REETA LOI SHAW
“Why I’ll be marching as an out, proud Gaysian”
The word “pride” is challenging for a lot of people, including us Asians. Often, we don’t feel that our family are proud of us when we’ve taken a different path in life to the one they had in store for us. As young women we’re taught that we must maintain our family’s honour and on coming out to them, what we may feel instead is shame.
I remember watching the treatment of the women in my family as a child and seeing such little pride in them. I wanted something different to an arranged marriage and an abusive partner. So I honoured myself and escaped. I may never hear the words “I’m proud of you” from my parents. But, instead, pride is something I’ve learned I can give to myself. Feeling proud of myself has felt like the hardest challenge of all, but has been one of the most important.
I had never related much to the idea of attending a Pride march. In my 20s I’d usually end up hammered in a corner of a bar somewhere before we even got there. I battled with accepting my own sexuality for many years, even after marrying a woman. But last year I went to Pride In London and I soaked up the atmosphere of celebration for being who you are. Seeing so many people celebrating their queerness filled in a little piece of me that had been sitting empty. It changed me. Just being there shifted some of the shame still hiding in me and transformed it into pride. I felt proud of myself, of my journey and proud to be sharing my life with such a wonderful community.
Later that day, I high-fived the renegade group of five or six Bangladeshis that had jumped the barriers to join the very end of the march. It made me wonder why there weren’t more Asians there, in the crowd or marching. At Trafalgar Square, I saw a mixed Asian and white male couple holding hands crossing the road and I felt compelled to run over and hug them and say “Well done!”. Most of all, I wanted other people to share this feeling of acceptance and love. I wondered why I hadn’t managed it sooner.
This year, I co-founded gaysians.org to help connect people with the increasing number of Asian LGBT+ support groups in the UK and to provide the sense of community, culture and family that we often lose when we come out.
On 8 July, the largest collective of LGBT+ Asians will be marching at Pride In London. Leaders and members of Asian LGBT+ support groups and charities from all over the UK will be marching together under the banner “Gaysians”. I feel immensely proud to be working with so many wonderful people to make this happen within our community and our support networks.
There is more information on gaysians.org, not just about Pride but also about the organisations, resources and meet-ups you can access in the UK if you’re an Asian LGBT+ person, their family or their partner. We’ll be pushing for repeal of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that still criminalises homosexuality, as a symbol of solidarity with LGBT+ people in India.
Right now, we have an opportunity to unite and embrace our LGBT+ family. I feel visible. And proud. Of my sexuality, gender, ethnicity and culture. At the Pride parade I know I’ll be joined by similar LGBT+ Asians and am confident that our message will be spread to those who need to hear it. Please join us, and celebrate with Pride.
My parents may never be proud of me but I honoured myself and escaped