Tag Archives: British Asian LGBT

Tricky Women

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Little Elephant to be screened at Tricky Women, an international festival for female directors working in animation, held annually in Vienna, Austria. Our film will be shown in the Beside Oneself category on 3 and 5 March. Kate Jessop, the film’s director will be there to talk about elephants, love and animation.Arts Council England

 

Here’s the trailer for the festival.

Love Works Academic Screening

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SexGenLittle Elephant and Chariot Riders, the Love Works Duology will have a presence at the forthcoming British South Asian Issues of Gender and Sexuality event, at the Centre for Research in the Social Sciences, organised by the SexGen Northern Network.

The event takes place on Friday 30 October, 2 – 5.30pm, at Quayside, University of Huddersfield.

SexGen is a collaborative interdisciplinary network bringing together gender and sexuality based research centres around the North of England. It aims to bring academic research, writing and thinking on gender and sexuality into conversation with the ideas, cultural expressions and knowledges of community groups, cultural sites and activist organisations.

If interested in attending contact the Administrator, Alison Holmes a.holmes@hud.ac.uk

Rob’s take on The Love That Knows… panel discussion

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So here we are again. It certainly feels like a while since I last wrote something for this blog and it’s a pleasure to be back. Many of you may remember me as the friendly face of Beneath the Surface which toured last September and is now in the process of being developed into a fully-fledged theatrical piece – but more about that in the coming months I’m sure…

What I’m actually here to write about is a discussion that I was lucky enough to observe at Southbank Centre as part of Alchemy festival which showcases and celebrates art and culture from South Asia. The event was called The Love That Knows Much Shame and was a panel discussion which fundamentally focused on the question “Can you be LGBTQ and South Asian or are the two mutually exclusive?” It was a chance to share experiences as well as a chance to discuss ways of creating a more progressive future.

Now I could go on for reams and reams about the panel and their various areas of expertise. Needless to say, the organiser of this event had managed to select an eclectic mix of people to talk about the issues and how they, both personally and within their organisations, are helping to forge new inroads into creating a world that is prejudice-free for members of the South Asian LGBTQ community and for the queer community generally. For the sake of being brief I will simply list them here with links to their websites. I implore you to check out the good work they are all doing and to see what you can do to help aid our fight to eradicate intolerance. The event was chaired by Razia Aziz. Panel members included Aashi Gahlot, Fiyaz Mughal, Harjit Sarang and, of course, Bobby Tiwana who organised the event and whose blog I am once again hi-jacking!

So what were the main points to come out of the discussion? For any of you who were following the event on Twitter then you may have seen some of the quotes I put up:

A

B

C

D

Tweet1F

GAnd a hugely popular Tweet which caused a bit of a stir:

H

These Tweets might help you to get a flavour of what the event was like. Fundamentally, we were gathered there to make a statement that whether you’re Gay, Straight, White, Asian or any combination in between then you can help stamp out prejudice. I likened the event to the ACT UP meetings in New York in the ‘80s which, in their hay-day, were a hotbed of ideas for tackling the AIDS epidemic. Here we are, 30 years on, across the pond, gathering again to take action against another enemy; an older one and one that’s harder to beat – homophobia. While this event was part of Alchemy, thus technically a South Asian event, I looked around the room and saw such a mix of people that I knew this topic had struck a chord with many people from outside the South Asian community as well.

We all know what it’s like to suffer prejudice at the hands of someone who is supposed to love us; we all know what rejection and intolerance feels like. Yet for many of us in the UK, we have the freedom to live our lives how we want. Especially in the cosmopolitan city centres, identifying as LGBTQ is not something we are scared to do anymore. However, for many others, coming out as LGBTQ is still a battle where the people they are fighting are their own families and friends. There were some truly touching stories shared at this event and some truly horrifying ones too – families disowning children for years and years for the meagre “crime” of loving someone of the same sex. What I found truly heartening was the number of people, from all nationalities, who turned out to support those who still find it hard to be accepted for the people they are.

Looking at the issue from a South Asian perspective though, for many people it does seem that you can identify as LGBTQ and South Asian. There are spaces between the two terms and navigating them can be hard. We touched upon the fact that “coming out” is quite a Western concept and one that does not gel well with the many highly private families in South Asian cultures – “OK so you’re gay but keep quiet about it and don’t let the neighbours know.” Similarly, it can sometimes be quite hard to know which is the best way to go about seeking acceptance – does one do it quietly by just living their life and hoping their visibility will eventually breed acceptance, or do we stand up and politicize ourselves and fight tooth and nail for our rights? We heard from people who argued for both cases and, while no agreement was made, it opened up a debate that needs to be had. How, as a collective, are we going to fight intolerance?

