Diva (UK) - - Welcome | Contents - PRIDE CHANGED ME, SAYS REETA LOI SHAW @ r_e_e_t_a_

“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 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, 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

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