Tag Archives: Taboo

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:

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Tweet1F

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

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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 

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4 days more – radio interview with Ruchi Tandon

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BBC Journalist Ruchi Tandon, visited us in Birmingham last week. She spoke to one of our interviewees from last autumn and me. This piece was aired on BBC Asian programmes local radio across the regions on Sunday (22nd) just gone. It is available to listen online for another 4 days here. It starts 54.45 and ends 59.20.

Sheffield Live! Interview available here…

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What a drama getting to this interview yesterday… I managed to park on the other side of town. I forgot my phone in the car. Upon realising this I was a few streets away already running tight. So I took a calculated risk and left my white iphone in the driver’s seat, rather than rescuing it and getting late for my interview. The thinking was: it’s such a dank and grey day that a potential car burglar would have to get close to the window to be able to see inside. I raced across town in the rain. Sheffield Live! was not where I thought it was going to be. Firstly Paternoster Row was not where I thought it should be. It wasn’t far – it was parallel to my idea of it. Then I couldn’t find the building itself. Of course at this point one turns to one’s phone: maps, email or even makes a call. After getting directions from someone I was sent the wrong way down the road, now getting warm and breaking into a sweat in my brown woolly jumper and thick coat. After returning from the direction of the bus station, nearly via BBC Sheffield (due to misdirection by the Big Issue seller), I managed to get ‘accurate’ directions from someone at the Showroom Cinema – today’s farishta. And it was just around the corner from there. I arrived in a breathless urgency and a little cross. My emotions  plateaued in the exceedingly s_l_o_w lift. 90 seconds later we’re on air.

Sheffield Live! Interview 25 Feb 2013

In my defence I’m still getting my bearings around Sheffield…

Unsurprisingly the car window was still intact and phone sat waiting patiently for me.

Sheffield Live!

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sheffield-live-logoI’ve a live radio interview at 12:10 (GMT) today with Kevin Resley on the Communities Live programme on Sheffield Live! online or 93.2FM.

1 min 11 edit

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Here’s the 1 min 11 edit on the Sunrise website. 

And just to clarify, we’re using the real life interviews as ‘inspiration’ – a starting point. We’re not making verbatim theatre through the retelling of specific lives.

And what’s just sliced from the end of the interview is: whilst this project isn’t trying to change the world, it is about breathing life into this much hidden subject in Asian communities (to raise more awareness, discussion and understanding).

Sunrise Radio interview to air this morning

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Sunrise Radio interview to air today every hour this morning just after the hour. This is their LGB/T coverage week. Listen live online or access in archives from tomorrow.