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Same Sex Marriages & LGBT Issues ~ Part II of II

We all have our share of guns and avguns - merits & demerits - the latter mostly hidden from public view but not fro...

 

A SIKH PERSPECTIVE

....continued from Part I

gay_marriage (10K)Their posting dated October 23, 2012 states: 'Thanks for joining us for a lunch social in Reading, Berkshire --- Please refrain from posting anything offensive, inflammatory and irrelevant on this page. For those who weren't able to join in, one topic discussed was - "The role of LGBT Sikhs in Britain - now and in the future". Why don't you leave your opinion(s) here?'

LGBT Sikh

LGBT SIKH is a Yahoo Group, founded in June 2007 and has 43 members.

A sample of comments showed three Sikhs pleading that homosexuality is unnatural and forbidden in Sikhs.

Three Singh named persons were supportive with comments like: Two people of the same sex on a committed relationship should be allowed to get married in the religious term. Love is between 2 people or 2 beings.. and is not a majority rules deal.

Canadian LGBT group reacts

Balwant Singh Gill the spokesperson for 39 Sikh temples in BC was reported to have made a comment in Vancouver Sun's Dec 15, 2007 story, "Canada's Changing Moral Landsape," that <http://www.xtra.ca/public/Vancouver/Sikh_leaders_antigay_remarks_ignite_furore -4136.aspx>: "I hate homosexuality. Most Sikhs believe homosexuality is unnatural and you can't produce kids through it. And, secondarily, no major religion allows it."

These remarks unleashed a firestorm within the Canadian gay community who accused the Sikhs as a community to be homophobic. In the uproar following publication of his remarks, the South Asian media Channel M Punjabi News, Radio India and Bulland Awaaz program on Co-op Radio wrote editorials condemning his comment.

Caught in the eye of the storm Gill issued an apology on Dec 17. Trikone Vancouver's Fatima Jaffer however said that while the hurt felt by the gay community is understood, advocating across-the-board generalization and painting of another minority community or religion as homophobic by them is shortsighted and dangerous.

Blogspot - Queeristan

Why Sikhism Is Naturally Amenable to Gay Marriage (Sikhism and Homosexuality, Part I) <http://queeristan.blogspot.in/2008/12/why-sikhism-is-naturally-amenable-to_09.html> posted 12.09.2008 on Queeristan Blogspot makes the case that while Sikhism is explicit that all sentient beings are equal --- will not bar a specific group (LGBT's) from certain rights --- a gay Sikh can either pretend to be straight and get married, or come out and get married to someone of the same sex --- Denying LGBT's the right to marry, adopt, and participate in the community doesn't seem to fit quite right.

It received 15 comments. Some interesting extracts were as follows:

  • The west has used religious practice as a method of and justification to colonial rule and now queers want to use 'othered' religious practices as a method of and justification to queerness. It feels slightly imperial, especially since these seem to be western-based attempts to justify western queer identities.
  • .. perhaps an interesting place to explore is Sikh Masculinity and how homosexuality might threaten it...
  • --- this blog --- is disturbing and has a malicious undertone --- I myself am a Queer Sikh and after vast amounts of research and consultation with different members in the community. I have realized that this battle of marriage rights is one of which takes away from the larger and forever on-going battle of the existence and authenticity of Sikhi in its entirety.
  • ... i cant picture a gay singh -- because singhs are supposed to be the fighters...strong manly..with shastras.. but i dont think sikhi principles are against the gays!
  • im straight, im sikh, im male, and im for LBGT rights.
  • I am a 35yr old Sikh man who is Proud to be GAY. --- If u were living in India or Punjab, going out on a date with a girl was a no go, so what did the guys do for pleasure, used each other --- I came out 2 my family 16yrs ago. They married me off. I have lived a lie since then. I told my wife -- She chose to stay married for names sake (isat.) -- I was born GAY, my earliest memory of fancying a dude was when i started primary school, 7yrs old.
  • I am Sikh, gay and proud. --From what I know about Sikhism, Guru Gobinda believed that one must stand of his or her rights. I am sure he will proud if a gay person fought for his rights, even if he died for it. That would be a real Sikh according to me.
  • --- I am tired of being who I am, tired of living this stupid life, trying 2 fit in.
  • Sorry, sikhism is not amenable to homosexuality --- most religions tolerate homosexuality, but few are "amenable" to it, sorry
  • I'm gonna insult your very core because you seem to attempt to insult the very core of the Panth and Punjab.
  • I have been in the armed forces. I have fought for my country. I also had NO CHOICE about being gay.

