As thousands of people march down Davie Street this weekend in support of Vancouver’s gay community, some participants will be doing so knowing that if their families find out, they may be disowned.
Alex Sangha, organizer of the Pride of Bollywood float, said despite recent strides toward tolerance, there is still stigma among minority communities where old-world values clash with modern ideals.
“A lot of (Pride participants) were outed (last year) and it caused problems,” he said.
Despite the fear, Sangha said participants feel it’s important to represent the community.
“We want to send a positive message that there are gay and lesbian people who are South Asian.”
Sangha said he felt isolated while growing up and had no one in the community to whom he could turn. “I experienced a lot of suicidal thoughts,” he said.
“There was a lot of expectation in my family for me to … get married, have children. I thought there was something wrong with me. I even went to a psychiatrist to become heterosexual.”
Mandy, who didn’t want her last name used, had similar struggles coming out. The decision cost her her family.
“We don’t talk,” she said. “It was a very hard decision. In the end I just couldn’t (live any other way.”
Mandy said status is important in South Asian culture and children — even those with progressive parents — are often expected to follow tradition. She said the pain she suffered at losing her family was balanced in part by the support she’s received from her partner — who she’s marrying this fall — and her friends.
“I do have a full life. My life is rich. It’s exciting. It’s great.”