Things like race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, and gender help shape our identity. So when people think parts of your identity are incompatible, it’s a struggle. If you are a South Asian member of the LGBTQ+ community, you will definitely relate to this.
1. People don’t think you exist
People seem shocked when you reveal your sexual orientation or gender identity. Many are under the impression that being LGBTQ+ is at odds with conservative Desi culture, and that they cannot possibly coexist. Well… *cough, cough* surprise! We do in fact exist.
2. The media especially seems to forget you exist
Representation of South Asians in Western media – and Asian representation in general – is already abysmal. So representation of LGBTQ+ South Asians? Forget about it.
3. You could write a dissertation with the research you’ve done into LGBTQ+ South Asian history
Though people assume South Asian culture is at odds with being LGBTQ+, history tells a different story. The transgender hijras have a long-recorded history in the Indian subcontinent. The Kama Sutra has an entire chapter dedicated to homosexuality. Ancient Tamil literature references gay and transgender individuals. We’ve been around for a long, long time.
4. And you have a lecture memorized for anyone who asks
“SO YOU SEE WE ACTUALLY HAVE A RICH LGBTQ+ HISTORY IN OUR CULTURE IT WAS ACTUALLY EUROPEAN IMPERIALISM AND THE INFLUENCE OF WESTERN CULTURE THAT INTENSIFIED HOMOPHOBIA THROUGHOUT ASIA ” *forgets to breathe*
5. Dealings with nosy aunties
Those pesky aunties are in everybody’s business. But when you are LGBTQ+, they practically turn into private investigators on your tail trying to figure you out. Then convene to gossip over chai. “Oh-ho, did you hear?”
6. Then there are those who try to be nice but are totally clueless
There are older members of the community who are supportive and amazing. And also clueless about the LGBTQ+ community. They ask a lot of questions. And they might accidentally say something outrageous from time to time. But we stay patient because we love them.
6. Bollywood is LIFE
Singing, dancing, colorful wardrobe, cheesy romance, drama, beautiful people – what else could your gay soul want? In fact, I’m like 99% sure growing up watching Bollywood movies made me gay.
7. Gay is treated like a dirty word
When Desis are faced with sensitive subject matter, what do we do? Ignore it, more often than not. Even if they are supportive, many Desis are uncomfortable talking about topics like gender identity and sexual orientation. It is still a taboo subject in conservative culture. Some will not even say the word “gay.” Or will whisper it in a hushed tone like they are saying a curse word.
8. Attending a Desi wedding and bracing yourself for the “when’s yours?” comments
“Uh…well it’s complicated (you’ve got to legalize it still in some places) but soon…sure…no, no I don’t need you to set me up please. Oh your son just got into medical school? That’s…nice…?” UGH, the torture.
10. Going to pride meetings and being the only South Asian there
If you live in a Western country, most universities and many high schools have a PRIDE club or a Gay-Straight Alliance of some sort. It is rare to see another Desi there. Sometimes, you might be one of the only POC there. While these resources are great, you feel like they don’t totally get where you’re coming from.
11. You freak when you meet another LGBTQ+ Desi
When you finally do encounter a fellow LGBTQ+ South Asian, you cling to them immediately. Does not matter if you like the same music, movies, or have anything else in common. You’re best friends now.
12. You’ve seen every Onir movie
The man’s a genius.
13. You’re loving all of the recent LGBTQ+ representation in Desi films
While the mainstream Bollywood market still shies away from LGBTQ+ representation, film festivals like the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival have stepped up.
14. But you’re kind of sick of all the sad stories…
Do our stories always have to be tragedies? Can’t we get a cheesy, Bollywood romance every now and then?
15. So you indulge in web series to fill the void
Luckily, web creators supply us with the more lighthearted, queer Desi content we crave. Shows like “The Other Love Story” and “Romil and Jugal” are available on YouTube.
16. People try to convince you it’s “just a phase”
“What? You like girls? No no, this is all nonsense that got into your head. You watched too much Western TV. You just haven’t met the right man yet. Did you hear my son got into medical school?” Yeah, that’s nice. But no thanks aunty.
17. And suggest you have a heterosexual marriage anyway
Some people have the audacity to suggest you have a sham, heterosexual marriage to fit into society. And have a few kids just for your family’s sake. It takes everything in your power not to smack them.
18. Most of your LGBTQ+ friends are online
Chat rooms, Facebook groups, Tumblr – these are all internet havens for LGBTQ+ people to meet each other. For many of us, we were out online way before we came out in real life. For some, it is the only way you can meet other members of the community in a low-pressure environment. Though it kind of sucks when you want your friends to come over…but they’re on the other side of the world.
19. You are often pressured to keep your identity quiet…
There is constant pressure to keep your sexual orientation or gender identity quiet. There are people who will view it as a scandal or something that will bring shame to your family. Even those who care about you may try to convince you to law low. They are worried about the hardships you will face and want your life to be easier.
20. …But you refuse to be hidden
Sorry world. We’re here. We’re queer. And we’re Desi af. Get used to it!