My Complicated Relationship with “Pride”
Kay so here we go… I’ve been meaning to write this for quite some time, and it’s a bit nerve-wracking because this is the first time I’ll be posting about something without being behind my anon blog, or without putting a “keep reading” link thing to hide my post from my own eyes. So here we go… and if you didn’t know I was queer before, well…surprise! haha.
The recent VIDEO that came out of Manjinder Singh Sidhu and his mother having a conversation surrounding homosexuality and the dynamics it plays in the Punjabi community, really got me digging deeper into the subject. I mean as a queer amritdhari practicing Sikh, I know my own lived experiences, but I wanted to see if there are other videos out there. That’s when I came across one particular video (which I will not link for personal reasons) that left my heart shattered into a million pieces.
The video featured a Punjabi man talking about his life as a gay person. Basically, he began talking about how he felt something missing in his life, and when he came out of the closet he felt light and airy- pretty much the typical coming out story. However, here’s the catch. The man, whom I shall rename “Jeevan” for this thinkpiece, was a kesdhari Sikh (to all my non-Sikh friends, that means he was a Sikh that kept his hair uncut as per Sikh code of conduct, and wore a turban). Now he doesn’t say it explicitly in the video, but he implies that he had troubles reconciling his homosexuality with his Sikhi. Anyway, he decides to cut his hair, which is sad, but not the reason why my heart was broken. I mean everyone goes through their own struggles, and if he wanted to cut his kes, that was his perogative.
However, what made my blood boil and brought tears to my eyes is when he told the story of his haircut. He walks into the salon, and everyone begins staring at him. He sits down in his chair, and the barber gets to work. I will spare the details, because hair cutting can be very triggering to many Sikhs (I will explain why later), and during the process he describes that the entire salon was sitting and looking at him the entire time. To put the icing on the cake, as soon as he is done cutting his hair, everyone in the salon BREAKS INTO AN APPLAUSE. At this point I was so furious that I had to pause the video and go get a glass of water.
What was heartbreaking is that this man felt that he needed to turn his back on his heritage to be able to openly identify as a gay man. Do you think this is because the Sikh community is homophobic? No, I do not feel that is the reason behind it at all. Yes, people in the community can say hateful things, but that is not the main reason. The truth lies in the reaction of the people in the salon. That applause. That applause that celebrated a man assimilating to the hegemonic identity. That applause that celebrated a man leaving behind his old “barbaric” culture. That applause that reminds me everyday that diversity isn’t always welcome in Western society.
This is what QPoC face in the broader LGBTQ+ community on a daily basis. Many of you may know that I didn’t always look the way I did today- my beard was trimmed, my hair was cut, and I was very much the “perfectly assimilated child of an immigrant.” However, things were still not that great in the LGBTQ+ community for me.
Here in Vancouver, just a few years ago, there were two isolated incidents of a bunch of insecure spoiled brown guys coming to Davie St. (Vancouver’s gay village) and gay bashing couples. Ever since that incident, brown gay men are looked at with an eye of suspicion, because, you know, homophobic white people never bashed any one. :) The blatant racial profiling is so apparent that one of my Punjabi friends was once denied entry into a local gay bar when him and his boyfriend wanted to join some friends to celebrate a birthday. The basically had to make out in front of the bouncer to PROVE that they were gay, and weren’t there simply to bash couples.
In a way, brown gay men are ignored and cast aside, so when I used to walk down Davie St I would feel invisible. Now, as a Sikh with a turban and a beard, I feel VERY visible on Davie, but not in the greatest way. I see looks of suspicion and shock, and I hear the most stupid remarks being made. It’s come to the point where I avoid that part of the city altogether, and I’m not alone on this one.
Ask any QPoC and they will tell you the same story. WE are expected to share the good word of gayhood to our respective communities, but when we try to educate the gay community on cultural or religion intersectionality, we are faced with “FUCK RELIGION,” even though our religion may be the only thing that is keeping us alive at this very moment, I know that that’s the fact for me.
This happened at Vancouver Pride, when a queer-friendly Church was attempting to reach out to gay Christians who are looking for a safe spiritual space, when these guys came around…
And yes I know, you’re going to go into the whole freedom of speech thing, and I get that. I know they have a right to state their opinion, but to shame people who are only trying to make lives easier for others is a REALLY crappy thing to do. You need to realize, that yes, religious people have done many hateful things, but religion as a whole is more complex. It has the capability of giving a person a new lease on life.
However, they don’t see that. When they see a guy like Jeevan going into the salon and getting his hair cut, they don’t see a man cutting away the half-millenium legacy of thousands of martyrs sacrificing their lives for their kes. They don’t see a man being forced to shed his heritage because he doesn’t fit into the cookie-cutter mold of the perfect gay man. They don’t see a man ostracized from people in his community for being who he is (I’m not talking about the Sikh community here fyi). They don’t see the fact that being coerced to cut his hair, Jeevan is triggering thousands of people who have faced genocide and torture for their identity.
They see a man shedding away the oppression of religion and culture, and embracing the “free lifestyle” of a gay man.
THIS is what I see during the Pride season. I see this one single hypersexualized male-centric interpretation of what being queer means being forced onto an entirely diverse population. I remember talking about this with MANY gay white men, and I was simply met by remarks like “it is sexual exploration that makes queer people queer,” because asexual people don’t exist, and things like “this is about celebrating sex.”
No. Pride is not about celebrating sex. Do you even know what Pride is about? Bet you don’t as many of you guys were busy during the Baltimore and Ferguson uprisings shaming black people. Pride began as a way to commemorate the historic and heroic victory of the queer community in New York against the NYPD during the Stonewall Uprising.
Quite ironic that an event that commemorates the radical activism of queer people lead by trans women of colour has now become a corporate facade of homonationalism, pinkwashing, and just downright misogyny with male-centricism dominating the festivities.
The queer community is meant to be a community where differences are embraced and celebrated, and in this current day and age that is not happening. More attention is being given to the glitz and glam of gay men than queer youth starving a shivering on the streets, homeless. Trans people are basically being forgotten. QPoC are being forced to assimilate into the homonationalistic ideal of what being “gay” means.
Thank God I will be out of town during Vancouver Pride, but for future years I am going to make a commitment to myself. Until the queer community can be accepting and embrace queer people from ALL walks of life, I refuse to participate in a corporate facade of an event called Pride that co-opted a revolutionary movement and turned it into something completely different.
I will, however, work to reclaim the season and hopefully try to create spaces for alternative dialogues around Pride and queerness.