept myself and be at ease with myself.
In terms of religion, my beliefs are very personal to me, so I would not expect my partner to follow those beliefs if he came from a non-Sikh background, as long as he respected my beliefs and my cultural background. For the future, I hope that it will be acceptable for all of us as gay Asians and gay men in general to have equality in society, be able to get married, adopt kids. I hope that there are lots of changes in Asian culture and in the Sikh community generally regarding attitudes towards sexuality. There needs to be greater education at large and people need to be more open minded.
I feel that, as a gay man, I should not be denied the right to an Anand Karaj, that I should have the choice. I have been to many Sikh weddings, and I consider it to be a beautiful wedding ceremony. If my partner were non-Sikh, I would hope that he would agree to an Anand Karaj or a compromise. It’s not the ‘be all and end all’, it’s merely a hope. I would definitely want children, either my own or adopted, but I would leave it to them as to whether they wish to follow the Sikh beliefs. I would show them the principles of Sikhism and spirituality. My Sikh idenity is very important to me on a personal level. I follow the beliefs, the spirituality and the philosophy of the religion. My identity is a fusion of being Sikh, British, Asian, and being gay, and I feel like I have the benefit of the best bits of all of them.
Testimony of RK – 45 year old woman originally from Bradford
18th June 2009
I was born and brought up in Bradford. I moved to London to come out as a lesbian. I’m the youngest of nine children, seven of whom survived, and I come from a strong Jatt family. I’m a Yorkshire lass of Punjabi stock, so I’ve got double the akkarh than most.
Sikhism had a major cultural impact on me, rather than a purely religious one. I went to a Methodist Sunday school as well as the gurdwara weekend school, so I had a very open idea of what being a Sikh meant. I would take part in seva, and because my parents’ social life revolved around the gurdwara, there would be some weekends when I would arrive at the gurdwara on a Friday and return home on a Sunday due to akhand paaths taking place.
When I was 4 years old, I was sitting in front of a fire with my mum. I was wearing a frock at the time, and I told my mum that I wanted to burn it as I didn’t like it anymore. My mum asked me why, and I said because I wanted to be a boy. My mum then asked me why I wanted to be a boy and I replied to her “I want to marry a girl”. Also, when I was 6 years old, I remember a girl in my school who I liked a lot and whom I told “I want to marry you”. So I guess I’ve known about my sexuality since I was very young.
I was born a lesbian, I never chose my sexuality. I consider myself lucky for coming from an Asian background as being gay is deemed to be special in India. Hermaphrodites attend births and marriages in India in order to bless them, and people consider them holy or lucky. So we’re blessed, we’re lucky as a group of people, in Asian society anyway.
Both religions, Methodist Christianity and Sikhism, gave me the strength I needed to come to terms with my sexuality because they are both about believing, about the idea of faith. My two Sunday school teachers, male teachers, at the Methodist Church were gay. When you have nothing on earth to validate you, nothing from the State to validate you, you turn to a distant God who you believe will recognise you and accept you.
Sikhism is more a way of life than perhaps the Christian concept of religion. I always had shabad or kirtan on in the background in at home, and I still play it in the mornings to this day. Seva was also an integral part of our family identity, helping out in the community and the gurdwara.
In the 1950s and 1960s, I was a brown girl growing up in a white country, and at that time Britain was racist. I drew my strength from my community, and my community was based in the gurdwara. Sikhism wasn’t just a religious affiliation for me. To a certain extent, it was part of my life as a whole. On my side of the street, all of the families were Punjabi, and on the other side, all of the houses were white. I had no concept of race until the age of 4, when I was making a snowman with my brothers and all of a sudden they told me to run. I’ll never forget that. When I was about 6 or so, a young Asian lass was killed at the bottom of my road by skinheads.
My childhood upbringing was a mixture of a delightful working-class immigrant community in the midst of harsh and brutal racism. Even the teachers at school would humiliate us by pulling us up to the front during assembly and say “These kids don’t know how to even hold a knife and fork”. Regardless of the racism, I felt very much at home in Yorkshire at the time and definitely enjoyed my childhood.