With the reality of gays being a minority among the dispersed Sikh Diaspora, one poster <http://gayblackcanada.com/2009/11/04/interesting-gay-sikh-website/> asked on Interesting Gay Sikh Website: 'Anyone know where I might be able to meet a gay sikh man. Even a sikh gay dating website in Australia.' A similar request to 'shed some light on how to ask a gay guy out, there are many gay Sikhs around, our life is a hell!' was responded to by several Kaurs. <http://www.sikhnet.com/news/finding-love-lgbt-sikh>.

The gist of their response sums up possibly the truth about the status of LGBT among Sikhs: 'If you're gay and Punjabi --- How will you even find out where the other available men are? Amidst the Humvees and testosterone filled bhangra competitions? --- If you haven't come out, things are going to be even harder for you --- But if your friends know you're gay and it's not a secret, people will eventually trickle your way --- it's possible that you'll get rejected a lot- even though you're 100% sure the dude you just asked out likes dudes --- if Waheguru made you, then your counterpart exists too. If it's a gay Sikh you want, he's out there'.

An article Gay Sikh <http://www.wahegurunet.com/gay-sikh> makes the arguments that:

  • Homosexuality not being mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib suggests that Gurus considered it to be inconsequential.
  • Homosexual behavior is common within nature and among animals.
  • Individual soul is genderless and supreme soul is also genderless.
  • Lavaan are non-gender specific, and so same-sex marriage is possible within Sikhism.
  • Sikh philosophy is a liberal and all encompassing. Punjabi and Indian culture is extremely conservative and homophobic.
  • Gristhi Jeevan applies equally to same-sex relationships by adopting children.

Experiences of a Gay Sikh

A blogger Gaysikhin has written a series of Blogs on his experiences as a gay Sikh. He lives in the UK and some of his comments relate to his experiences when visiting family in India. Extracts from his blogs are given below:

What's the word for gay? 03 Aug 2010

One clear memory that I have is of a discussion between two of my many cousins, one who had always lived in India and the other who had always lived in the U.K. My British cousin asked the Indian one what the word for gay was in Punjabi. He either did not understand what she meant or feigned stupidity. Homosexuality is a taboo topic for Sikhs. As a gay sikh I feel that is time that me and others like me made our voices heard.

My experiences as a gay teenager at school 04 Aug 2010 [2 Comments]

I was thirteen. I had just about to start at a new school. I was nervous but I knew some the pupils there and had a very kind mentor in his last year of school. Then the unthinkable happened, my mentor came out as gay.

When did you first realize that you were gay? 06 Aug 2010 [3 Comments]

I was going to turn 19 in 2 days time. I finally came to terms with the fact that I am gay. At the age of 13 I had my first real crush and I loved a guy. He was a handsome musician friend of mine. I found my feelings incompatible with both my faith and culture. I prayed for God to take away what I saw as a curse.

What was my first experience coming out? 18 Aug 2010 [2 Comments]

A few months after I came to terms with my sexuality I felt that I couldn't live a lie with one of my good friends any longer. I told her that I was gay. I was so scared. Her reaction was to say 'if you think that this means that you're not still my friend, then you're wrong.'

My experience coming out to my brother 20 Aug 2010 [6 Comments]

After going to an LGBT youth group once I decided that I would not come out to my family until I had financial independence --- Finally, I just told him: 'Things are different for you because you're not gay.' He later told me that he knew a great many gay people and I didn't have to tell our parents until I was ready.

