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What I learned on my rocky road to coming out as gay to my Sikh family

What I learned on my rocky road to coming out as gay to my Sikh family

Manjinder Sidhu now helps other LGBTI Sikhs and South Asians.

I was born into a traditional, conservative Sikh family, where neither of my parents spoke English very well.

My home was troubled. I discovered my sexuality at the age of 11 and at first I did not know what it was. I was afraid everyday due to the arguing and thought I would be disowned.

By 13 I accepted who I was as I didn’t want to ruin the life of a woman by marrying her. I didn’t care about my own safety, but more of the safety of others. I feared being forced to marry a woman, being disowned or killed.

I ignored my sexual urges for my books. I focused entirely on my studies so I could be financially independent and stable.

I first came out to a teacher at school, who kept me quiet – we weren’t allowed to discuss it, they claimed. Then to a friend at 16 and work colleagues at 18.

I was only properly out to friends while studying at University College London. They would ask about coming out to my parents and I would tell them I didn’t think about it.

I almost ran away from home. The arguments, the pain, the guilt and shame were overwhelming. I lived abroad for many years, working for human rights organizations.

As work life became mundane and I couldn’t find a boyfriend, depression and loneliness took over. I was suicidal and distant from my parents.

Luckily I got into positivity and spirituality – reading books like the Secret. I learnt that I manifested my own life and I didn’t need to play the victim or feed into fear.

In the end, my coming out to my parents over text message was the easiest coming out story imaginable. They were relieved their son was talking to them properly, he loved them and was only away due to his own shame and guilt. They said they would provide for me and love me no matter what. Such a shock to me!

I stopped running and went back home. I explained, in Punjabi, the intimate details of being gay and actually found it liberating. But there were still challenges, my mum thought I was going to become a woman as there was no literature or support in their language to help her understand.

I decided to provide life coaching and spiritual counseling to LGBTI South Asians because every time I would return back from a human rights deployment abroad, the state for South Asians LGBTI’s in the UK was the same. Dire, closeted, in fear and hidden.

There has never been any literature for non-English speaking parents on this matter so I decided to take matters in my own hands. In fact, my book Bollywood Gay out February 2016 has a pamphlet inside explaining homosexuality in different languages.

I’ve also lived in India where homosexuality is still criminalized. Middle class gay Indians have far more freedom and support in general then the ones here. But for the poorer population, suicide, arranged marriage and worse is the case.

I have a reach in the sub continent and Arab countries at the moment, and work closely with Stonewall and Barnardos. I speak at schools and work to bring awareness to LGBTI South Asian issues with religious organisations and LGBTI groups.

The crux of my work is to empower, inspire and educate South Asian LGBTIs to be able to have an easier coming out process whilst living the life they always dreamed of. I do this through the principles of the law of attraction. Love and forgiveness are key ingredients along with gratitude and prayer.

That’s why I started my YouTube channel. I help people all across the world in their languages and help them from a positive spiritual perspective. Indeed one video with my mother in Punjabi with English Subtitles became viral and infamous and can be seen on my website.

I help people to realize that if you fear the worst in coming out, you are more likely to bring the worst when you do it. Because your vibration, energy, behavior, attitude to your parents will be based on fear and separation.

We need more ethnic role models, literature in different languages and collaboration with different religious organizations and community groups.

But in my experience, the Sikh community has been very supportive, whilst I was coming out and since I started video activism.

Our local Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) in particular was very supportive. Since then I have started an Out of Purdah initiative – where we speak to various religious organizations and community groups empowering LGBTI South Asians.

Find out more about Manjinder’s work on his site, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.