I came out when I was 14. I was boozing and sleeping around with men who I didn’t fancy prior to going away to India with my mum. Whilst I was staying at my mum’s village, I became besotted with a woman who was getting married very soon. It became so intolerable that I told my grandmother about my feelings for this woman, and her reaction was “What’s wrong with that?”. I had been lacking in that sort of validation of my identity whilst I was in Britain, and yet received it whilst living in a village in Punjab from my grandmother.
Yorkshire was not just racist, but also conservative and homophobic at the time, so I waited until I went to university before exploring my sexuality further. I was about 20 years old when I finally plucked up enough courage to go to a gay venue, but when I got there, I was in shock. All of the women were dressed so butch that it felt like I was on the set of Prisoner Cell Block H! I didn’t fit in, as I didn’t want to dress like a man and I didn’t want to be somebody’s ‘femme’ girlfriend. I didn’t want to be a token Asian gay person in the bar, and I didn’t fancy ‘goris’, so I didn’t return for some time afterwards.
However, I fell in love with a white girl at university, and as she went to gay venues frequently, I began to go along with her. I had rejected a lot of White culture by this point, and going to the gay bars made me realise that I could receive a lot of affirmation from individuals who didn’t come from the same background as me but with whom I shared my sexual orientation. That support did me a lot of good.
Over the years, I have taken my two long-term partners to India, to Punjab, to my ancestral village, and they were both made to feel at home with my extended family, who knew about my relationship with those women.
I was young and I was queer. I found out who I was, I came out, and I was embraced by my family. When my father died and my mother became ill, that was the first time that I experienced homophobia from my family. It was used to undermine my ability to care for my mother, and I found that deplorable. I became isolated, and I couldn’t relate to my local community or culture which is predominantly black.
I was born a Sikh, and I’ll die a Sikh. I am first Punjabi and secondly a woman, and all other labels follow those two strong identifiers. The concept of seva is very important to me, hence why I decided to look after my mother in her dying days. My mother had a stroke, and I cared for her on-and-off for 6 years, during which time I lost touch with many friends. My gay friends didn’t understand why I was making such a self-sacrifice, and that increased my sense of isolation. When my mother died, I became friends with a local Sikh gay man, and I felt that he could understand me and my life. He reaffirmed my belief in Sikhism.
I’m at home with my sexuality in the present day. I sleep with men as well as women, but I only ever fall in love with women. I keep away from the gay scene as I find lesbians very judgmental about my fluid sexuality. I’m moving on to my late 40s now, and I find little to entice me to the gay scene.
Sikhism isn’t a dead religion to me that is written in a book. It is about quiet contemplation, listening to shabads, thinking about seva, about not getting carried away about ‘my religion being the right religion’. I am a British Sikh Punjabi mid-flight dyke, and my religion is in everything that I do.
Testimony of AK – 31 year old woman originally from Birmingham
11th February 2009
I come from a liberal Sikh family background, from an educated family, and was brought up in the West Midlands. My dad emigrated to the UK in 1960s, and my mum in the 1970s. Both my parents encouraged me to be my own person. Religion was personally important for them, and although both myself and my brother grew our hair, we were given the freedom to choose whether to make religion part of our lives. The Sikh influence on my youth was a positive one.
I was raised in a small suburb of Wolverhampton and I had some Sikh friends whilst I was growing up, but I felt acutely a difference between them and myself. My Sikh friends and I came from a similar environment, in that we were brought up in a predominantly working class town. The difference appeared to stem from the fact that my parents were educated and embraced the British way of life more, whilst their parents were quite dogmatic about religion, not as educated as my parents, and were more fearful of British society. It’s difficult to describe what influence my environment had on my upbringing, and in fact books and films probably influenced me more than my immediate environment.
I first realised I was a lesbian when I was 14 or 15. I felt I had feelings towards girls, but I couldn’t articulate them, and I definitely didn’t feel like I could tell any of my friends, Sikh and non-Sikh alike. The only things that I could take refuge in were books, and the books I found most solace in tended to be written by gay white male authors. I remember becoming quite obsessed with EM Forster and his book ‘Maurice’, but I’m not too sure how much help he could be to a Brummie Sikh girl! I was incredibly isolated, and I didn’t know what to do.