'That's so gay!!' 24 Aug 2010

I did not want to be gay. I just wanted to be a normal kid. What I came to realize is that when you are the only Indian, let alone Sikh, at school you are always going to be different --- Gay people identified themselves as gay saying that 'I'm gay' means 'I'm as Good As You.'

Gay adoption and Sikhism 29 Aug 2010

Contradiction within Sikh community is that most accept the gay community but would not accept LGBT Sikhs nor would they accept the notion of a gay couple raising a child.

Gay Sikhs and straight marriage 04 Sep 2010

The Forced Marriage Unit in the UK which is a part of the Foreign Office reported a sharp rise in the number of gay men being forced to marry to cover up the family's feelings of shame. Let me make it clear that forced marriage is illegal. As a religious Sikh I feel that it is wrong to lie to oneself about one's sexuality but more dangerous still is the possibility of hurting the innocent husband or wife.

Sikh Feminist Research Institute

The Sikh Feminist Research Institute [SAFAR] was set up in Canada in 2011. They root for 'A world where the Sikh Gurus' principles of egalitarianism and empowerment are realized for all, regardless of ability, caste, class, ethnicity, gender, race, sex, and sexual orientation, by bringing expansive revival, attention, voice and praxis to the feminist values and egalitarian politics inherent within Sikhi'.

SAFAR has hosted two conferences in the last two years. The Sikh Feminist Review, due to its interdisciplinary commitment, contributes open access peer-reviewed articles that address issues that consider the intersections of Sikhi and: gender, race, embodiment, nationhood, class, caste, culture, ability, ecology, health, law, politics, patriarchy, theologies, social relations, psychology, sexuality, spiritual formations, social and political movements, and other concerns central to feminist practices and analytics.

The Institute is in the process of refining their approaches to set the boundaries of searches to serve their objectives. Since they are the only Sikh organization whose canvass includes the study of intersection of gender and sexuality with Sikhism, it would be interesting to watch how this translates into action and if it helps shed more light on these relatively unexplored areas in Sikh studies. It may be mentioned here that while some work has been done on the status of women among Sikhs, the subject of sexuality has been outside the domain of such writings.

Sher Vancouver

Founded in 2012 to offer support service to Sikh gays and their friends and families, it wants Sikh community to be more accepting and tolerant. Sher Vancouver along with Trikone, the South-Asian Gay group and Namaste, a Hindu Gay group was the first Sikh-specific gay group to march at Vancouver's Pri Parade on June 14, 2012. Lukewarm interest from the South-Asian community has meant that the group ran about $300 short of the $1,800 needed for their float.

SIKH WRITINGS SUPPORTING GAY RELATIONS

Some sense of lay Sikh response to Gay issues would be evident from the sampling of posted comments in the preceding narrative. In addition, there have been a number of writings in support of gays by Gay Sikhs and those Sikhs who support their causes. The writers generally display a good grasp of Sikhi, even if their interpretations seem colored to serve their cause. They are vocal about their protestations about fidelity to Sikhi and seem to be well motivated advocates of their views. We give below a few examples:

We Are One: LGBT Rights and Guru Nanak's Legacy of Inclusion - SONNY SINGH55http://www.sikhnet.com/news/we-are-one-lgbt-rights-and-guru-nanaks-legacy-inclusion [an op-ed published in Huffington Post on Nov. 10, 2011]

Guru Nanak saw --- a society brimming with hypocrisy, intolerance, caste oppression and sexism, all in the name of God --- We Sikhs pride ourselves on being champions of equality and justice, inspired by the legacy of Guru Nanak --- I was quite disappointed when the World Sikh Council --- lobbied President Obama to uphold the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA), a federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and woman. After the Obama Administration took a principled stance against DOMA in February, the World Sikh Council went so far as to co-sign a letter of protest to House Speaker John Boehner denouncing his decision --- it is nevertheless disheartening to see a Sikh institution -- representing the legacy of Guru Nanak -- aligning itself with such reactionary and anti-gay ideology, when Sikhism itself is a freedom-seeking, loving, open-minded philosophy and way of life --- I find myself frustrated by the discriminatory actions of some who claim to speak for my community --- as if to imply that all Sikhs are heterosexual or that we're only concerned about some people's oppression and suffering, but not all --- we have sometimes forced LGBT Sikhs to choose between their religion and their hearts- -- Sarbat da Bhala means working for the welfare and well-being of all people. This is a spiritual obligation for us Sikhs --- Just as Guru Nanak said hundreds of years ago, "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim," perhaps today we can also say, "There is no straight, there is no gay." Indeed, his message was ultimately that we are all One. The post was received favorably - some comments being:

