A recent post on 5X Fest’s Instagram celebrating our first ever Desi Pride event with Sher Vancouver was met with some hateful, homophobic comments, highlighting the need to address these sentiments within our community.

As allies, it is important for us to not just condemn hate when we see it, but to recognize that creating solidarity is an active and ongoing process which requires us to stand up for communities that are being oppressed as it happens. 

5XPress spoke to three members of the LGBTQ+ community under the condition of anonymity, to address some of the homophobia they have seen and experienced as part of the South Asian community.

“This is super disheartening as it works on two entirely different levels. Imagine being a part of two marginalized communities — being queer, and being brown. And then imagine being othered from both of them,” said Jordan, (whose name has been anonymized to protect their identity).

“You’re not white enough to be queer, and you’re not ‘normal’ enough to be brown. [It’s] a layered disenfranchisement that seeks to alienate you until you have no one to turn to, no one to save you.”

Another interviewee said that while it is easy to dismiss the hate as “trolling,” sometimes, it is so much deeper than that.

“We see this time and time again. Queer people online are bashed and it's shrugged off. It’s like, ‘Oh it’s just stupid comments. Just ignore it,’ [but] no, these are people's lives at risk,” said @Jaanchak in an interview. 

“There's no such thing as a silent ally. If you are an ally and you are silent, you have chosen to side with those homophobes because your silence creates a vacuum.”

As allies, if we are able to show up to celebrate Pride and bring people together, we also have a responsibility to stand up when queer communities are being threatened. 

“It's not up to minorities and people who are oppressed to end their oppression because that oppression isn't being caused by them,” they added.

“Queer people, we can campaign, we can show our pride, we can do all this other stuff, but nothing's gonna change until the demographic that is causing our oppression stops being silent.”

The homophobia goes much deeper than these online comments.

Jesse, whose name has been changed to protect their identity, discussed how these online sentiments translate into real life. 

They recounted a moment when they were harassed while walking home 2 years ago by a group of brown men.

“I was just on my way home after hanging out with some friends just like a regular weekday or something to be honest, and it was just in my neighbourhood and there was a car driving by, I was maybe a couple of minutes away from home” they said.

“There were I think like three or four like brown guys in the car they like rolled down the window and were threatening to beat me up and yelling homophobic slurs. And I was just pretty scared at that moment. I just told them that I wasn't looking for any trouble.” 

Jesse said that after this incident, they began to be more cautious of their surroundings. After discussing with other queer folks, they realized that these threats weren’t a rare occurrence.

“It's definitely something that happens quite a bit even in Vancouver. And it's definitely something that people of colour, whether it's my brown friends, my Filipino friends, Asian friends have definitely experienced more, whether that was by people in their own communities or like white folks. And I think that was a really big eye opener for me.”

Jesse said that they think much of this deeply rooted hatred comes from what is seen as threats to masculinity.

“I think a lot of queer people are challenging what masculinity means in a very patriarchal dominated community. I think there is like a really big fear from a lot of a lot of men that queer identities and stuff are challenging what it means to be a South Asian man,” they said.

While homophobia is not exclusive to the South Asian community, some of the remarks on the Pride post were centered on the intersection between religion and sexuality—specifically around a rainbow coloured dastaar (turban) worn by someone at the event. 

“Their definition of a Sikh is someone who fits into their paradigm, which is this hyper masculine, super toxic kind of culture, and anyone who doesn't fit into it isn't, isn't accepted,” said Jaanchak.

“Even just talking about the stories of our gurus, we're often told about the valor and the bravery, and all the battles that they fought, but we're never really, to the same extent, taught about their compassion and their vulnerability.”

Jaanchak says that this vitriol, however, isn’t new.

“It really goes into each and every crevice of our community. Whether it's our elders, whether it's the youth, whether it's the entertainment we watch, like if you watch The Kapil Sharma Show, all of a sudden a man comes on stage dressed as a woman, and it's so hilarious to people,” they added.

“It's to the point where, I as a queer person, have difficulty to say, ‘I'm queer’ in Punjabi. Like, I cannot physically get those words out of my mouth in my own mother tongue, because of the internalized shame I face.”

But that’s why the hate cannot be dismissed as trivial, when so much of it is interconnected.

“The other thing that we need to do is we need to stop seeing these issues as isolated,” they said.

“Like, a homophobia issue is a misogyny issue, it is a caste issue. All this bigotry may manifest in so many different directions but the root causes are all the same. The root cause is the cis hetero patriarchy feeling threatened.”

Jordan added that the hateful comments, however, aren’t stopping anything.

“But we’re not alone. We have solidarity in both spaces. We have connections that keep us going. At the end of the day these are just brown incels who aren’t welcome to Pride anyway,” they said.

“Pride was a protest. Their stinky presence is also protested by us. Go shower and learn how to talk to people face-to-face before you hide behind an anon account and work up the nerve to leave rancid comments that reveal your own insecurities. We have liberation to work on.” 

About the author

Rumneek Johal

Rumneek is a journalist, host and speaker. She is currently the BC Reporter at Press Progress where she focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism. Her previous work centers on asking tough questions within her community, starting conversation and chipping away at the status quo. Other focus areas for her work include the South Asian community, arts and culture, pop culture, and more. She is a proud Punjabi woman from Surrey, BC.

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5X Press is a forum for opinions, conversations, & experiences, powered by South Asian youth. The views expressed here are not representative of those of 5X Festival.