We’re Here. We’re Queer. We’re on Pioneer.

Queer Blog1.jpg This past Saturday afternoon, proud desis rallied up and down Pioneer Boulevard in Artesia, also known as Southern California’s Little India. Oct 11th marked National Coming Out Day and this was the second annual rally jointly hosted by Satrang and South Asian Network. But unlike last year’s rally, this year it was charged with election energy and urgency. On November 4th people will be voting on Proposition 8, a ballot measure that would take away the right to get married for single sex couples.

Shoppers and shop owners looked on queerly, as the procession flamboyantly marched up and down the crowded sidewalk. Most walked by ignoring, some stopped and asked questions, and there were a couple of ‘toba, toba’ aunties spotted walking by. Around fifty people were in the rally and everyone was chanting “Hum suth ek hay [We are all one],” “No on Prop 8,” and my personal favorite, “We are here. We’re queer. We’re out on Pioneer.”

“We are here to raise awareness and visibility about the South Asian queer community here in Little India,” said Sanjay Chhugani, former president of SATRANG. “We’ve been received very positively. This is the second time we are out here. We were out here last year on National Coming Out Day…I don’t think there was anything negative about it.”

Queer Blog 4.jpg On a bustling street corner, the rally stopped marching to address the curious bystanders.

“Folks we are here today to come together to reach out for your support because right now our rights are being violated,” said Hamid Khan, Executive Director of South Asian Network. “We are being stripped of our humanity. We are being stripped of our dignity. Why? Because we are queer. Why? Because we want to celebrate our life the way we want to…

“Proposition 8 will ban marriage from people who love each other. Proposition 8 would ban marriage from people who want to spend their lives together….we are asking for you to tell your neighbors, to tell your colleagues, to tell your friends to not be hateful. Do not deny people the lives the way they want to spend their lives.”

Though Proposition 8 is clearly not just about the South Asian community, this rally served to give a voice to South Asians in the community who are going to be deeply affected should the proposition get passed.

[More words and pictures after the jump]Rashmi Choksey, current president of Satrang, shares her own story.Queer Blog 6.jpg

“I remember my dad saying, ‘I don’t want you to be outside the community.’ I remember saying, ‘I’m not putting myself outside of the community. The community is putting me outside the community.’ I want to be part of everything. I saw people today from my community on the corner, while I was holding a banner [for the rally.] And guess what? I wasn’t out to them. But today I am. And they are going to talk to people. I hope to god they talk to people. Please tell them. I am out. As out as can be now.

“We are all here now, putting our lives on the line. We are putting ourselves on the line. It’s not easy…But we know we gotta be here. We just know we gotta be here.”

Sanjay talks about how marriage is not just a right but a part of the South Asian culture.

“Marriage is such an important institution in our community,” he said. “There’s so much family life and culture centered around marriage. So marriage is important for us as South Asians.”

“People think that if you are not married you have not fulfilled that part of your life, that stage of your life,” continues Rashmi. “[They think] you are not mature and have not gotten there yet. Well if it’s a right of passage, give us the chance. That’s all we’re asking for.”

The polls are showing that Proposition 8 is close. Satrang members are getting organized – they are holding phone banks calling the community, having fundraisers to fund the campaign and speaking at various community organizations and schools.

“Mainly the thing is – to get support, you need to raise awareness,” says Sanjay. “We are here to raise visibility and awareness. You can’t get accepted without awareness.”

And finally, this may be my favorite picture of the day. This is Juhi Kalra, mother of two queer children. Proudly rallying in the community for the rights of her kids.

Queer Blog 5.jpg

To get involved with the South Asian queer community in California and their campaign on Proposition 8, please visit LA’s Satrang or the Bay Area’s Trikone for more info.

This entry was posted in Politics by Taz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

42 thoughts on “We’re Here. We’re Queer. We’re on Pioneer.

  1. I’m a male with a male partner who has identical twin sisters who are lesbian (well one WAS married about 30 years ago and is a grandmother of seven…). Mind you, they are three siblings out of ten so maybe it is statistically not too unusual! My three brothers are all straight but I do have at least one lesbian cousin.

