[ Editor’s Note : Dosti, a support space in Toronto for South Asian guys who like guys, is a good example of a space that recognises intersections of identities. Established in 1998, community groups like Dosti provide an opportunity for folks who are looking to reconcile their South Asian-ness with their sexual one. Discussed over chai and samosas, issues like sexual orientation, gender, safer sex practices, shame, family, and relationships are addressed within a culturally relevant setting.]
Through facilitating the Dosti groups, I have found that it has helped me learn so much about myself, in order to be better equipped to help others. I was born and brought up in Calgary, where at the time, the gay community was small and predominately white, let alone having any queer brown spaces. What I discovered while exploring the gay community at that time was that my gay identity and South Asian identity were mutually exclusive.
It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto where I found that there was a queer brown community in existence, that I could reconcile my identities and be unashamedly South Asian and gay at the same time. It was one of the most liberating experiences, and when I became the lead in organising Dosti, I wanted to provide a space for guys to experience the solace that comes with being heard and understood while being able to express who they are.
I bring my own experience of being an out gay South Asian guy, but I meet so many men who come from different walks of life, and each has their own story and wisdom. Some guys are not out and are also handling the stress that comes with being a new immigrant or refugee. Others come with stories around isolation with no one to talk to regarding their challenges surrounding their sexuality and/or family pressures of getting married. When hearing these stories, I’ve realized that when it comes to addressing issues around sexuality, there is no one way to go about it; I don’t have all the answers and I am always learning.
For some, starting the process of coming out helps, for others coming out isn’t an option or necessary, and that is ok. Some people come to the group not wanting to have answers or figuring out what their identity is, but to just have a safe space or sounding board because this is their first time expressing their story.
Whether one comes from a city in southern Alberta, or a village near Multan, everyone’s narrative and experiences, are valid, valuable, and contain wisdom that can inspire others to find strength within themselves to be comfortable and at peace with where they are at, and be proud of who they are.