Sukhdeep Singh, an openly gay, IIT graduate, who’s now the editor and creator of Gaylaxy Magazine, took some time out of his day to chat with me about his upcoming documentary about the lives of the Sikh queer community, called “Sab Rab De Bande”. Being from a Punjabi background myself, the only representation of Sikhs that mainstream media has put forth for us has either been comic relief or as a brave soldier fighting India’s wars. What is then left out of the discourse are the many lives of queer folk among the heavily religious sect. Sukhdeep’s understanding of his religion and his life as an openly queer creator drove him to seek out others like him, to share their stories and talk about their struggles that they have faced and the fights they have won.
Q. Do you feel that this documentary would shed the required amount of light on the problems of the Sikh queer community?
The film I believe is going to be extremely important, since this would be the first time that experiences of LGBTQ Sikhs would be brought forward to the masses by tracking the life of 5 different individuals. The movie deals with various aspects of their religious and sexual/gender identity, the kind of reactions that they receive from society, family and LGBTQ community, and how they overcome it or navigate it. We have also taken in the view of Sikh clergy on this topic. Films can be a very powerful medium to bring forth such stories, and I hope that it will start a discussion around this issue within the Sikh community and bring some positive change.
It is not just the first documentary on LGBTQ Sikhs in India, but probably the world (I personally am not aware of any such documentary). That is the reason that I have received so much support from the Sikh diaspora in the West as well, who have come forward and donated to our crowdfunding campaign.
I am really excited to see what all conversations the film will initiate and the change of attitude that it will bring.
Q. How did crowdfunding help you in fast-tracking the production and release of this documentary?
We had started a crowdfunding campaign in February, and we achieved our target within 10 days!! The movie is almost complete now. I am waiting for the lockdown to be over to give the final touches to it. We will be sending it to film fests and doing private screenings. If people would like to have it screened at their college/community/organisation, they could reach out to me and we would be happy to screen it.
Q. What impact do you think your documentary about queer Sikhs would have on the Sikh community as a whole?
The Sikh community currently lacks a discourse around homosexuality. The topic is mostly hushed, or only discussed in negative terms by the religious people. This documentary will help many in the Sikh community to engage with the topic in a positive way. It will make them aware of not only the issues and difficulties of being LGBTQ, but of being LGBTQ and Sikh, as well as allow them to look at the Sikh preachings in a more inclusive way. I think the most important thing would be that it will break the silence within the community on this topic and start a conversation.
But it is not just the Sikh community, the movie will also raise awareness of the kind of reactions and discrimination that LGBTQ Sikhs face within the LGBTQ community, something that is never acknowledged or debated.