We know wise words when we see them! [Kanwaljit Singh · Waterloo]

What drew me to Sikhism is the inclusion, the rejection of caste, the recognition of the one light in all --- It makes me very sad to read that the World Sikh Council has sided with rejection, exclusionism, and hatefulness. They do not speak for me. They do not speak for many Sikhs that I know either. As Sikhs we spend much of our time educating others about Sikhs in order to combat hatred and misunderstanding. How can we be a part of that which we fight against? [Parvati Kaur Covarrubias · Oklahoma State University · 6 · Like]

bravo! wahe guru! [Sirgun Kaur Khalsa · Phoenix, Arizona]

Why LGBT Sikhs should come out - Sukhdeep Singh56 Posted 7/5/ 2012 <http://www.gaylaxymag.com/blogs/why-lgbt-sikhs-should-come-out >

Makes a persuasive one argument case and has received a number of comments by Sikhs and Hindus. See the extracts below:

Sikhism as a religion is very tolerant and advocates equality. However, Punjabi culture is often not so tolerant --- To be precise, Sikh religion and Punjabi culture are not always the same --- Now, when a LGBT Sikh fears coming out, fears the society and hides his identity, he is going against the very things that the Gurus taught. Guru Gobind Singh Ji never wanted his followers to hide their identity, yet, when you live in the closet, that is the exact thing that you do- hide your true identity --- If anything, Sikh religion is not against alternate sexuality, neither does it preach a person to live in fear or hide his identity. It is when you, as a Sikh, are living in closet, living in fear that you are going against the religion, against the preaching of the Gurus. [Responses: supporting - 5Hindu, 3Sikh; opposing - 1Hindu, 2Sikh]

SIKH WRITINGS OPPOSING SAME SEX RELATIONS

Understandably Sikhs have been engaged in the ongoing debate in societies where legislative measures to sanction same sex relations have been on the anvil. Most Sikh organizations and Sikh writers have spoken against performing of same sex weddings in Gurdwaras. Those of the Sikhs who are engaged in electoral politics have been divided between the compulsions of ground realities and the Akal Takht directive. Here is a sampling:

Sikh View About Homosexuality & Same Sex Marriages - Gurmukh Singh57

In a comprehensive though brief review [Sikh Chic, 2012] he makes the points that 'It is not surprising that UK Prime Minister David Cameron's adviser on family issues, Reg Bailey is reported to have said that "the proposed reforms would risk polygamy and marriage between siblings." This is a wake-up call to the human society.' He also emphasizes that:

  • It is the religious and traditional Sikh view that only the heterosexual family-unit can provide all the basic needs of growing up children.
  • Sikh teachings caution men and women against over indulgence in sex oriented thought and activity (kaam).
  • --- it would be against the spirit of Sikh religion to discriminate against anyone for having homosexual bias, by barring him or her from the Gurdwara --- congregation or-- (langar).

Concerns over the Sanctity of Marriage in a Gurdwara - Lord Singh58

Extracts are below:
Marriages with people of other religions
It would clearly be against Sikh teachings to shun them. It would be equally wrong for the lavan ceremony to be debased by pretence. A short-term solution, put forward for possible consideration by gurdwara committees, is for the couple to have a civil marriage followed by a reception with friends and relatives at a suitable venue, which could be preceded with a short blessing for the future health and happiness of the couple.

