They tell me that I can not be Sikh because I am Queer. They tell me that I can not be Queer because I am Sikh. They tell me who I can or can not be and scold me when I do not listen to them. You see, they fail to realize that they can not tell somebody to be red or blue when somebody is purple. I am a Queer, Transgender Sikh man, and it pains me to write this in 2018. I tell cishet Sikhs that my pronouns are he/him/his, and these cishet Sikhs INTENTIONALLY use she/her and call me a woman. Sikhs INTENTIONALLY reach out to me on my social media platforms to harass me, when all I am doing is taking up space that is rightfully for me. Do these Sikhs realize their own hypocrisy when they use bigotry to oppress somebody that is different than them? Why call yourself a Sikh when you refuse valid knowledge?
Sikhi is rooted in peace, equality, acceptance, and love; when did all of this go away? Our Gurus taught us how to protect ourselves (Ghatka) and how to read/write in one of the most complicated languages (Gurmukhi). Our Gurus gave us stories, bani, sangat, langar, and Gurdwara. Our Gurus gave us all of the tools that our Sikh society needed to reach egalitarianism and enlightenment, so what happened? When did Sikhs start discriminating against LGBTQ+ Sikhs when LGBTQ+ identities have existed in India for over 4,000 years?
I was 8 years old when I realized I was a man- I would literally wake up in my dreams as a boy. One day, around this age, I made a wish on a shooting star; I wished to wake up in the body of a boy. Weeks went by and my wish had not come true yet. I forgot about my wish until I was about 11 years old- I had my first crush on a girl from our neighbourhood. I was confused because I felt invisible. I would dress very masculine but did not understand why girls were not attracted to me. Girls would chase after boys and vice versa, but I never saw people like me. My feelings for women always felt normal and natural, but I would never validate or acknowledge them because I was afraid. My mother found out that I liked girls when I was 12, and she beat me up. She locked me in a room with her, screamed at me, told me that I would go to Hell if I did not “pray the gay away.” I told her that I would change. We never spoke of it again.
For the next few years, I continued to invalidate myself. Every time I had a crush on a girl, I would pretend like I did not. I went through middle school like this, but once I became a Junior in high school, I started to come out to myself. I was 15 when I initially came out to my best friend as Bisexual. She is a lesbian, which is why it was easier for me to come out to her. I came out to two people that year, and those two people did not go to the same high school as me, which is probably why I came out to them. As soon as those two people validated me, however, I became a little more open about my identity during my entire junior year. When people would ask me about my sexual orientation, I would tell them that I was bisexual. Rumours got around but I did not care. I transferred to a different high school for my senior year and stayed closeted for most of that time.
As a senior, I was having difficulty being who I was because I felt confined. When people would ask me about my sexual orientation, they would ask me with this horrible look on their face. I can never erase that look from my memory because it was a look filled with disgust, hatred, and judgement. I would lie to these people because these people were the same people that made rumours go around the school. Nobody, but me, needed to know my business. During my senior year in high school, I came out to my mother. I had a panic attack at my friend’s birthday party and called my mom to pick me up. She came right away. When we were about to be home, I came out to her. We talked in the car for about an hour, and I felt less burdened by my identity. She was very shocked, but she had hope that I would marry a man because I told her that I was bisexual. She never told my stepdad when this happened.
For years, my mother was my biggest enemy. I was around 16 years old when I told her, but she fought with me about my identity until I was around 20 years old. She would oppress me with cultural teachings that she internalized from her own parents. When my mother was a child in k-12 school, her own parents would not even allow her to wear lotion for her dry skin. They would ask her who she was trying to look good for, and they would beat her if she came home even a few minutes late. My mother would be made fun of at school because she would have flakes of dry skin on her face and lips. Her parents were so strict and lacked compassion- it was no wonder that my Mother repeated these same injustices to her child, me.
My last argument that I had with my mother, I asked her why she was against me. She repeated the same arguments that she had for years, then I told her to show me where she learned this. She would say “They told me during Katha,” and I finally said: “But where in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji did you see this?” After this conversation that I had with my mother, everything changed. She was silent for quite some time, attempting to articulate her thoughts. She had nothing to say to my question. I think my mother saw through her cultural view right then and there; it was as though I saw the thought change in her mind, right before my very eyes. After that conversation, she began speaking to me about it more without attacking me or scolding me. She was more interested in how I felt and how I was doing. Eventually, she started saying “Make sure you marry a girl who takes care of you too, okay?”