Of course, the issue with these sorts of discussions is that we are only ever able to scratch the surface of the problem, let alone find solutions. Maybe if there were another event like this we could pick up from where we left off and get in deeper? I know I will certainly be on the lookout for similar talks to this one. Ultimately though, the main benefit of an event such as this is that it brings people together. After an event like The Love That Knows Much Shame people don’t feel so alone – “there are others out there who want the same things as I do.” You get a chance to network, take phone numbers, organise meetings. This event was merely the starting point for people to break into smaller groups and carry on the fight in their individual communities. “Activism starts at home” as one of our panel said – let’s hope that this wonderful event has inspired people to go and make that statement true!

Also do check out Harjit Sarang’s pioneering Equal Marriage campaign.

Robert Beck got involved with Bobby’s work after one of his very dear friends was interviewed as part of the research for ‘Beneath the Surface’. Since then he has worked as a Researcher for Bobby, Social Media Adviser, Production Assistant and Guest Blogger. The work means a lot to him and he hopes to stay involved for as long as possible. He doesn’t have a website (although he probably should). Follow him on Twitter @robertjamesbeck 

Panel members announced

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Well, I’m delighted to say that I managed to secure a high calibre panel of people working in and around the topic of being LGBT and South Asian for The Love That Knows Much Shame, on Friday 23 May, 6pm at Southbank Centre, London. Full press release here.

Aashi&Sorrel

Sorrel from Friends & Families of Lesbians and Gays, and Aashi.

I was researching South Asian parents and LGBT and came across this lovely image of these two women. That is when I learnt about Aashi Gahlot (on the right) who is truly inspirational. She is Founder and Editor-in-Chief at SHOR, a creative online portal reflecting South Asian LGBTQ lives worldwide; a creative writer, activist, journalist and freelance translator for film and TV.

I learnt about Harjit Sarang, in February last year. She started following me on Twitter after I tweeted a radio excerpt during LGBT History Month. We’ve been trying to meet for some time but it’s not yet happened. She’s a Lawyer specialising in parenting for infertile, gay, and lesbian couples; an LGBT activist and equality campaigner. Her Equal Marriage campaign on Twitter was innovative. It sought equal marriage endorsements from celebrities who have a  larger number of followers, therefore getting a positive message out to a larger pool of people.

A few weeks ago, when Same Sex Marriage became legal, I participated in a telephone radio interview. Fiyaz Mughal OBE FCMI, was on the same programme after me. I was quite impressed with his articulation and understanding of community development and evolution. He is Director of Faith Matters, working to reduce extremism, interfaith and intra-faith tensions. He has a background in community and voluntary sector social policy, lobbying and conflict resolution. He’s also a former Councillor for Haringey and Oxford.

And then there’s humble ol’ me, who got involved in all this through developing a new LGB theatre narrative, born out of research with South Asian communities across England. We’re still chugging and now have a finished script.

And finally, most recently I’ve secured Razia Aziz to facilitate the event, who’s Co-Founder of The Equality Academy. She’s a diversity and equality trainer, coach and consultant; as well as an interfaith minister offering a service to people of all faiths or none.

So at this point, if I might say, I think we have all the ingredients for a potentially high quality event.

Turning points

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Last Saturday’s workshop was a privilege. After a gruelling week with not such brilliant sleep (during the week) I thought I might be running on empty by Saturday afternoon. However I did sleep reasonably well the night before.  On the day, it was cloudy with breaks of sunshine and a peculiar curving wind. I was calmly excited with anticipation for the workshop.

In terms of numbers it was modest and this did allow for more in-depth interaction and openness amongst the participants. The group was bold, generous and authentic, in fact even nurturing towards each other. My beloved Abhi participated too on this occasion, which was very useful in receiving a no holds barred critique afterwards. His comments were wholly positive.

Carl’s writing exercise is quite powerful. He takes you back to a significant turning point in your life making it vivid through his prompts – the use of senses, the time of year and day and so on. The group were scattered across the room busy writing: some on chairs, others laying on the floor or perched on the steps. Afterwards we sat in a circle and each shared an extract with the group. Here’s one from the session – an imagined letter to a father:

Dear Dad,

2007. December, Boxing Day.

You’re in India.

We’ve had dinner. Eastenders is on in the background. Half-heartedly we’re watching.

I had planned it this way, as you were away, so that I had mum to myself.

In theory, the plan was to tell her, and then you.

She thought I was joking…that it was an excuse not to get married.

“No, I’m gay!”

Apparently she was clueless. But what about mums knowing their sons and all that? What about the Gay Times incident at 16…?

Arena workshop participant – 22 June 2013.

Do you have a turning point to share?

Not so many hours to go…

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I’m looking forward to tomorrow afternoon: getting down to Wolverhampton and running a workshop session with Carl Miller. I’m anticipating new people, voices and ideas to discover… 
British Asian lesbian and gay lives

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