I found it particularly problematic talking to my Sikh friends about my sexuality as they were so heavily invested in the idea of marriage, and I couldn’t see marriage as an option for me. I remember the subject of homosexuality coming up on the telly, and my dad commenting ‘That doesn’t exist in India’, and I felt that there was a cloak of invisibility. I felt that Sikhism didn’t address the issue in any way, that there were no references to being gay within Sikhism.
When I first went out to gay venues in Birmingham, I felt that I stood out in the crowd, but then again, being a brown girl in a room full of white people, it’s not surprising to feel that way. Any person in an ethnic minority feels that. I remember seeing only one other Asian girl on the gay scene during those years, and I found it incredible that I was not the only brown girl with long hair who was gay. I was also an Indie kid, which also made me stand out, so the uniformity of the gay scene was quite depressing.
I’m out to all of my friends and my brothers, but I’m not out to my mum and dad or to my extended family. In recent years, I’ve noticed that my parents have become increasingly conservative, and it would be difficult to tell them. My relationship with my family is incredibly important to me, and I do feel that coming out to them would affect that relationship. So I’ve made a firm decision not to. Perhaps I would feel differently if I was in a long term relationship But I don’t subscribe to the view that you should come out, and if those you love don’t accept it, you’re better off without. I do wish it could be easy and unremarkable to tell them, but it’s not, and I’ve come to terms with that.
I would describe myself as an atheist at present, but I am very respectful of my Sikh upbringing and I don’t see it as problematic in describing myself as an atheist from a Sikh background. There are certain aspects of Sikhism that I still find attractive, such as the fact that the religion was set up in the background of peace and understanding. I see my Sikh heritage as something to be proud of, even if I don’t subscribe thoroughly to the tenets of the religion. I respect the aspect of the Sikh heritage which is about being an outsider, and trying to find an alterative way of existing to the mainstream. Being a child of immigrants, it’s not possible in my view to feel completely British (whatever that is – everyone creates a different version of it), but then again I wouldn’t describe myself as totally Indian or Sikh either. I feel as though I have been caught between cultures, but I also feel that I have absorbed all of them – that they’re all inextricably linked and are all part of me.
I’m quite comfortable about my identity now. I used to be quite tortured about it, being a Sikh Indian living in Britain, and I felt that they were mutually exclusive as identities. When I was 18, I asked my mum “Where am I from? Where do I belong?”, and my mum’s reply was “Home is where the heart is”, so this is home for me. I can have my Sikh identity, I can have my gay identity, I can have my British identity and my Brummie identity. I’ve realised that it’s possible to have all of those identities and that there doesn’t have to be a tension between them. I feel that they are all part of me and that they can co-exist.
My hopes for British society are that it becomes more progressive in its attitudes towards race, religion and sexuality. In terms of the Sikh community, I hope that it becomes more open to the idea of diversity and difference, and that it accepts it is possible for somebody who is gay to be a good Sikh. Gay Sikhs are totally invisible within the community. I remember a gay British Asian festival which took place a few years ago – one of the national newspapers covered the festival and asked various religious leaders in the UK what they thought of it. The self-appointed leader of the Sikh community said that he was disgusted by the festival and that there was no such thing as a gay Sikh. His assertion was depressing – there was no attempt to engage with or recognise gay Sikhs – just a blanket denial. Hopefully a greater visibility for gay Sikhs will show that we do exist and that we cannot be ignored or dismissed in such a way – that we too are ‘one’; under one God.
By Jasvinder Singh Aul
27th May 2008
[NB - This article was first published on Sikhnet.Com, and is published with kind permission of Mr Aul]
Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Siri Wahe Guru JI Ki Fateh…Sat Nam Jio,
In response to whether there has ever been an “Amritdhari” who has continued to practise the lifestyle of a Sikh while being a homosexual, I will have you know that in fact I am one who would fall into that category. It is my constant prayer and hope that there will be more who will have enough courage to “come out” of the closet and shine and be liberated just as I have.
It is my firm belief that if we cannot even read the first two words of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and understand them to their fullest, then there is no need to go on faking a way of life to live nor go on to read any of the remaining 1430 pages of this beautiful scripture.