My own mother, a woman who once told me that gay people are damned to Hell, fights for the rights of LGBTQ+ folx today. I even asked her to do an interview for my YouTube channel (youtube.com/singhisqueer) so that other Queer Sikhs could see that change was possible, so that other Queer Sikhs could know that there is a safe space for them to exist on this planet, that they are not alone, that they can be free. I have had so many people contact me because of that video- and I would not have been able to connect with these people if it had not been for my mother. One of my family members, an Uncle named K S Hundal, wanted to use this video as blackmail. Keep in mind that I have not spoken to this dangerous man in over 12 years. His daughter wants to marry a man who is not Jatt, and he threatened his daughter, saying “I will show his entire family what your family truly is,” and he linked my video to the threat. I am not threatened by bigots like Hundal, who have to use already oppressed people to oppress his own people. These are just one of the many instances of hate that I have received from my family, as well as all of them invalidating the rape case that occurred to me, even though there was clear evidence showing otherwise. If the laws were in my favor, I would charge Hundal with a blackmailing crime since I can not charge him for denying rape. If the laws were like the laws during Guru Ji’s time, do you think people like K S Hundal would still be alive? Probably not, since Guru Ji fought against cruel injustices with swords. Guru Ji had no tolerance for rape sympathisers.
I have been dealing with mental health issues and had severe symptoms (i.e. PTSD, anxiety/anxiety attacks, depression, suicidal thoughts, eating disorder, executive dysfunction, insomnia, etc) for over 12 years, since I was a child in 6th grade. I tried therapy three times, each at a different age in my life. No amount of therapy helped me deal with my panic attacks or insomnia. My eating disorder got worse as well. I would fall asleep around 4 AM and wake up at 7 AM to go to my class at the local community college, and my grades were barely making it. Surviving became so difficult, and I would find myself sitting in front of a computer screen for hours in order to distract myself from my suicidal thoughts.
I came out as Transgender when I was around 20 years old, in 2015. My mother accepted me right away and helped me with everything. I had no idea which route I was supposed to take if I wanted to medically transition, but my mother aided me with all of that. She supported me through my entire transition, including when I wanted to stop Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) earlier in 2018. My mom became my best friend. While on HRT, I began having side effects that negatively affected my mental health, so I started researching plants. During my research, I came across marijuana. I started using marijuana (smoking/eating it), and my life changed dramatically. I was able to sleep, eat, and laugh again. I made the most money that I had ever made in my entire life through my jobs. I had finally transferred to a University and graduated community college. My grades improved, I joined a theater production at my University, and I published a poetry book. My mental and spiritual health improved more in those three years on medical marijuana than it ever had via therapy.
I am 24 now, and my parents are my biggest supporters. My dear Queer/LGBTQ+ Sikhs- always remember that you are not alone. YOU MUST TAKE UP SPACE WITH YOUR EXISTENCE. There are 23 million Sikhs, and not all of these 23 million are the same. Each person in this 23 million is unique and different in class, caste, race, color, creed, gender, sexuality, region, and language. Our Sikh peoples have had multiple intersections for centuries, but we have never had to make these intersections known, because under Guru Ji, WE WERE ALL CONSIDERED ONE. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji includes teachings from a Muslim, from a low-caste person in society, etc. There are teachings in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji that have been written by Non-Sikhs, by people who did not even LOOK Sikh, but their teachings are included BECAUSE THE MESSAGE OF ONENESS IS THE SAME. If the Gurus emphasized co-existence between all religious identities, why do cishet Sikhs deny Amrit and Anand Karaj based on identity? Having a bias against somebody because of their identity is the literal definition of discrimination.. so why are we allowing cishet Sikhs to discriminate? We should not and can not allow them to do this any longer, which is why I urge all LGBTQ+ Sikhs to revolt against the cishet patriarchy in “Sikhism” and reclaim SIKHI, the true religion of liberation, love, and justice for all. Decolonize your Sikhi, and it will bring you so many steps closer to love, light, and oneness... Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
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