Are LGBT Asians Underrepresented in Britain?

A few weeks ago Aftab Ali,kindly invited me to write a piece for the Glasgow Journal outlining whether I think Asian LGBT are underrepresented in Britain. The short answer is a resounding YES, below’s my article, or you can read it here on the Glasgow Journal

It seems there are many people who think being Asian and gay is not possible, so it is important to understand why this way of thinking exists.

Looking at some of today’s gay role models, there is Tim Cook (CEO of Apple), K.D. Lang, Sir Elton John, Ellen and Sir Ian McKellen. But, what do they all have in common? They’re white. Is it surprising then that Asian parents today are ignorant to the idea of Asian gays when only a select few people are glorified in the media?

There is no doubt that, in the future, coming out as an Asian gay will be easier but how can it be made make it easier sooner? It’s simple: we need positive gay Asian role models.

Currently, there is a quirky Big Brother contestant and maybe the odd drag queen. Both aren’t prominent in the media so may never get discussed in an everyday Asian household.

There are many successful Asian gays out there, so why haven’t they come out to make it easier for others?

When I started Gay Sikh—my blog which outlines how homosexuality and Sikhism can co-exist—I received a lot of online abuse. Many claimed I was bringing evil into Sikhism and some even claimed I wasn’t even Sikh and that I was out to tarnish the name of the religion.

The reality of the situation is that, when society is not educated or exposed to something, it is quick to judge and reject it. This is how racism and homophobia continues to exist today.

When I was faced with this homophobia, it was important for me not to show anger, but I was curious as to why people were coming to these decisions. After all, they believe they’re doing right, don’t they?

Unfortunately, some simply wanted to “gay bash” me. For example, I received a graphic tweet from one man who depicted how he was going to torture and kill members of my immediate family after he’d seen my blog.

This is among the reasons why no Asian gays have come into the spotlight. Sadly, it’s the reason I live under an alias. Yes, I want to help others and show them that being gay and Sikh is not a problem and that they’re not alone. But, at the same time, I fear for my safety from the many people out there who need to be educated on such matters.

Only last month, Bobby Friction was not invited to the BritAsia TV Music Awards because he jokingly kissed Hardeep Singh Kohli on stage. Both of these men are heterosexual and were clearly showing their sense of humour. This example only further highlights the fact that homophobia is rife in Asian circles.

So, how can this be overcome? As mentioned earlier, it will get easier as time goes on. In 2008, Indian cinema had a breakthrough when a rom-com film called Dostana showed two straight Indian men pretending to be a gay couple and embarking on hilarious adventures together.

With equal marriage now legal in England and Wales, and soon to be voted on by the Scottish Parliament, it is only a matter of time before this topic gets discussed in Asian households. The only hope is that it will leading to a greater understanding of homosexuality. With this greater understanding, we may just see positive gay Asian role models emerge and, once these role models are established, British-Asian gays will, for the first time, be truly represented.