Same sex Relationship
--- the use of the word 'marriage 'in same sex relationships is clearly inappropriate as would be any celebration of such a relationship in a gurdwara. Gurdwara management could in the spirit of 'sarbat ka bhalla' however, consider giving those who enter into such a partnership some sort of blessing for their health and wellbeing at a reception following a civil ceremony.

Other writings

Another thoughtful short exposition is presented in Homosexual Unions by Charnjit Singh Bal on sikhsundesh.net. I am aware of an article by I J Singh relating to the subject but have not been able to locate it even using the link provided in Gurmukh Singh's article. I believe with his sensitivity to Sikh issues and proximity to the youth, IJ would certainly have made some cogent observations on the issues that we are grappling with.

SUMMING UP THUS FAR

Overall The main points emerging from the above narration are that in the overall:

  • Over the last several decades the West has seen movements for gender equality that have led to major reforms for women's rights and other minority groups that had been the subject of discrimination in the past. This has triggered demands from the LGBT community for de-criminalization of homosexuality and equal rights for the same sex unions. This movement has gained momentum in the last couple of decades.
  • The percentage of homosexuals/LGBT in the Western societies could be around 4 % based on American experience. This gives them strong political muscle in countries where politics has become highly competitive and even small voting blocs have come to acquire disproportionate clout.
  • The availability of instant communication and the social media has helped in enabling such groups to reach out and leverage their influence through creating coalitions with other groups dedicated to alleviation of discrimination and defense of civil rights.
  • Consequently several countries have in recent years passed legislations to recognize the same sex unions as partnerships, eligible for benefits close to married couples, and some have recognized these relationships as marriages.
  • Indian tradition recognizes existence of the third sex and India now has a growing gay community. There is, however, not enough direct evidence relating to the practice of committed long lasting gay relationships.
  • Most religious groups have always preached marriage to be a relation between a man and a woman to create and nurture a family as intended by the divine. This position is now changing and some churches have started to allow marriage of same sex couples. Other religious groups, including Sikhs in the Diaspora are beginning to feel the need to explore this question in view of the trend or specific experiences.

The Sikh Situation

  • No study has been done on prevalence of homosexuality among Sikhs in Punjab or in the military nor is there any information about the hijra and trans-sexual Sikhs: what happens to them - do they stay with families or end up with hijra communities and are thus seen as non Sikhs?
  • It is likely that most of the homosexuals among Sikhs are in fact those who have had homosexual liaisons before getting married. Some may continue with such liaisons in their married life too as bi-sexuals. It is not known if there are any serious issues with such bi-sexual individuals or their marriages.
  • Sikhs can be expected to have their share of gays. Even though their numbers seem to be very small, their presence is becoming more open in the West among the youth.
  • Gay Sikh activists seem well informed on their faith and represent their positions as possible of acceptance through interpretations of gurbani that differ from traditionally accepted versions to those supportive of their views. They have maintained that they are Sikhs first, like the heterosexual Sikhs.
  • Comments on the web indicate that the gay Sikhs who have come out in the open are more likely homosexuals and not those who may belong to third sex variants.
  • A couple of gay Sikhs in the West have tried the web to locate gay Sikh partners for dating. There was no response.
  • Web search turned up only one male same sex union between a white and a desi Sikh <http://princeofpunjab.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/same-sex-anand-karaj-sikh-marriage.html?m=1>. The search so far has also turned up only one instance of Sikh female same sex union. Their union is reported to have split in days.59
  • In spite of the internet buzz, same sex marriage option does not seem to have any real momentum at this point among Sikh gays. Its ability however to cause media ripples should not be under estimated.
  • Akal Takht has declared same sex unions as against Sikh ethos, Sikh code and nature and has ruled out its recognition as marriage. Sikh organizations in the UK, Canada and the US have lobbied against the legislation to permit such unions.
  • WHAT CAN WE DO GOING FORWARD

    Sikhs in India that I have talked to express surprise that same sex marriage could be an issue that needs attending to among Sikhs. In the Diaspora the situation is different. Firstly the gay rights movement in those societies is pursuing their causes very aggressively and the public opinion as well as political support is turning in their favor. With many legislative measures on the anvil, Sikhs need to articulate their position as a faith group in interfaith discussions, civil rights meetings and the like. In addition the community has to manage the effects of the increasing activism by gay rights supporters on the youth and take care of issues that may get raised by gay Sikhs and their Sikh supporters.