Ik Ongkar, Sat Nam – Everything stems from these two concepts.
Ik Ongkar – There is but ONE Creation – even homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals are part of that same One Creation set on this earth plane by the Infinite Paramatma.
Sat Nam – Truth is Thy Name – the only way that we can actually say this every morning in our daily Japji Sahib Bani and for those of us that have any dealings or connections with the 3HO Foundation or North American Sikhs; greet everyone in the communities around the world with this “Sat Nam” phrase, as if we are actually living up to OUR OWN TRUTH.
By being Gay or Bi and being honest about this type of sexual orientation to the entire world around us, while living up to the spirituality of the Sikh faith and not the religious aspects, only then can we say to people Sat Nam and really mean it. Only then can we read our Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and repeatedly chant Sat Nam. Only then can we read our daily Banis as an “Amritdhari” and not be a hypocrite at the same time.
Living the life of a spiritual Sikh is definitely like walking the double-edged sword (Khanda) however, in the symbol of the Adi Shakti we also see that if we land up swaying one way or the other in life’s trials and tribulations, while it would be very easy to get cut by one of the edges of this sacred Khanda, we also have the two swords of Siri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji (Miri and Piri) ready to catch us with the dull side in towards us.
This is very symbolic and represents the life of every Sikh who attempts to live up to the values and examples that our beloved Sikh Gurus brought to us during their reign on this earth plane.
It is my honest opinion that in the Sikh faith, “it is not the life that you lead BUT the courage that you bring to it”. If I, one person, can stand tall in the crowds of many as an Amritdhari Sikh who has a great deal of respect and love for the Guru, while being a homosexual and living up to the essence of Siri Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s message to the entire Sikh race, then what am I doing wrong?
I too, am part of that Ik Ongkar, that Sat Nam; and was it not EQUALITY that Guru Amar Das Ji preached to the universe during his reign?
Why then should I be discriminated against simply due to the fact that I was born a Gay Male? I practise the spirituality of Sikhism not the religion nor the politics or the social acceptances. I could care less for those aspects of any world religion.
I am a spiritual being having a human experience, therefore my spirituality is more important than that of my sexual orientation. Living up to diversity is a challenge in life, but through the love and guidance of the Guru, anyone can overcome these blocks in the road to liberation.
I strongly urge and welcome any other Gay, Lesbian, Bi or Transsexuals out there who are Sikhs struggling with the difficulty of living up to who you are as a Sikh and how this affects you to contact me via e-mail (jazzy1977 |at| hotmail |dot| com) as I have gone through the experience and if anything, this experience has brought me even closer to the Lotus Feet of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
In closing I leave you with one thought of Naam Dev Jio:
ਆਸਾ ਬਾਣੀ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਨਾਮਦੇਉ ਜੀ ਕੀ
Asaa Bani Siri Naam Day-o Ji Ki
Aasaa, The Word Of The Reverend Naam Dayv Jee:
ਏਕ ਅਨੇਕ ਬਿਆਪਕ ਪੂਰਕ ਜਤ ਦੇਖਉ ਤਤ ਸੋਈ ॥
Ayk Anayk Bi-aapak Poorak, Jat Daykhau Tat So-ee
In the one and in the many, He is pervading and permeating; wherever I look, there He is.
ਮਾਇਆ ਚਿਤ੍ਰ ਬਚਿਤ੍ਰ ਬਿਮੋਹਿਤ ਬਿਰਲਾ ਬੂਝੈ ਕੋਈ ॥੧॥
Maa-i-aa Chitr Bachitr Bimohit, Birlaa Boojhai Ko-ee
The marvellous image of Maya is so fascinating; how few understand this.
ਸਭੁ ਗੋਬਿੰਦੁ ਹੈ ਸਭੁ ਗੋਬਿੰਦੁ ਹੈ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਹੀ ਕੋਈ ॥
Sabh Gobind Hai, Sabh Gobind Hai, Gobind Bin Nehee Ko-ee
God is everything, God is everything, Without God, there is nothing at all.
Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji: Page 485
Sat Nam Ji
Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Siri Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh
Testimony of DS – 26 year old man originally from London, now living abroad
23rd April 2008
I knew I was into men when I was around 12. At this time I was living in Southall in west London. I was a Sikh who wore a turban, and I was living with my parents who had very strong religious beliefs.
My life was kind of planned out for me, due to the society and culture that I lived in. I never saw myself ‘coming out’ to embrace my sexuality because I knew my folks would not accept this. We were a very close family and I was a bit of a ‘mummy’s boy’, so I did not want anything to come between us. So just like everyone else did, I started going out with girls…lots of girls. I was trying hard to embrace being straight so that I would be able to get married and have a family of my own one day.
It’s not the best of feelings to have when you can’t be who you are for the people that are the most important to you in your life. All I wanted to do was to please them and to keep their respect. Back then I thought that I would be disgracing the family name if I even spoke about any such feelings. Back then, the only thing that my folks thought about was “community, community, community”, to the extent that the community ruled our lives. A lot of us actually started to believe that the rules within our community came from our religion (I know, how bad is that) but it is the misconception that a lot of kids grew up with. This was very harsh on us. It also made a lot of us rebel. And I guess it was when I took being a rebel to the next step that I ended up going on a gay chat line.
I went on to chat to others and see what it was like. How it was for them being out and living lives as openly gay. Whilst I was doing that, I started chatting to a guy on a website who I kept in contact with for a few months. I told him I would just chat and that we could never meet up, but as one always does I ended up giving in to him. He lived in another city which was good for me as I could make up an excuse and get out of my home for the weekend to go to see him. I was still very reluctant for him to touch me when I went to see him. Even in normal conversation when he was flirting with me it felt so uncomfortable and wrong because of the way I had been bought up. I was in my mid teens at the time, and it was all new to me.
It was after him that I told one of my college friends that I was this way inclined but I felt that my religion and my community were meant to rule my life and thoughts. I cried many times with her. She was Spanish, so she did not understand my specific situation very well but she did understand it to a certain extent as the culture and community aspects are quite similar.
I told her of a guy I went to school with who came out after we had left school and how everyone took the mickey out of him because they didn’t understand what it meant to be gay. My friend told me to get in touch with him to ask him as he would be my closest bet to helping me decide whether or not to come out as gay.
When I told him I was gay, his initial response was “I’m not surprised!” When I asked him about my insecurities with regards to coming out within such a difficult community environment, he just said “Well as for society, it’s only our generation that would know. They won’t tell the older generation and anybody else just doesn’t have to know. As for religion, what exactly has it given us apart from division and boredom?”
I was very impressionable at that time and I didn’t know a lot about my religion. I had long hair, and went and got all my hair cut off because I felt that if I didn’t wear a turban anymore then I wasn’t really a part of being Sikh and so I wouldn’t feel any guilt for going out on the gay scene and meeting guys. At this point, I started living two separate lives. On one hand I was living the life of a Sikh boy living at home and being everything my parents wanted me to be. On the other hand, when I was away from home and from my family, I was a completely different person, free from religion, free from community, free from it all.
The first time I went to a South Asian gay nightclub, I had the biggest heart attack going because I could not believe that there were so many Indian Muslims out there! Apart from that, I felt like I was at an Indian wedding and the drag queens there all looked like some very ‘interesting’ brides! It felt good to be there, though. It felt safe, secure. As I was still not too sure about going out on the mainstream gay scene in the UK, when I went to the nightclub I knew that I was not the only one going through the issues and difficulties that I was, and I knew I was not alone. I also got involved in a support group for South Asian gay men; we would meet up once a month or so and discuss various issues that concerned us.
Looking back on things, I feel that I am a lot more secure with my sexuality now as I’m not in the hiding anymore. All the people I love around me know about me. It has been a difficult journey but I’ve had some very good friends to help me out.
I still don’t know if I am doing than right thing or not by living the lifestyle that I do, but what I do know is that I am being true to myself and that my God will accept that. I will not ruin a woman’s life by saying that I will marry her and have ten kids just to keep my family and my community happy. Instead, I’m going to wait for my Prince to come by and sweep me off my feet!