What are the Challenges Faced by the South Asian LGBTQ+ Community?

The UK conducted the “largest national survey of LGBTQ+ people in the world to date” in July 2017 with 108,100 valid responses from respondents aged 16 years or over. 61% of respondents identified as gay or lesbian. 26% of respondents identified as bisexual. 13% of respondents identified as transgender.

This online survey allowed anonymous responses, which is perfect for a young British Asian who's not ready for others to know that they identify as LGBTQ+. We understand that conversations with South Asian parents about your sexual orientation can be a difficult one, whether that's due to a restrictive culture or religious beliefs. Even though I am a heterosexual British Asian man, I can understand the difficulties faced by Young British Asians who do identify as LGBTQ+ and their struggle to strike a balance between their open-mindedness and the conservative values of their family and friends.

Why do I support the LGBTQ+ Community, especially as a Young British Asian Man?

I was not always open-minded, I used to make homophobic jokes because I was ignorant and spending time with insecure young men who were quite frankly confused about their own sexuality. But now I realise that those same young British Asian men who have an issue with the LGBT+ community were probably afraid of being seen as ‘feminine’ because of this perceived idea of the ‘Alpha man’. Young British Asians who identify as LGBTQ+ are proudly accepting that this is part of their identity… let’s hear what they have to say for themselves.

Here are a few young British Asians who are part of the LGBTQ+ community who I reached out to and they did not disappoint with their responses.

Blaise Singh is a talented film producer and director for the charity Make A Difference Entertainment or MADE and has delivered several important projects dedicated to promoting equality and diversity within the LGBTQ+ community.

“I grew up in a predominately Asian area. Throughout school, college and university I hid my sexual orientation to fit in with the heteronormative British Asian culture. Despite not being out I experienced homophobia from people who saw me as ‘gay acting or looking’ because of who I hung around with or how I spoke. Once I finally did come out to my friends I kept the fact that I was gay hidden from my family. It wasn’t until an extended family member outed me it was confirmed to them I was. But my friends and family have been hugely supportive and I’ve been lucky enough to have relationships with predominately Asian men. As a documentary maker, I recently produced a film called 'Pride and Protest' about queer people of colour. I heard stories from other South Asian LGBT+ people that have never dated South Asians and it is often disappointing to know that deep down it is usually because they aspire to be white themselves”.

Check out the powerful trailer for Pride and Protest below:

Manjinder Singh Sidhu, at manjindersidhu.co.uk, is an incredible life coach, motivational speaker, YouTuber and the author of the book Bollywood Gay: 'A Help Yourself to Living an Authentic Life'.

“I am sure most LGBT People of Colour will face a lot of challenges. It’s changing now since I made my video with my Mum because there are a lot of Indians and Pakistanis making similar Youtube videos. When you grow up in our community you are expected to marry someone of the opposite gender and you are presumed to be heterosexual and the gender you were born in. Challenges include facing discrimination from family if they find out, the backlash of damaging the family name, being threatened, and having to move out. There is a lot of guilt and shame which can manifest as mental health issues, substance abuse or sex addiction. Luckily I did not have that but definitely, mental health was affected … that was a big problem”.

Manjinder had a very beautiful and meaningful conversation with his mother about him being gay in Panjabi (with English subtitles) in a Youtube video titled 'Coming out as Gay and Panjabi' which inspired many other young Asians to have that difficult and heartfelt conversation with their parents.

Aishwarya Mohan, Blogger @AllThingsLegalOfficial is an aspiring solicitor who has tremendous confidence at such a young age.

“The most difficult part of being LGBT+ and Asian was the homophobia. I knew it would take a lot of time and effort to convince my parents to accept me for who I am. But fortunately, I am so confident in my sexuality that I wouldn’t have let it get to me had they disowned me. I entered a scientific essay writing competition and published a dissertation on ‘homosexuality: determined or choice’ where I showed all the genetic and scientific reasons why homosexuality is biological, and I came 2nd place out of the inter-school competition. When they saw that I was a semi-finalist, they were more willing to listen, and now my parents welcome my girlfriend to come and stay with us for weeks with open arms”.

Raheem Mir is a trained Kathak dancer having performed at incredible events and venues such as the London Southbank Centre and the West End. He is also a great public speaker who sounds like an Asian Akala and has spoken at TEDx about LGBTQ+ issues.

“Young British Asians have grown up in a community where difference is celebrated and diversity is such a huge thing. It is a completely different lifestyle from the motherland but we are still being faced with the same prejudices because the generations before us have a dated mentality when it comes to culture. It is the patriarchal structure that is embedded in the South Asian culture in terms of how men should be and how women should be”.

Adorning an identity and exploring gender fluidity through dance | TEDxUCLWomen:

There is great young talent in the British Asian LGBTQ+ community, who use their voices and their platform to advocate their rights and embrace their identity, and they should be celebrated for being a great example to both the future and past generations.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this article. Stay strong and stay safe.