    One of the visible impacts of the gay activism is the evidence of increasing numbers of Sikhs coming out into the open about their sexual orientation. In time it can give rise to requests for the same sex unions with one Sikh partner being performed in the Gurdwaras. In fact it has been known for some time that such requests have been received by some Gurdwaras.

    Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar Akal Takht issued a directive under the seal of Akal Takht urging the Sikh sangat not to allow the holding of same-sex marriage ceremonies in any gurdwara of the world. He said Sikh code of conduct did not allow such marriages. The directive described the move of Government of Canada to introduce same-sex marriage bill as 'anti-Gurmat' trend that had no place in Sikhism. SGPC general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur had earlier urged the Sikh MPs in Canada to take stand as per the Sikh maryada.60

    The direction by Jathedar Akal Takht came in connection with legislation being considered in Canada. The news report <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2005/03/28/sikhguy-050328.html> dated 29 March, 2008, said that Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti had admonished Sikh-Canadian MPs to block the gay marriage bill in the Parliament.

    Our preceding broad based discussion is leading into conclusions that are in conformity with the directions issued by the Akal Takht. We however do see that measures allowing same sex marriages exist in several countries and presently the British are on track to pass a similar law that specifically leaves room for the religious groups to carve out their own positions in line with their beliefs and practices. Such legislative measures may also come up in some of other societies. It is felt that measures intended for amelioration of the situation that the gays have been placed in for centuries and are not in conflict with Sikh religious ethos could be supported on merits by the resident Sikh representatives. Let us now turn our attention to trying to find answers to a variety of likely questions that we may be faced with if same sex marriage issues come up in our communities and Gurdwaras.

    We should clearly understand that our deliberation is only about those persons who are men or women as normally understood, notwithstanding any curable or incurable sex malfunction or orientation that they may suffer from. We should also remember that Sikhi is the faith of girhasti - the householder devotees - man and wife, joined in grihast relationship through marriage. Consummation of their union is the means of continuity from parents to children who get into their own relationship of marriage when they grow up and in turn become parents.

    A married Sikh couple may not be able to beget a child for reasons associated with husband or wife. In earlier times usually the men took another wife. There now are various remedies that advances in science have made possible. The wife can be artificially impregnated with the semen from her husband or if wife is not able to conceive, it is possible to get a surrogate woman play the mother using the egg from the wife impregnated artificially by the semen from the husband. In practice these choices should not pose a problem because taking help of medication, prayer, seeking blessing et al. is not prohibited in Sikhi. In case these measures do not succeed or cannot be implemented, the married couple can adopt a child. Adoption can also be an option if either of the spouses dies leaving the other spouse childless.

    Continuity can come even if the marriage paradigm is not followed. Consummation of casual sexual relations between unmarried men and women can lead to conception and cause a child to be born. On the other hand the couples can belong to the same sex, making any continuity by way of their biological union impossible even with medical assistance or prayer et al. If they desire to create a feel of continuity, their options are only for one of them to use a third person as a donor for a female couple or surrogate plus donor for a male couple, creating a web of secret or open but complex relationships. Thus the possibilities can be many but they do not fit into the Sikh way of life because a marriage is clearly between a man and a woman. Adoption is a legal process and its religious significance is limited. It is always a possibility for any person, individually or as a couple or even a group.

    SGGS and other Sikh scriptural literature does mention nipounsak, hijra and khusra - some of whom may be born as neither male nor female. Even though I have not come across a Sikh hijra in my entire life, I am hard put to believe that no children with such characteristics have ever been born to Sikh parents. If such cases now come to light my suggestion would be that we take those born in the third sex category as part of divine dispensation and help them to live their lives in Sikhi.

