A television documentary about divorce in Asian communities is seeking contributors. It is now specifically looking for gay Asian men or women who were previously married, are now divorced and either single or with a same-sex partner of their choice.
Twenty years ago divorce was rarely heard of in Asian communities. Today there are divorcees in most families. Unsurprisingly many gay Asian men and women still feel that marriage is a small sacrifice to make to maintain a loving and supportive relationship with their families. And denying their sexuality or finding a workable solution is possible and only a small price to pay.
Just under two years ago, on arrival at Heathrow, coming back from a break in India with a little time to kill, a copy of Attitude magazine caught my eye. There was a sub-headline about a (gay) Asian Sikh man not out feeling pressurised to have an arranged marriage by his family. At the time I was surprised that even today someone (of quite a similar background to me) could feel that. My surprise was also reflective of my own experience: being fortunate enough to be assertive and even forthright about my personal choices in life.
I recall the first time I met and heard about the stories of older gay men who had had a second lease of life in their middle age. I was 15 and had started to make links with LGB (at the time) support groups in Wolverhampton. I met two older white men in their early 50s who ran a group for older men. They had courted girls as youngsters, married at 20, had children and led a ‘straight’ existence. It was later, aged 45+ that they had come out to their families, separated from their wives, dealt with the fallout and gone on to have a whole new lease of life. Hearing this was a revelation to me: that they couldn’t be true to themselves, having to live a lie for so long to themselves and their families. Their greatest regret was not being honest with themselves and coming out sooner. Yes, there was heartache, upset and a ruptured family for a period… Fortunately love prevailed, time forgave and people healed.
More recently I’ve become aware that there’s a whole scene of people engaging in marriages of convenience between Asian lesbian women and gay men; so that they don’t have to give up their families, can raise children together, still be accepted by the wider (Asian) community and still have (discreet) same-sex relationships. Are the two really not compatible?
The more that we hear about and see the diversity and complexity of British Asian gay lives through fictions and the media, the more visibility we give to a largely hidden subject, contributing to increased awareness and understanding.
If there is anyone who’s happy to talk about their experience of being gay and married and now divorced with Shakir Kadri, the documentary filmmaker, please get in touch with him firstname.lastname@example.org