Reeta Loi CEO Gaysians, writer, mu­si­cian & DJ (aka LOIAL)

Gay Times Magazine - - CULTURE -

What was the jour­ney to find­ing your iden­tity like?

I al­ways knew I was at­tracted to girls but only started ex­plor­ing this at Univer­sity. I dated guys and I dated girls and worked it out. How­ever I des­per­ately did not want to be gay. I knew what the reper­cus­sions with my fam­ily would be, so it was a dif­fi­cult per­sonal jour­ney. I grew up with a lot of emo­tional black­mail and threats from my par­ents that my sis­ters would be mar­ried off and sent to In­dia if I didn’t tow the line – so I lived a dou­ble life while at Uni. I re­mem­ber the first time some­one asked me if I was a les­bian and I felt en­tirely dis­con­nected from that word, I couldn’t own it and in fact I prob­a­bly re­jected it. I guess I started to em­brace that part of my­self when I met a woman that I fell in love with and en­tered into a long term re­la­tion­ship. That’s when I de­cided it was time to come out to my par­ents. I knew I was a les­bian, I was happy and I’d found love with an amaz­ing woman. It took me ten years from first dat­ing women to get­ting to a point where I told my par­ents when I was 28. That may not have worked out, but I’m grate­ful for hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced the love of the re­la­tion­ship I was in.

How did your lo­cal com­mu­nity and fam­ily re­act dur­ing your com­ing out?

Well that’s a Bol­ly­wood sto­ry­line in it­self but in sum­mary; I was dis­owned by my fam­ily. Aside from some con­tact with my brother,

I’ve had lit­tle to no con­tact with my fam­ily for over 12 years. Like most South Asian fam­i­lies, there are lots of us and we spend all our time to­gether and at each oth­ers houses. It’s a huge loss when that is gone be­cause it’s not just your fam­ily and friends you lose, it’s also your lan­guage, cus­toms, fes­ti­vals, food, mu­sic, films, fash­ion and so much more that forms your iden­tity. I al­ways knew that was the likely out­come if I came out to them, they’re fairly con­ser­va­tive. Ev­ery­one in my fam­ily had an ar­ranged mar­riage and I was next. I man­aged to fight to go to Univer­sity, de­spite be­ing a girl and the first per­son in my fam­ily to go into fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion. As a Dalit (Un­touch­able caste) fam­ily, it was ex­tremely rare for some­one in my cir­cum­stances to have had that op­por­tu­nity, es­pe­cially at that time, and it’s some­thing I’ve never taken for granted. It’s also why I’m a firm be­liever in ed­u­ca­tion for girls.

What do you think could be done to help pro­mote the ac­cep­tance of LGBTQ peo­ple in the Asian com­mu­nity?

We need al­lies. We need more peo­ple to be talk­ing about the sub­ject of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity to South Asians. Whether it’s your friends or your fam­ily mem­bers, we should all be talk­ing about pos­i­tive leg­isla­tive change like the re­peal of Sec­tion 377 in In­dia in Septem­ber. This is a huge land­mark rul­ing that is an op­por­tu­nity to shift the per­spec­tive of South Asians that are ho­mo­pho­bic and don’t know why. If it goes un­chal­lenged, it can’t change.

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