    Here is then a catchall list of some likely what if questions that come to mind with suggested answers. Let me add that the suggestions made flow from preceding discussions and any constructive comments would be welcome:

    • Should we join this debate? - We should. At the same time, we do not have to overly worry about the legislative measures being pushed in the Western societies as long as religious groups are left free to take their own decisions for their faith group.
    • What do we do if a request is received for same sex wedding to be performed from a Sikh couple in a Gurdwara? How about if one of the couple is non Sikh? Refusal in both cases would be a perfectly valid response.
    • If the request is for reception for the same sex couple within the Gurdwara premises to celebrate their civil union [if facilities for such celebrations are offered], refusal again would be in order.
    • If the request is for akhand paathh or langar or ardas to seek blessing of the Guru for their same sex union, what do we do? Yes, except that ardas by sangat seeking Guru's blessing is offered only in cases where the object is not in conflict with Sikhi. In this case ardas to bless their sexual union will not be in order. Do we ask for summat for them? Yes, to guide them to understand hukam and deal with their notions of not conforming in words that inspire introspection and not cause hurt.
    • If a known homosexual person requests for conversion to become a Sikh - accept and persuade to live per reht.
    • Do we socialize with them? - Yes, if we like. Gurdwaras must not treat them different than any others who are not living per the reht.
    • Do we lobby for them? Yes for civil rights, justice and civic non discrimination.
    • Do we give them time to speak in the Gurdwara? On gurbani, yes; defending their life style or promoting it, no.
    • How about seva, kirtan, paathh - see no issue except that their choice as a panj pyara could be problematic.
    • Leadership roles in Gurdwaras and Sikh institutions - no harm, if sangat thinks they are fit for the task.
    • Participation in interfaith work, conferences on Sikh issues, joining in Jathas - yes, as ordinary Sikhs, not as gay Sikh or any other group not representative of mainstream, unless the meet is about looking at internal diversity etc and disclosure of such identity is required.
    • Should we try to reform them? - no, it is a matter best dealt between them and their families and friends; sangat or Gurdwaras should come in if asked and that too in an empathetic and helpful manner.
    • Is unnatural sex a sin in Sikhi? - it is not mentioned. In any case, in Sikhi the stress is more on recognizing failure to live per hukam and reht on one's own and to try and mend choices going forward. We should acknowledge our weaknesses and seek/accept guidance to improve, where possible.
    • Should we help gays to connect with other gay Sikhs? - that may be better than their being shunned or shut off.

    CONCLUDING

    This subject is a difficult call. We can take an inflexible position that same sex unions are not in keeping with Sikh ethos and not expect any serious protests. There is no evidence that this subject had ever come up as an issue in the entire Sikh history. It has now - otherwise Akal Takht Jathedar would not have intervened.

    Since then there has been no organized attempt to discuss, debate, critique or oppose the Akal Takht directive, nor has the issue come up as yet in a Gurdwara in India or Abroad. Yet many voices from the Diaspora like Sonny Singh, Gurmukh Singh, Lord Singh, Rajwant Singh, I J Singh and yours truly have spoken. They could be over-reacting or they could have their ears to the ground or may be the issue is not quite clearly understood and settled.

    Sikhs in India are quiet though things seem to have happened in Amritsar and Mumbai. Part of the reason for the seeming apathy could be the very nature of this subject - it is distasteful.

    It is however difficult to accept that Sikhs have been free of this deviant behavior or births of such persons in their history. Granted, we do not see them -that does not mean they did not or do not exist. Our search shows they are there but we cannot create a complete profile of their population demographics, spread and attitudes based on this sketchy work.

    Perhaps we should do well to try and think ahead a bit. The bullet list presented above, as is as or as modified, could be a useful guide. We may also keep in mind that the Guru has said that 'within this body are two siblings, vice and virtue. Joining the two together, the universe was produced. Subduing both, and entering into the home of the One, through the Guru's teachings, we are absorbed in intuitive peace.61 We all have our share of guns and avguns - merits & demerits - the latter mostly hidden from public view but not from us only if we are willing to look within.

