Proud Sikh at Pride Parade

sikh_pride_parage.jpg

A friend sent me this photo yesterday from this past weekend’s annual LGBT Pride Parade in New York City, which was attended by about a million people. I’ve seen this Singh around NYC before. He happens to be one of the transit workers standing up to the NYC Transit Authority’s discriminatory “turban-branding” policy and now is also standing up for LGBT rights. Sikh solidarity seems to be in full swing lately.

The Pride festivities in NYC were a little different this year since they came just after state lawmakers voted in favor of legalizing gay marriage in New York last week. While some Sikhs (and Sikh institutions) have been outspoken about their opposition to allowing same-sex couples to marry, many others of us are celebrating this milestone civil rights victory in New York, seeing the fight for justice for LGBT people as no different as justice for women, people of color, or any other oppressed group.

Despite my previously alluded to reservations about the state sanctioning the way we structure our romantic relationships, households, and/or families, I believe that legalizing gay marriage is nevertheless a much needed blow to the deeply ingrained homophobia and heterosexism in our society. A lot more than marriage equality is needed to create the sort of radical transformation our Gurus envisioned for our world, but it is, at least today, a reason to say fateh!


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29 Responses to “Proud Sikh at Pride Parade”

  1. Hunny Singh says:

    Thanks for sharing and connecting some important pieces here.

    Even though you stated you have reservations about the institution of marriage and I DO feel grateful the direction things are heading in ….

    I still have hesitancy in accepting that this state sponsored legal decision is "a much needed blow to the deeply ingrained homophobia and heterosexism in our society."

    I believe this decision will have a minimal impact and the need is so deep. It might open some doors for some conversations and help some people navigate through their lives but… the most marginalized communities who face this type of sexual oppression will continue to feel the wrath of fear. To much energy goes into campaigns and not into community on the ground education and interactions that allow for tolerance for safety. I know community education is something you value so Im probably preaching to the sangat.

    To me I compare this to presidential elections, with all fanfare and hope on board, Obama might be a better candidate then McCain. Ask most marginalized folks around the globe if the election had had a positive impact in their lives at all, most people will say no. Yet Hundreds of Millions of dollars have been used for ads, tv coverage, volunteer time…

    Fateh in Solidarity!

  2. Jodha says:

    @Brooklynwala – I still take the position you alluded to about the problem of state sanction. So a tactical victory yes, but not transformative.

    But more than that your last line left me wondering….you write "A lot more than marriage equality is needed to create the sort of radical transformation our Gurus envisioned for our world."

    How do we define this? Do you or I or any other single individual define this? What is our 'vision' of the Gurus' vision? Is it lock and step with a 'progressive agenda' on all fronts? Does it differ? What happens when others (as they often do on this blog) disagree with this vision?

  3. kantay says:

    I'm skeptical that the vision for change here is based on gurbani or a sustained effort to understand the social vision described by the Gurus. Like I said it is progressive, Left politics with a tag line linking it to Sikhi with the assumption that they must be the same thing. I say that with minimal rancor.

  4. kantay says:

    It may well be that progressive politics links with Sikhi in some (or many) areas, but why not discuss and establish – rather than assume – those areas?

  5. kantay says:

    Also, the guy in the picture seems like a really good hearted guy. Good for him for being there!

  6. harvinderkaur says:

    I'd agree with kantay's sentments above.

    Though I on a personal level support marriage equality and am happy to hear the news of the Singh pictured above, I think that too often the Gurus' agenda is equated with a progressive agenda, without seeing, reflecting, on what is contained within Gurbani. I am not sure it is sufficient to align the two without a clear reflection on Sikh history and the Gurus' vision, through long and sustained discussions on issues such as Sikhism and it's actual vision on marriage, gender, justice, as not to take our contemporary understanding of these issues and suggest that the Sikh perspective is/has always been the same.

    What I would encourage us to do instead, is to know the institutions the Gurus established for us to deepen our understanding on our Gurus' visions – and use that to build a perspective on contemporary issues.

