A Brief History Of The Pride Turban And The Importance Of Visibility...

It is not often that you come across openly queer Sikhs in the media. Growing up as a gay Sikh man, the lack of visibility of queer Sikhs cast doubts in my mind about the various identities that I held – of being gay and Sikh. Was it possible to be both? Would I be accepted in the queer community with my Sikh identity, or would I have to give up on one for the other? As I was trying to understand and accept my sexuality, these questions kept disturbing me. Everywhere I saw, I could only find clean shaved men. Being gay seemed to mean being a non-turbaned, well-shaved man, and this caused a lot of insecurity within me. With a growing beard and moustache, I doubted anyone would ever want to date me, leading to a lot of self-image issues that took some time to go.

When I came out in college, my friends suggested that people may not find me attractive because of my beard and moustache. When I met a senior from my college, much older than me, who I learnt was gay (married), over coffee, he too said that I should cut down my hair, as otherwise I will not be accepted well.

The first few experiences of dating weren’t pleasant at all, adding to my woes. I am a post-internet gay, and like many my age, exploring my sexuality began with creating a fake ID on the internet (Orkut in my case). The first person I met, stopped chatting with me after our meet. He was from my hometown in Barrackpore (Kolkata) and we had been chatting for some time. We met casually, but I never heard back from him after that. I thought it must have been because of my Sikh identity.

Also read: What Does Sikhism Say About Homosexuality?

Then in 2009, I was on an internship in Chandigarh. I was very happy, thinking that I will find more acceptance in the city, since it was the capital of Punjab and had a large Sikh population. Sadly, that was not to be the case. In fact, I found gay people there would only want to date non-Sardars. The moment I revealed that I was a Sardar, the chats would stop. I had been chatting with a guy there for a long time via Orkut, and we decided to meet. I had not revealed to him over chats or calls that I was a Sardar boy. 2009 was the pre-Grindr, pre-smartphone era, and hardly anyone would share their pictures (privacy settings weren’t incorporated in Orkut). When I reached the designated spot to meet, I called him and told him the colour of my pathka that I was wearing. His phone was soon switched off. I waited there for almost an hour, but no one turned up.

Being gay seemed to mean being a non-turbaned, well shaved man, and this caused a lot of insecurity within me.

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