I was in discussion with the Southbank Centre about the prospect of a gay and lesbian panel discussion as part of this year’s Alchemy festival. It was during the last weekend of March, after Saturday 29, upon the arrival of same sex marriage (in England and Wales) that its relevance seemed more pronounced i.e. whilst we now have same sex marriage, the irony is, most British (South) Asians still find themselves unable to come out to their parents and families.
How many of us ‘successfully’ navigate with our ethnic, racial, cultural identity and our sexual identity? What sacrifices are made to fit into either camp, be it South Asian or LGBT spaces? Can you be yourself (out) and still have a good relationship with your parents and family?
Once we’ve acknowledged the current context I’m most interested in how we get to a more progressive tomorrow… More South Asian LGBT role models, who are out in public life and the media? What are South Asian LGBT role models? What role can culture (TV, film, theatre and the media) play in supporting this? How do we create more awareness and understanding through grassroots engagement – with our families, friends, communities? How can wider society support us to that better future…?
The Love That Knows Much Shame takes place on Friday 23 May, 6pm at Southbank Centre, London and is now open for booking.
Panel members include
I just had a wonderful chat with Sue Allen, the Chair of Trustees at FFLAG (Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). We talked about her experience of running FFLAG. She mentioned the sense of bereavement a parent feels on learning their child is gay or lesbian. She said that most parents only ever called once and the average call lasted 45 minutes. When asked she said she could count on one hand “the bad calls”, implying that the majority lead to positive outcomes for the families.
FFLAG also runs a drop-in support group for parents. When she described a parents’ support group – a confidential space without judgement where parents can talk about anything, it reminded me of a scene from Prayers for Bobby. We find comfort in meeting others in a similar predicament to ourselves, we experience empathy and we find solace. That one call or a visit to a parents’ support group is the beginning to the path of acceptance and understanding.
Sue said that most parents who call were white and middle class. She explained that they had tried to engage with parents from ethnic minorities over the years without much success.
FFLAG also functions as an umbrella organisation for the other lesbian and gay parent support groups across the country.
In thinking about how we get to a more progressive future for gay and lesbian British Asians and their families in Britain today, we must engage with and support our Asian parents.
The weekend was truly momentous with the arrival of Equal Marriage from Saturday 29 March 2014. After observing the progress of EM over the past 18-months I was beginning to feel euphoric in the lead up to Saturday. BBC Midlands Masala, catering for South Asian communities across the West Midlands covered this topic in Sunday’s programme. The irony is: whilst we now have Equal Marriage in England and Wales most (British) South Asians still feel unable to come out to their parents and families. How do we get to a better tomorrow?
The programme is presented by Ray Khan sitting in for Arshia Riaz and is available online until next Sunday. The first hour has the most coverage on the subject. I’m on from 14:25 – 23:45.
We have some listeners reaction to Equal Marriage from 28:39 – 29:46.
Fiyaz Mughal, Director of Faith Matters joins from 30:05 – 34:37. He makes some very valid points on human behaviour being dynamic and not static and envisions more acceptance over the next two decades.
Satbir, an articulate voice, a teacher of a Sikh background is on from 34:48 – 37:28.
And from 37:38 – 41:55 a female caller talks about her Muslim Pakistani friend forced into an arranged marriage.
In all, a progressive programme on Equal Marriage and its relevance to South Asian communities in England and Wales. Well done BBC! Listen to the programme here. But we have so much more to do.
The final point which I didn’t make in the programme is: as fellow humans we have a responsibility to support our family members, friends and communities to come to terms with themselves, to learn to accept themselves, to become who they (really) are by being true to themselves… to release the unique bright spark that we all are.