  7. Tajinder says:

    I agree with Harvinder this topic because of its social political effects it requires much indepth analysis fro Sikhi stand point before anything is taken as fact. We all have our opinion but we should put Sikhi view point aside until enough information is available. In other areas of this form i have been very aggresive bacause for this reason in pushing an opposing opinion to the popular for this very reason.

  8. harvinderkaur says:

    Yes, I'd imagine that a very fruitful conversation discussion could emerge from the concept of marriage within Sikhism (including the Anand Karaj and the purpose of 'union'), gender (what is the purpose of gender/the body in Sikhism and the relationship to the Formless), sexuality (what is its role/purpose from a Sikh standpoint), and grihasti-jeevan and same-sex marriages/relationships.

    I some articles have been written on this topic, though it does seem like an area for wider conversation that would be appropriate for TLH.

  9. harvinderkaur says:

    http://www.wahegurunet.com/gay-sikh

    this is one interesting article i found. i was quite fascinated to hear that one of mian mir's followers was a gay mystic named sarmad who was beheaded near delhi. http://aroundtheworldblog.blogspot.com/2008/01/vi

  10. Blighty Singh says:

    Lets be honest here…he's a fella that feels so strongly that a man should have the right to take another man up the **** that he's even willing to go on a parade about it. If push comes to shove (no pun intended) I would describe him as misguided.. How some of you come to the conclusion that it makes him a "good hearted guy", "progressive" and 'inspirational' is frankly beyond my level of understanding. It seems like adulation by the back door (pun intended).

  11. asingh says:

    Tejinder and Blight Singh, I question what your perception of homosexuality is. I think the popular perception here is that love between a man and man or a woman and woman would be more vulgar/more lustful than love between a husband and wife.

    Guru Ji advises us to be very wary of our kaam – since this is a hindrance to actually seeing the Divine Reality. Do you think it's not possible to have a relationship with Waheguru and a consensual, loving relationship with a partner of the same gender too?

  12. bobby says:

    Blighty Singh, I always wince when I read bigotry written by western Sikhs, because so many Sikhs experience bigotry themselves living in the West. The idea that gays should be demonised and stigmatised is a vile, disgusting, hateful idea, and despite such an attitude being embedded in backward Punjabi culture, to hear it expressed is still really ugly, even though it shouldn't be a surprise.

    By the way, if anyone thinks that God cares about an individuals sexual practises, they reduce God to a petty little sexual voyeur. In other words, project their own prejudices onto him. How vulgar and crude.

  13. Tajinder says:

    Bobby,

    "I always wince when I read bigotry written by western Sikhs, because so many Sikhs experience bigotry themselves living in the West."

    -This is off topic but I would like to state that Sikhs in the West despite contrary to popular belief live in a much more civilized society than India. 10K of us were not slaughtered in the streets of NY after 9/11 by the common American and 3K Muslims were not killed in this countries streets after 9/11 by common America citizens. Your trying to make it sound like you live in Disneyland and the West is the anti-gay evil and the East is the guiding light of Gay freedom see below.

    "Row after India minister calls homosexuality a disease" http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-140247

    "backward Punjabi culture" — this is fine with me, I rather be backwards thinking any day if forward thinking is going to retard my thinking to look at un-natural acts as acceptable, and allow the distortion of Gurubani by confused and miss-guided people with their own mental disorder called 'liberalism'.

    The debase is not about who God chooses based on sexual preference it is about miss guided people who are under the impression they have the right to accept these acts as normal within the Sikh fold without any complete understanding of Gurubanis perspective on the topic other then the memorization of one liners from a power point at some Sikh Youth camp. I am not any expert for a counter argument I know, but I do have the right to at-least provided a equivalent counter argument to keep balance and stop the spread of a base less pro-gay in Sikhi belief.

  14. Deep Singh says:

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh,
    I completely agree that gays deserve rights and tolerance. They are fellow human beings, our brothers andd sisters. But it makes me sick to think that some Sikhs even consider gay Anand Karaj. Anand Karajs are solely for man and woman. If it was intended for gays, then why has there never been a gay Sikh wedding in the times of the gurus, or indeed throughout history? Building on that, why have there never been any gay Sikh saints (or in fact any heterosexual Sikh saints who have performed intercourse for pleasure)?