  2. 1 · Prasad said

    Oh wow, I never knew of any family where more than one kid is gay.

    i have a friend who has 3 out of 4 siblings who are gay, including himself and one lesbian sister. the one straight dude married a superhot indian chick (irrelevant i know, but i like to add some color to comments). they are all wasps, i mean real authentic wasps, except for the mom who is french and loves having gay kids (dad doesn’t know, and grandparents definitely didn’t know due to trust fund/inheritance issues).

  3. 2 · Hypocrisy said

    wow, OK so the whole non-partisan thing just doesn’t apply to Taz then?

    partisan, in this context, means siding with one of the two major parties as opposed to the other. So if your argument is that a post advocating support for lgbt people’s right to marriage is inherently Democratic and not Republican…well, what does that say about Republicans? Moreover, what does it say about your way of thinking about gay rights?

    Things that make you go…ech.

  4. Is it possible to be a gay Muslim? Or gay any religion?

    Isnt being gay a bigger part of who you are then some old book that say’s bad things are going to happen to you if your gay? I guess my question is, why does someone feel the need to be both gay and a Muslim? Isnt that like a black guy having a strong desire to be in the KKK or a Jewish person wanting to both be a devout Jew and contributing member of the Nazi party?

  5. 8 · rudie_c said

    do gay couples have the same legal rights as a marriage couple in terms of separation or next of kin?

    well, its a state issue here in the US, so it depends. but even states that doesn’t have legal gay marriage or civil unions they are (and this is debatable) restricted from restricting the right to contract (an economic right that’s a tad controversial but has a long history). but even then the couple would have to contract, so property, etc would not automatically pass to the partner.

  6. And to be clear I am not comparing being a Muslim to the Nazi party or KKK. I am just talking about conflicting interests.

  7. but even states that doesn’t have legal gay marriage or civil unions they are (and this is debatable) restricted from restricting the right to contract (an economic right that’s a tad controversial but has a long history).

    i mean: even states that don’t have legal gay marriage or civil unions are (and this is debatable) restricted from restricting the right to contract (an economic right that’s a tad controversial but has a long history).

  8. 9 · ShallowThinker said

    Is it possible to be a gay Muslim? Or gay any religion? Isnt being gay a bigger part of who you are then some old book that say’s bad things are going to happen to you if your gay? I guess my question is, why does someone feel the need to be both gay and a Muslim? Isnt that like a black guy having a strong desire to be in the KKK or a Jewish person wanting to both be a devout Jew and contributing member of the Nazi party?

    You’re making me cross :) Most Black people weren’t raised in a klan loving family with klan practices and most jewish person weren’t raised by Nazis ;) Being lgbt doesn’t mean that you are somehow a blank slate with no friends, family, inculcated ideas, a worldview, or many other things. There is a difference between group-based oppressions and individual-based opppresions, but more to the point, asking us to reduce ourselves to such a simple atomistic understanding of ourselves where we’re defined by one identity alone is frightening and oppressive. Intersectionality, for many of us, IS life, not just a part of it and even more so, a holistic undersatnding of ourselves as individuals. As I would imagine for many others who are not LGBT – what you’re doing is like asing a desi woman to JUST be a woman or JUST be desi – it’s absurd and it has been done too frequently and should stop.

    Keeping conscious that, although we share a lot, we need to honour our differences and recognise we may have different priorities. Being women together was not enough. We were different. Being gay-girls together was not enough. We were different. Being Black together was not enough. We were different Being Black dykes together was not enough. We were different… It was a while before we came to realise that our place was the very house of difference rather than any one particular difference.
  9. 9 · ShallowThinker said

    Is it possible to be a gay Muslim? Or gay any religion? Isnt being gay a bigger part of who you are then some old book that say’s bad things are going to happen to you if your gay? I guess my question is, why does someone feel the need to be both gay and a Muslim? Isnt that like a black guy having a strong desire to be in the KKK or a Jewish person wanting to both be a devout Jew and contributing member of the Nazi party?

