Growing up Sikh and gay: ‘When I came out, my mum thought I was becoming a woman’
A Sikh man has opened up about his journey to reconciling his religion and sexuality, as a new toolkit aims to bridge the gap between the two.
Children’s charity Bernardo’s announced the new toolkit today, with input from Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh groups, among others.
The schools toolkit is aimed at helping communities reconcile their faiths with support for LGBT people – and is packed with help and information.
Manjinder Singh Sidhu, a gay Sikh activist who contributed to the toolkit, opened up about his own experiences.
He said: “I was born into a traditional Sikh family, where neither of my parents spoke English. Arguments were normal in my home.
“I found out I was gay at 11 and did not know what it was. I knew I was attracted to boys and not girls.
“I was afraid I would be forced to marry a woman or disowned by my family. By 13 I accepted who I was as I didn’t want to ruin the life of a woman by marrying her. ”
He opened up to a few friends, finding solace in his spirituality – before eventually mustering the courage to come out to his parents too.
Manjinder Singh Sidhu continued: “My parents were relieved that their son was talking to them properly and loved them. They said they would provide for me and love me no matter what. It was such a shock to me!
“I explained to them intimate details of being gay in Punjabi. My mum thought I was going to become a woman as there was no information or support in their language.”
He added: “I decided to help others like me. I saw that other South Asians LGBTs were also scared. There was no support for non-English speaking parents so I decided to take matters in my own hands.
“I wrote a book Bollywood Gay which is out March 2016 and has a pamphlet inside explaining homosexuality in different languages.
“I make video blogs, I write books, and I speak out and provide support to other South Asian LGBTs. I help people all across the world in their languages and help them from a positive spiritual perspective.
“One video is on my YouTube Channel with my mother in Punjabi with English subtitles.
“You don’t need to fear the worst case scenario. Love yourself and know that all will be ok. If you remain positive and loving, life will surely work out for you. Be kind to yourself and patient with others.”
The activist says that coming out would have been much easier if the topic had not been so taboo in schools.
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He said: “Growing up I would have loved it being LGBT was discussed in school… I would have also liked it if my community, including the Gurdwara talked about such matters openly without shame.”
“What I love about the tool kit is that Barnardo’s is actually working alongside schools, going into schools and talking about faith and sexuality, which are topics generally considered taboo and risky.
“The different ways Barnardo’s is tackling the issue head on in classroom and online settings is profound. Knowing that it will inspire, educate and save the lives of countless LGBT young people going through so much hardship in schools brings joy to my heart.”
Sam Monaghan, Barnardo’s UK Director of Children’s Services, said: “Being bullied is never acceptable and can deeply impact on a young people developing their identity.
“This new resource is a tangible way to help schools and faith groups meet their duty to tackle identity-based bullying, so everyone feels respected and safe — whatever their culture, race, religion or belief.”
Last month, an openly gay Canadian politician was honoured at a holy Sikh Gurdwara in India.
Despite fears she would be rejected because of her sexuality, the politician was warmly welcomed at the Golden Temple – and was photographed receiving the ‘siropa’ – a garb given as a form of respect.