  15. Deep Singh says:

    Also, where does Gurbani condone homosexuality? Some of you may turn around and say, 'oh, but the fact it doesn't mention homosexuality means it must be ok'. Gubani doesn't mention heroin or LSD specifically, does that mean its ok to get high on them? It dos however mention the word 'drugs', which is an umbrella term for all intoxicants. It also mentions kaam, several times, which is an umbrella term for any sexual activity which isn't for procreation, straight or otherwise. This is also a sin.

    Also, this argument of homosexuality being 'natural' and thus ok is completely contradictory. Kaam, Krodh, Lobh, Moh, Hankaar, Anger, Ego, Greed etc, are all natural emotions as well, they are all natural parts of the human condition, so why then do we not allow murder for example, which comes from anger (which is naturally part of us)? If homosexuality should be accepted because it is natural, then why not allow incest as well? You think anyone would consciously choose to be sexually attracted (sexual attraction being something we can't help) to their sibling? You can't treat sexuality like pick and mix. Either everything is ok, or nothing is.

  16. Deep Singh says:

    Despite what I have said, of course God does not discriminate between homosexual and heterosexual, but he does choose between those who are slaves to their lust, and those who stand firm against it. Gays can stand firm against their homosexuall lust, straight people can stand firm against their heterosexual lust.

    If I have offended any of my brothers and sisters, straight or gay, I beg forgiveness.

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

  17. Tajinder says:

    I have to agree with this. Recently I was at a gun show, and there was a gay gun vendor their with his partner. I will admit we felt more comfortable talking to them and buying from them then we did from other vendors as in our group there were Sardars, who obviously were looked at provided that we were in a gun show no surprise there. In fact just this past weekend a gay sales person helped me pick out couple of shirts, at a store and I really appreciated his help because I got more then I would from a straight male or female sales person as this guy seemed to have a better understanding of what looked good on me, from a male/female perspective. In fact my wife has gay friends whos house we have gone over for dinner and they have come over ours for dinner etc. They tend to be nice people probably nicer than most Punjabi people I meet on a day to day basis.

  18. bobby says:

    "I rather be backwards thinking any day if forward thinking is going to retard my thinking to look at un-natural acts as acceptable"

    +++++

    Add another word to that description – bigoted.

    Sikhs face bigotry and when Sikhs express bigotry and demonise human beings for their sexuality they became as bad as those who express bigotry to Sikhs. Stay in Punjab if you cannot tolerate difference and want to stay in a backward society and culture.

  19. Blighty Singh says:

    "Stay in Punjab if you cannot tolerate difference and want to stay in a backward society and culture"
    ^ You wanna get out more Bobby. This is not a question of being 'backward'…..especially if you think the Punjab is more backward than where you live. In Punjab transexuals and transgenders are tolerated and respected far more than where you live. In Punjab women with small babies get their jugs out and feed them in public because Punjab doesn't suffer from the type of victorian prudery like where you live. In Punjab men hold hands with other men in public……whereas they'd be ridiculed for doing so where you live. In Punjab lesbianism is rife and accepted in the girls colleges……..far more than where you live. I get the feeling you've gained all the knowledge you know about the Punjab from poverty appeals on the National Geographic channel. You know, there's some men that feel it is their natural god driven desire to fall in love with and get intimate with…little boys. If enough of them get powerfull jobs in the media will I also be forced to agree with their natural desire too…..lest I be called a bigot for not doing so ?

  20. Tejinder says:

    I don’t want to make this a blog argument, but rather keep it as a debate. I think Bobby the difference between Blight Singh and I vs. some of the other thinking on this blog is simply we are using our own brains to rationalize what information is fed to us via mass medias and popular culture and filtering it via our personal understanding of Gurubani, Sikh history and our life experiences. Not because some tear jerker pro-gay movie we saw, moved our emotions
    Not to speak for Blight Singh but I really believe that Blight Singh in the USA would have out right said Obama is an idiot and should not be voted for as he will drive America into the ground, based on our understanding of US history and the federalist thinking and papers while people like you Bobby would have called us “typical Punjabis who don’t like blacks”, because as anyone in the US knows you are racist if you don’t like Obama.