    Completely disagree; I am sure you can be a good Muslim no matter who you are doing the ol’ horizontal hula with, should not even come into the equation.

  10. wow, OK so the whole non-partisan thing just doesn’t apply to Taz then?

    Ok, I’ve let this slide before – but partisanship is related to political parties. Nowhere in this post did I advocate a political party. According to a 501c3 regulations, non-partisan non-profits CAN advocate on Propositions without being in violation of tax code violation. That being said, this is a non-partisan BLOG, not a non-profit 501c3.

    There are members of the GLBT to community in the Democratic party, Republican party (ever hear of the Log Cabin Republicans?) and believe it or not, some GLBT members are even non-partisan. Proposition 8 and gay rights in general is NOT a partisan issue. It’s an everyone issue.

  11. 9 · ShallowThinker said

    Is it possible to be a gay Muslim? Or gay any religion? Isnt being gay a bigger part of who you are then some old book that say’s bad things are going to happen to you if your gay? I guess my question is, why does someone feel the need to be both gay and a Muslim? Isnt that like a black guy having a strong desire to be in the KKK or a Jewish person wanting to both be a devout Jew and contributing member of the Nazi party?

    Yes, it’s possible to be both. I know that the Koran does not say ‘bad things’ about being gay. Homosexuals are allowed to enjoy the same rights as straight people. In fact, they were regular members of society in the early days of Islam. The thing that the Koran teaches against (as do most other ‘old books’) is public lewdness and obscenity, whether it is practice by gay or straight people . Please see these posts for a more in depth discussion: http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/quran/2008/09/homosexuality_part_1.html http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/quran/2008/09/homosexuality_2.html

  12. wow, OK so the whole non-partisan thing just doesn’t apply to Taz then?

    We’ve taken positions on legislation before.

  13. Even if Proposition 8/Hate fails, it still doesn’t help thousands of bi-national couples like my American girlfriend and me. But it’s a step in the right direction.

  14. 19 · vk said

    · ShallowThinker said Is it possible to be a gay Muslim? Why not? Never met any cheerful Muslims?

    that was a good one.

    Still… It is a valid question. One can ask if biomanufactured meats permitted by one’s religion? or how about genetically modified pigs?! Both are scientific realities today – neither would have been permitted at the time religious laws were laid down*. So! which way does one lean in this omission. One can say, it was not included in my religious text, hence it is not permissibe – or one can say there’s nothing said against it – so I shall consume and get jiggy with a turkey if I want to. Even the homosexuality bit – mind you – what we hear from the religious scholars – are interpretations of the raw text – and that is subject to the interpretation by the scholar. And so it is. BTW can any one point me to the explicit text in a surah/chapter that disallows homosexuality?

    *I personally dont ascribe to the notion that a divine hand put down an all-encompassing, all-knowing, unchanging law in a book at the behest of big-G-God. I respect your faith but please dont push me in there bro.

    Got to run now. Later.

  15. 2 · Hypocrisy said

    wow, OK so the whole non-partisan thing just doesn’t apply to Taz then?

    i realize that this is a state thing, but it was sad to see the pathetic moment in the vp debate, the sole instance of “bipartisan agreement” between biden and palin where they both swore their absolute, committed support for the defn of marriage as being between a man and a woman. not to mention doma which passed in both the house and senate with overwhelming majorities in 1996. i worry that the calif court ruling which cited civil unions and same sex couple rights as a justification for gay marriage will actually put a stop to the trend of these rights being granted in the more socially conservative states, lest it lead down the slippery slope of married gay people destroying the sacrosanct institution of raging heterosexual marriages for life.

    p.s: i will never ever understand the morality of social conservatism.

    p.p.s: isn’t prop 8 looking like it will indeed succed? if it passes, does the governor have to sign it into law?

    p.p.p.s: personally, i believe that as long as the govt is in the business of defining marriage, it should allow all manner of consensual contracts between any number of consenting parties and give them commensurate rights such as visitation, adoption etc., as long as there isn’t exploitation. as for religions, well, they are all selling snake oil in any case, so you can be a gay muslim or a gay christian just as much as you can be a suicide bomber or abortionist assassin. of course, an interpretation that offers comfort is only remembered in times of personal difficulty, much better to have an intrusive interpretation that legislates morality and inserts itself into every possible personal decision.