  • Laurin Poydras

    You Are A Brave And EnligTened Soul. I Applaud And Support You! Sikhism, Like All ReligIons, Has It’s Keepers Of Privates Hatreds Dressed Up In The Trappings Of Religious Piety And Self-righteous, Self-serving Indignation. These Proclamations Of Orthodoxy invests In The Very Pain And Suffering It ClaimS To Want To Free The World From. It Is The Heart Of Hypocrisy That Plagues Every Religion, And Turns Supposed Rational People Into “God’s Madmen” …Authorizing Themselves To Punish, Humiliate, Demonize, And Yes, Even Execute Those They Do Not Favor…And Yes, All In The Name Of Devine Callings, Real Or Imagined. So, My Friend, The GaY Shikhs Are In The Same Struggle As Most Gay And LGBT folk…Asian Or Otherwise, And The Overwhelming Majority Of “Religious” Groups. The Great Associate Of M.L. King, Bayar Rustin, Said That Just As ” Civil Rights” Became The Mantra Of That Era, It Would Be The Rights And Evolution Of Gay And Related Realities That Will Challenge The Preconceptions And Prejudices Of Both Civil And Religious Institutions For An Untold Amount Of Time Going Forward. People Being Gay Is As Old A Theme As Mankind And Any Concept Of Religion. Strangely, Or PerhapS Not So Strangely, It Is The Priestly And Ruling Classes Which Were Most Often Mentioned In History As The Most Chief Practioners Of Homosexuality, World Wide, And UseD It Against Each Other When Convenient Or Politically Expidient Or Religiously So, As A Kind Of Scapegoat To Explain Away The Ills Of Any Given Age. We Use Sex, Age ,Race, Color, Ethnicity, Gender Orientation, Language,Nationality And Anything Else AT OuR Disposal To Punish Differences. Hitler Was The Master At Using Religions And Race And Ethnicity, Along With Sexual Orientations To His Advantage. He Did Not Invent This Kind Of Hatred And Prejudice, He Learned It ! Where? From The People And Institutions Around Him. The Churches Turned A Blind Eye To His Murders, The People Needed And Finally Found Their Scapegoats: The Jews,The Gays, The Deformed,The Mentally Ill, The Different In Any Way From The Imagined “Oberman”..Superman. See Any Parallels? If You Don’t Then This Writing Means Nothing. No One Carries God In A Private Savings Account. God Has Nothing To Fear From GAys. What We Are Really Dealing With Is Mankind Riddled With Its Own Fears Of Itself And Anyone Or Anything Even Vaguely Beyond Its Very, Very Narrow Comfort Zones. I’d Love To Write More. Im Not Sikh, But Truly Admire And Respect The Essence And Profundity Of The Sikhs, The World View, And The Amazingly Brilliant And Heroic People. In Fact, When I Hear Of anti-Anyone In This Beautiful Spiritual Religion, I Am Saddened, Terribly SaddeneD. Does Anyone Really Believe That Killing Anyone In The Name Of God IS Really “Gods Will”?

  • Anonymous

    Hi GaySikh, I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs about under-representation (I don’t mean I enjoy the actual phenomenon itself but rather your insights into it and suggestions for combatting it) and I especially enjoyed your coming out blog.

    We have recently been in a brief twitter exchange regarding the reporting by PinkNews of Mr Harmander Singh’s negative comments about the religious recognition of equal marriage and by extension homosexuality in the Sikh community. In particular, we were both unhappy about the apparent willingness of PinkNews, an enterprise I support, to allow this man to be the soul voice and hence perspective of Sikh opinion on these concerns. You replied in the post a comment section and I supported you as I continue to do.

    In fact I have written to PinkNews myself and copy the relevant text below:

    Equal marriage and Sikhism

    The article on the comments of Mr Singh readily accepted him as a representative of Sikh opinion. Clearly he does speak for some – as his namesake Lord Singh has shown. However, he does not speak for all and I would like to see someone, like one respondent whose moniker is gaysikh or someone from sarbat.net, be given the chance to offer a different perspective on Sikh opinion in this country and offer insights into life for gay Sikhs in the UK generally. Perhaps this could be done as an opinion piece.

    I say this because some of the comments in response to this article were predictably negative about Sikhism and, by too easy an inference, Sikhs generally. I should not like to see such a valuable resource as PinkNews leave itself open to promoting prejudice of whatever kind.

    I feel you take care to promote positive stories about our community – such as, for example, sponsored events for HIV charities – and absolutely rightly so. But I see this as a fight against hatred, ignorance and prejudice generally. We know what it’s like to be abused – so we need to be extra vigilant about countering that in our conversation with each other. You at PN play such an important part in facilitating that conversation I feel you have a particular responsibility here – one which I think you’ll find many (perhaps too many..?! But can there be too many resources to call upon..?) are willing to help you with!

    *******************************************************************************************************

    But it was your coming out blog that really moved me. I’ll ‘fess up here and admit I’m a sucker for coming out stories – they’re sort of our gay creation myths in a way I think! Yours, as others have said, really was beautiful – what made it so, for me, was its honesty, bravery and tender insight.

    As for under representation what about role models for middle aged white gay guys living in small lofts in Brighton (that’s people like me…) Hey? Perhaps I am one! Wow, that’s amazing! Must learn fast how to hold off the media blitz this is bound to cause!

    But, joking aside, I’d be interested in having more of a conversation with you. Let me know if you’d be interested too. It’s fine if not – I’ll continue to support your enterprise!

