I Want the World To Know

Today is National Coming Out Day and when I used to live in L.A., I’d join the annual parade of South Asians walking down Pioneer Blvd. chanting, “We ‘re here! We’re queer! We’re on Pioneer!” As you can imagine, the South Asian community is not quite so accepting of ‘The Gays” in the community. I supported as an ally because I wanted to be a supporting Desi face even when their family members couldn’t be.

But sometimes, coming out to your family may not be right for everyone. I came across a touching story from Nancy Haque titled Coming Out About Not Being Out from the Western States Center. It addresses the complexities of understanding your parents enough to know when and what to share with them. Despite the fact that mainstream LGBTQIA community may encourage coming out, it may not be the best thing for every family, particularly immigrant Desi parents.

I’m not out to my parents – the gold standard of being out. I haven’t done it and don’t actually plan on doing it. The truth is I have a very complicated relationship with my parents. I’m not particularly close to them and haven’t been since early childhood. I’m the youngest of four and was raised by my sister and two brothers as much as I was by my parents. I came out to my siblings 14 years ago and have always been supported by them. I love and respect my parents, but beyond my sexuality, they don’t understand the work I do, don’t know my hopes and dreams, don’t know the majority of my friends, and have never visited the home I purchased three years ago.

 

Yet my relationship to them is important. It’s important for me to be able to go home. I know in my heart my parents can never accept me having a female partner. It’s beyond their life experience to understand it. It’s not because they’re bad people, it’s just the way it is. I don’t feel like I’m living a lie because I’m not. Yet by not telling my parents, I’m taking a very unpopular stance in the general queer community…. I know that I’m not alone, that we all find our own ways to navigate our lives. I know that being queer and being raised Muslim is who I am, and it’s a complicated way to be. That’s why it was important to me to share my story… [westernstatescenter]

Continue reading

Take Action In Elk Grove

The murderer(s) of the suspected hate crime against Surinder Singh and Gurmej Singh Atwal are still at large. Both elderly men were walking on their daily afternoon walk in Sacramento, when they were shot in a drive by shooting on March 4th, 2011. Seven months later and they are still looking for clues.

If in the Sacramento area, please join the Jakara Movement and the local community as they blanket the neighborhood talking to the community and posting reward bulletins. For more information and to RSVP, please visit the facebook page.

From deli streets to Delhi streets

Aakash Nihalani’s solo exhibition in India opened on September 24 and runs through October 22 at Seven Art Ltd. in New Delhi. Aalign presents new works in metal and wood sculpture, embroidered patterns on silk, interactive work shown on a tablet, and the installations of colorful, geometric tape work on the street for which he became known in New York. Nihalani shared a few thoughts after I asked him about his experiences in New Delhi and the differences and/or similarities between making street art in New York and New Delhi.

Continue reading

Kumail Nanjiani on the Comic Life

You may know comedian Kumail Nanjiani from his stand-up and TV work (Franklin & Bash) or his brush with John Mayer, all of which have been the subjects of past posts on Sepia Mutiny. If you’re a fan, you’ll want to listen to his recent interview with Shirin Sadeghi of New America Media covering such topics as how he went from studying philosophy and computer science in Iowa to stand-up, the biggest challenge of being a Pakistani American comedian, what he describes as his fading Pakistani accent with a trace of British school, his Twitter presence and his nerdist alterego.

In the beginning of his stand-up career, Nanjiani said the biggest challenge of being a Pakistani American comedian was telling the jokes he wanted to tell about movies, video games and TV shows, and not the jokes he was expected to tell about 7-11 or 9/11. After Nanjiani and his interviewer made reference to what was a new crop of post-9/11 comedians who were South Asian American and Middle Eastern American, the interviewer noted that unlike many of them he has an accent and “does not speak as someone born and raised here.”

Continue reading

Amit Needs Your Brown Bones

The internet world frenzied with bone marrow call outs this week when word spread that entrepreneur Amit Gupta, founder of  http://photojojo.com/ discovered he has acute leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant.

Two weeks ago I got a call from my doctor, who I’d gone to see the day before because I’d been feeling worn out and was losing weight, and wasn’t sure why. He was brief: “Amit, you’ve got Acute Leukemia. You need to enter treatment right away.”

 

I was terrified. I packed a backpack full of clothes, went to the hospital as he’d instructed, and had transfusions through the night to allow me to take a flight home at 7am the next day. I Googled acute leukemia as I lay in my hospital bed, learning that if it hadn’t been caught, I’d have died within weeks.

 

I have a couple more months of chemo to go, then the next step is a bone marrow transplant…. [M]inorities are severely underrepresented in the bone marrow pool, and I need help. [amitgupta]

 

We’ve told you before of numerous cases where bone marrow donors are needed -  for Sonia Rai, Maya Chamberlin, Vinay & Sameer, Bevin Varughese, and more. For the most part, these stories have ended tragically. The sad thing is, they did not have to end the way they did. The health disparity is stark: There are 9.5 million people in the bone marrow registry; only 1% of them are of South Asian descent; that means South Asians have a 1 in 20,000 chance of finding a match.

What are you waiting for? A simple (FREE) cheek swab can save a life. Continue reading

The Color of the Call: Desis at Occupy Wall Street, Pt. 2

a video about people at the protests one week ago, courtesy of Thanu Yakupitiyage

“We must not miss the chance to put the needs of people of color—upon whose backs this country was built—at the forefront of this struggle.”

—from CALL OUT TO PEOPLE OF COLOR from the #OWS POC Working Group

How Hena Got There

Two Thursdays ago, after Troy Davis had been executed, Hena Ashraf protested his killing at a rally in New York City. The group that she was with didn’t have a particular plan, she says, but “we ended up on Wall Street.”

It was her first time at Occupy Wall Street, a movement that’s rapidly gaining steam and numbers. And a week ago, by her fourth time there, Ashraf had become a game-changer: one of a group of desis who stood up and insisted that the movement’s primary declaration edit language that referred to racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination as though they were things of the past.

“We definitely stood out,” Ashraf told me. At that point, she explained, the protests were still overwhelmingly white. (We spoke on the phone Sunday night; she was two blocks from Wall Street, heading back to the protests.) But, she added, over the course of her visits to the site, she’s seen them become more diverse.

Continue reading

Desis Take Action At Occupy Wall Street

 video courtesy of Thanu Yakupitiyage

I no longer live in New York, and I was following the Occupy Wall Street movement only vaguely when last week, something on FB caught my attention… and kept it. It was a lengthy note by Hena Ashraf, chronicling how she and a few other desis had gone down to Liberty Square on Thursday night and argued to change some of the language in Occupy Wall Street’s primary declaration.

I recognized some of the names in her story from my own time in New York: Sonny Singh (of, among other things, Red Baraat) and Thanu Yakupitiyage, an immigrant rights activist who is also a Lanka Solidarity member. And another, whom I didn’t know: Manissa McCleave Maharawal. These four, it seemed, had formed the posse primarily responsible for the intervention that had me riveted.


Here’s how it looks in the Occupy Wall Street notes:

Block 4—Grievance in supporting a document that claims that my oppression on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, religion, and things not mentioned on this document are something that happened formerly and not in the present day.

Continue reading