  16. There’s some peculiar stuff happening with the LDS (Mormon) church seemingly mobilizing out-of-state Californians (not sure how that works..) to vote Yes on Prop 8, among other things.

  17. Thanks for bringing attention to this. These people are such heroes in my eyes.
    I truly believe that all the people who seek to deny these people their basic rights are going to be hitting themselves across the heads in twenty years thinking, “Ugh, why was I being such a jerk, anyway?!” The funny thing about discriminatory practice is that those who propagate it always seem to act with a nauseating degree of moral certitude. And, btw, there are gay Republicans in this country. I don’t know what they’re thinking, but they exist.
    Insinuating that this post is partisan is just inaccurate.

  18. Faiqa – turn that mirror around to view the moral certitude in full flow. Supporting Prop 8 is not the same as being anti-gay. The pro-Prop8 group insists that ‘marriage’ is a narrowly defined term, established through years of societal application, and in its legal application should only extend to hetero couples. The opposing group is up in arms over this because there have been incidents where cohabitation for same-sex couples has not been sufficient for the surviving partner to take ownership of co-owned assets in the event that his/her companion passes away without having put a well-defined will in place. BTW California legislature recognizes domestic same-sex partnerships and affords such relationships many of the same rights as marriage. As it stands now, the pro-Prop8 crowd has the larger show of hands FYI, per the wiki.

  19. 25 · khoofia said

    . Supporting Prop 8 is not the same as being anti-gay. The pro-Prop8 group insists that ‘marriage’ is a narrowly defined term, established through years of societal application, and in its legal application should only extend to hetero couples

    That is, the state should not extend the right of marriage to gay people. Sounds similar to the state of connecticut’s argument claiming that prohibiting gay marriage is not discrimination: gay people are free to marry, just that they need to be married to the opposite sex. Of course, I don’t see why any of this is any different than the arguments against miscegenation laws, but maybe I am just afflicted by moral certitude…

  20. so totally awesome! we practically spent every other weekend on pioneer growing up, and how amazing to have a queer desi presence there! i love it :)

  21. We’re Here. We’re Queer. We’re on Pioneer.

    Desi uncles must be so regretting that their street name rhymes with queer. Shoulda stuck with Mahatma Gandhi Marg…

  22. I’m trying to read the Bengali sign asking for equal rights..now thats something ive not seen ..nice one.

  23. khoofia : Yes, I’m practicing moral certitude, but in a completely different context.

    I’m quite certain that the position that I take doesn’t impose my narrowly defined religious practice upon others who may not share them. As far as I’m concerned, moral certitude is only nauseating when it is used to justify hurting other people and making them feel excluded, or worse, wrong about their life choices.

    As for the legislation not being anti-gay…please. Anti does still mean “against,” right?

    I understand that some supporters of this legislation choose to believe that they’re protecting marriage, but they shouldn’t fool themselves out of understanding that their narrowly defined vision of marriage is exclusionary and discriminatory. This reliance upon “societal application” in the context of legal rights is a steaming load of crap. Today, societal application means between a man and a woman. Tomorrow, it’ll mean that it must take place in a religious institution. The day after that it will be defined as taking place in a church, between a man and a woman, where the woman is wearing a white dress and her bridesmaids are wearing some hideous outfit in an unflattering shade of blue.

    Dramatic? Yes. But that’s what can and will happen if I don’t practice a little moral certitude, too.

  24. BTW can any one point me to the explicit text in a surah/chapter that disallows homosexuality?

    My own beliefs aside, I asked a dear friend for citations:

    Al-A’raf (7):80-81 And (remember) Lout (Lot), when he said to his people: “Do you commit the worst sin such as none preceding you has committed in the ‘Alamîn (mankind and jinns)?