    We have to handle this developing situation in a manner that encourages us and our fellow Sikhs to renounce avgun and seek gun knowing that committing avguns would only lead us to regret and repentance. Unless we know the difference between good and evil we will keep on sinking into dirt, again and again.62 That again is Guru-speak. I am only paraphrasing it.

    Let us therefore ponder together and collectively chart the course going forward. What has been suggested is one view and can be improved. That however will happen only if we get involved and talk about it in an empathetic manner, restraining our judgmental instincts. That said, it is now up to you all.

    ooooo0ooooo

    Nirmal Singh
    [email protected]
    New Cumberland, PA
    Camp, New Delhi
    11 March, 2013
    Edited: 8 April, 2013

    The author is a former Business Executive; was Principal, COO, CF&AO of a healthcare services provider in Connecticut. Earlier Management Educator and Consultant; Professor, Chair Operations Management & Dean [Consultancy], Administrative Staff College of India and consultant to the UN and several multilateral organizations & Fortune 500 companies.

    Been Head of Planning & Evaluation, Department of Defense Production; Led Technology Mission [First Secretary] High Commission for India in the UK; General Manager, Praga Tools Corporation; Colonel, Indian Army, Corps of Electrical & Mechanical Engineers; Faculty Military College of Electronics & Mechanical Engineering.

    A past President of Connecticut Sikh Association, he has been working for several years on sharing information about Sikh faith, culture and values with the American Community. He is associated with several educational, inter-faith and multicultural activities & initiatives to promote wider understanding about Sikhs and Sikhism and serves on the Advisory Board, Educators Society for Heritage of India, Adjunct Professor on Sikhism at Hindu University of America, Associate Sikh Chaplain at Lebanon Valley College, PA and reader and reviewer on Sikhism for Blackwell's Review in Religion & Theology.

    Recipient of Indus Award - 2004 awarded to "luminaries in the New England's South Asian community who shine at what they do," the citation saying "through activism and writing, he is helping, in his way, to tip the scale of religious tolerance toward healing, inclusion and understanding." He has been profiled among Community Profiles at Sikh Foundation. He was also invited by the PA Senate to offer the Sikh opening prayer, the first time by anyone not of Christian or Jewish faiths in their 200 year history.

    Several of his articles have been published in the Sikh Review, Sikh Studies and Comparative Religion, Abstract of Sikh Studies, on a variety of web sites and mainstream media. He has four published books about Sikhi and Sikhs.

    ---------------------------------

    References:


    55 Sonny Singh is a musician and writer based in Brooklyn, NYC. His blogs appear frequently on Huffington Post and The Langar Hall.
    56 Sukhdeep Singh is from Queens and lives in Manhattan, NYC. His posts mostly on gay issues appear on the Gaylaxy Magazine.
    57 Gurmukh Singh is closely associated with British Sikh Consultative Forum and is the Convenor of The Sikh Missionay Society UK Advisory Panel. He writes frequently on issues affecting Sikhs.
    58 Indarjit, Lord Singh of Wimbledon, is a British journalist and broadcaster, editor of the Sikh Messenger and a frequent presenter of the "Thought for the Day" on BBC Radio 4's Today program.
    59 While reading the comments on News Report 'Senior Jew and Sikh fight gay marriage' dated 20 March, 2013, I flipped over to the Facebook page of a commentator, Ranveer Singh from Mumbai and found that he had posted having got married to one Sabb Singh on March 29, 2013. An undated entry on page of Sabb Singh confirmed the relationship to be per the choice of Sabb Singh.
    60 Extracted from report filed by Varinder Walia, Tribune News Service, January 16, 2005
    61 - kaaeiaa a(n)dhar paap pu(n)n dhue bhaaee dhuhee mil kai srisatt oupaaee dhovai maar jaae eikath ghar aavai guramath sehaj samaavaniaa - Majh M III, p. 126
    62 - avagun shhodd gunaa ko dhhaavahu kar avagun pashhuthaahee jeeo sar apasar kee saar n jaanehi fir fir keech buddaahee jeeo - Sorath M I, p. 598

     

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