Thank you to all the people who took part in the Open Mind (ਖੁੱਲ੍ਹੇ ਮਨ) workshop on the 10th of April 2019 or filled in the accompanying survey.
The aim of the workshop was to find out if we need a safe space for Sikh LGBTQ+ people to meet and support each other. It was attended by eight people with different backgrounds but with a shared Sikh-LGBTQ+ identity.
We spent some time talking about the difficulties that the Sikh LGBTQ+ community experience in their families and a few shared themes emerged from our personal stories. Being ‘different’ in a “narrow-minded” community was a common issue. We observed how there is little tolerance for the unconventional in a community that places great value on conducting itself in accordance with teachings inherited from the elders. Not conforming with family expectations was sometimes tolerated if people lived their LGBTQ+ life in secret.
The group found it hard to say for certain if the negative attitudes of their family were due to tradition, culture or religion or a complex mix of all three. The consequences of these attitudes often caused significant tension and stress in the family and individual. This could sometimes also cause mental health issues.
There seemed to be an obvious disconnect between these attitudes and our understanding of the teachings of Sikhi. This theme came up multiple times and will require further exploration.
Most of the group had felt family pressure to get married with a partner of the opposite sex and live an ‘acceptable’ life. We discussed how not adhering to these demands or wishes resulted in heightened stress and discomfort in family situations. Some of the group had found ways to manage this and some were still working this out.
It wasn’t always easy to know which family members would be more accepting and some people have found more allies in the older generation than they expected to.
Altogether, attendees felt that sharing their experiences with other people was helpful even in the context of a workshop. It was unanimously agreed that there is a need for a regular safe space for the Sikh LGBTQ+ community to meet and share their experiences. The scope of the group was contemplated, with most participants agreeing that the support group should be open to self-identifying Sikh LGBTQ+. It was agreed that three further sessions would be held over the next three months to decide what the long term mission of the group should be. The next meeting is planned for May and a date will be published once a venue has been confirmed.
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Kuljit Bhogal and S Kaur
On behalf of Sarbat and Taraki