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The Two Way

Ian McCurrach talks to Nirmal Sandhu about being Gay, British and Asian 

Ian McCurrach
In what specific ways is it difficult being a gay BME around the issues of sexuality in your experience? I’m thinking family, culture, friends and peers.

Nirmal Sandhu
Family: Being gay feels at odds with a sense of responsibility that I used to feel about carrying on my family’s name. I am the eldest child and had a sister who died 16 years ago and so I felt a real pressure to marry and to carry forward the family name. I am from a Sikh background and there is a great emphasis placed on the role of the traditional family and your role within a community and actively participating in the community rather than acting on individual preferences. The dominant feeling is that being gay is dissolute and runs counter to these values because it doesn’t take into account the benefit of the community as a whole. I remember being called out on my choice of living away from my parents, and taking ownership for the way I want to live my life at a religious blessing by my parents local priest.

Thanks to The Quest I am actually transferring these values to a community where there is a common sense of purpose in wanting to live a more open, authentic way of life.

Friends: I have been lucky in that the friends I have had have had little issue with my Indian background. I don’t really make it an issue and as I have become more open with my family about my sexuality and I have carved out a socially and economically independent way of life here I feel freer to cultivate friendships. I think that there are difficulties going to bars, which was my first port of call to try and form friendships that way, and that the bar/club scene may not be particularly welcoming as they are predominantly white, European.

Culture: Within the media there are mostly positive portrayals of being gay and white, and storylines still focus on negative issues that can come up for BME. I do think that BME also have a responsibility to step and make their voices and experiences heard both positive and negative.

The central values that underpin The Quest are about living an authentic life and to dealing with past shame. The Quest has helped me to be more accepting of myself and my identity as a gay British Asian and to engage with other gay men in a more open, honest and transparent way and without operating from a sense of fear and lack of self worth. My experience is just as valid and adds to the richness of gay life here in the UK.  I have also been actively involved in The Quest by hosting events as well as volunteering on workshops and sourcing speakers for events so I would encourage other BME guys to roll up their sleeves and take part. The journey and the men you will meet are exhilarating, emotional and mind and heart expanding.

The Quest will be running a series of workshops, in conjunction with Public Health England,  specifically for Black and Minority Ethnic gay and bisexual men in 2015. For more information click here.

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