Monthly Archives: April 2013

Cultural Icons

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James DeanWho were your cultural icons whilst growing up: who offered you hope, inspiration, enabled you to dream and to be? What was it about them?

This is one of the explorations in Saturday’s workshop at Alchemy. When I started thinking about mine there were many at different points in my life: one or two may have lasted a year or longer, some for the life-cycle of a pop song, most were seasonal. We change quite a lot in a season especially during our teenage years.

I discovered biographies at 15 and fell in love with James Dean. He appeared misunderstood, lost, introverted and melancholic – the Rebel Without a Cause. He was masculine in monochrome. There were also unconfirmed rumours about his sexuality. All of these things offered me a quiet comfort at this age. He had a motto: live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.  He died in a car crash in 1955 at the age of 24.

There is a romantic notion when making a connection with someone no more that you’ve never met. And I do think it profound that they or what they symbolise can still communicate and offer some comfort. Jimmy Dean was quite important to me during adolescence that year – 1990. What about you?

There are still a few remaining places for Saturday’s workshop. Come and take part. 

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Married gay Asian, now divorced!

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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.

DivorceTwenty 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 shakir.kadri@hotmail.co.uk

Alchemy workshop, Southbank Centre, Sat 20 Apr, 3pm

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I’m thrilled to be running a workshop with Carl Miller as part of the Alchemy festival – a collision of British and South Asian cultures at Southbank Centre (London), now in its third year. Beneath the Surface

Inspired by the degree of interest and enthusiasm last autumn especially from Londoners, we thought it would be good to run an event in the capital. It’s an opportunity for us to connect with people touched by the subject of Asian homosexuality.

We will facilitate an inclusive space for people and go through series of structured exercises: designed to stimulate recollection, conversation and sharing. Participants will work together in pairs talking and listening and take part in an individual writing exercise. There will be space to share things with the group as people see fit – this is OPTIONAL!

No former experience or specific skills are necessary to attend. A willingness to have a go and contribute within your personal parameters is all that is required.

Participants will also learn more about the current progress and future plans for the Beneath the Surface project.

2 hours. Cost £5. Booking through Southbank Centre 

 

The Last Outing

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A really important piece of research is currently being undertaken exploring end of life experiences and care needs of older LGBT people led by Dr Kathryn Almack at the University of Nottingham, funded by Marie Curie Cancer Care Research Programme. The criteria for participation in The Last Outing. are: currently residing in UK; identifying as LGBT; aged 60 (or aged under 60 but have a partner or a person for whom they care who identifies as LGBT who is aged 60+). Please disseminate widely to relevant people and agencies. The project runs until August 2014.