    “Verily, you practise your lusts on men instead of women. Nay, but you are a people transgressing beyond bounds (by committing great sins).”

    Al-’Ankabut (29):28 And (remember) Lout (Lot), when he said to his people: “You commit Al-Fâhishah (sodomy the worst sin) which none has preceded you in (committing) it in the ‘Alamîn (mankind and jinns).” (Al-’Ankabut 29:28) Ash-Shu’ara ( 26):165-166 “Go you in unto the males of the ‘Alamîn (mankind), “And leave those whom Allâh has created for you to be your wives? Nay, you are a transgressing people!”

  25. If you want to protect sanctity of marriage, how about a proposition banning divorce? After all, the vicious scourge of no fault divorces, which opened the floodgates for the destruction of the beautiful institution of marriage, was unleashed upon a pious and unsuspecting public by that great protector of family values, Ronald Reagan, when he was governor of California.

  26. My friend, who is very learned in Islamic matters, also added the following (I made him read this thread):

    “Yes, you CAN be a gay Muslim. A person is not cast out of Islam because of his/her sins. Unless he or she believes that there is nothing wrong with the sinful acts and says that the sinful acts are lawful in Islam. For example a person who fornicates and says, yes I fornicate. There is nothing wrong with it and Islam doesn’t condemn the act of fornication. S/He has left the fold of Islam because S/he is corrupting the basic belief of the religion and s/he will never repent.”

  27. As someone who–marginally–identifies as Muslim and is a raging homo, I’ve got to say, I think the two can be reconciled. One of the charms of Islam (in the raw, such as it were) is the fact that the notion of being Muslim and of following the faith is very much a personal relationship between yourself and your deity, with clerical mediation supposed to be minimal. Not how it actually works out, but no real surprise there…

  28. Word, Sin, word. Like I said – I was quoting from a friend – my own beliefs are different.

    The sad thing is that in most religions at their purest there is so much beauty and love. People muck it up.

  29. Wow, that Gay Muslim Chick is hot !! If I were able to meet her I’d confess that I am a female trapped in a male body ;-)

  30. Taz, HUGE THANKS to you for representing this issue here on SM.

    Prop 8 has been really weighing on my mind lately — I used to think “I don’t care what you call it as long as the rights and responsibilities are the same on the state level” (ideally federally, too, but one step at a time). However, I’ve really come to believe that “separate but equal” in this case, as in all cases, is total bollocks and there is no reason that “marriage” should be reserved for heterosexuals but gays and lesbians should have “civil unions” (and do what, become “civilized” instead of “get married”?). People have such a hard time separating the idea of civil marriage from the religious ceremony in so many cultures and political systems, but I’m sick of this issue of semantics and people getting up in arms about “changing the MEANING” of a time-bound/honored WORD and “tradition.” It’s insane.

    I think one of the most painful things that the Prop 8 debate (and others like it around the country) dredges up is so much hateful rhetoric that has to be heard by LGBT people of all ages — but especially impressionable young people and teens — who are essentialy getting hit with a message that they are damaged, sick, “less than,” and in short, UNEQUAL. I can only hope that the message is countered by positive feeback … and most of all, NOT reinforced by the passing of Prop 8. The psychological impact of rhetoric and measures like this shouldn’t be underestimated.

    Thanks again, and I can only hope that the SM community will see the light and vote NO on Prop 8!

    (PS: See also the overwhelming opposition to Prop 8 in the study you wrote about regarding Asian-American voting patterns — I’d be curious to see a breakdown of those stats for South Asian voters.)

  31. hey, that’s my mom! i’ve been reading SM for years, and then lo, my mom calls and says to check the page. how funny. :)

  32. If you are against marriage between black and white , you are RACIST If you are against marriage between gays , you are HOMOPHOBIC Vote NO to prop8 Vote NO to homophobia Vote NO to religious talibans in Afghanistan or in California !