    Sarbat da bhala!

    (I hope that’s right!)

    And good old love and peace!

    Tim C

    • Gay Sikh

      Hey Tim!

      Sorry it’s taken a while for me to reply back to you. Thank you so much for supporting my message, it’s so refreshing to hear from a non Sikh supporting my opinion.

      It’s all too easy for the media to tar everyone with the same brush. I would hate for people to think all Sikhs are homophobes just because of one persons opinion.

      Thank you also for writing into Pink News, I also got in contact with them and I’m pleased to say they have published my response! It would be great to hear what you think? (http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/04/02/comment-harmander-singh-is-wrong-to-say-you-cant-be-a-sikh-and-support-equal-marriage/)

      I’ve been to Brighton and I think Gay Sikhs are severely under represented there :-)

      If you’d prefer to talk privately, my email is admin@gaysikh.com

      • Tim C

        Hi Gay Sikh, please accept my apology for the delay in responding to you and thank you so much for your response to me. I had two back to back 12 hour shifts on Thursday and Friday so today is the first day I’ve felt up to writing.

        I am thoroughly delighted that PinkNews has published a response from you to the debate surrounding the comments of Harmander Singh. It is clear from the comments posted afterwards that there were a number of Sikhs who took heart from what you said. What is more, a number of non Sikhs also came to your defence and felt they had a better understanding both of Sikhism and the range of opinions among Sikhs. Plus some gay Sikhs were able to see other gay Sikhs engaging in the debate about them which was, at least to some extent, participated in and shaped by gay Sikhs such as themselves. This is surely progress!

        Especially because it raises the visibility and voice of gay Sikhs within the gay conversation which hopefully will give heart to others – and hopefully to you too. Because you deserve to give yourself something of a pat on the back here for the important part you have played in this!

        Trying to get heard can be a thankless task but you have turned it into a fun art form with your blog! Keep going! – because writing can be such an important part of shaping your thinking and the blog has the added benefits of inviting reposes for you to engage with, and raising the issues of what matters to you and, as you can see, to others, more widely.

        You can see also, if you look around the web, that you have allies now in the wider Sikh community. I noticed a fascinating debate around an image that had been posted on Facebook of two Sikh gay men kissing. Facebook had deleted this image and, as so many attempts at censorship can do, this backfired and created a big discussion. The images themselves are taken from a demo in Toronto against the Indian High Court’s decision to uphold section 377 of the criminal code making homosexual expression illegal – they are powerful images and, well, yes, I’ll say it, sexy! What was particularly heartening were the posts made in response by Sikhs who were not gay in support of their gay brothers and sisters.

        This brings me to my final point – visibility. This is crucial and, as acceptance increases in the wider Sikh community, it will, hopefully, become more and more possible for gay Sikhs to come out more widely and BE VISIBLE. This is the tipping point I think for the acceleration of progress.

        I noticed that in your interview with Rita Dharar, which was skilfully done and interesting, that there was however, only voice no video. What might be really powerful is if you were able to have a video where you were visible. On the other hand this is a decision you will, I’m sure, want to make carefully. As you mention in the video, some will take exception to your views and become defensive and possibly aggressive – and you have your relationship with your family to consider also of course. But the impact of, for example, interviews by you with other gay Sikhs, with friends and family members of theirs or your own even, gay and non gay, and maybe even their friends – who may not even be Sikhs but, perhaps, gay and supportive, or just supportive, would be immense I think!

        So much potential here. But you have chosen your path well so far, in my humble opinion, so I think I should trust you to decide your path in the future! This is just me sharing my thoughts and I’m sorry that, perhaps, I have not had the chance to consider and arrange them as well as I might have done – but I wanted to respond to you as soon as I could!

        Good luck!

        And I would look forward to hearing your response if you would like to make one,

        Tim

  • Harry Singh

    Hi gay sikh keep up the good work. You’re a wonderful and brave person and all the best to you. Theres a long way to go but I hope society gets there one day.

    • Gay Sikh

      Hi Harry,

      Thank you for your positive words, yes there’s definitely a long way to go, but hey, we gotta start somewhere :-)