2008

It was a weird time for the South Asian LGBTQIA+ and the greater Queer community in California.

On the one hand, we rejoiced at America electing its first Black President, but on the other, “No on Prop 8” was losing ground.

Trikone had campaigned tirelessly to educate the South Asian community and all communities. We were in this together.

Trikone is a LGBTQIA+ South Asian non-profit organization, it was founded by Arvind Kumar and Suvir Das. The original newsletter “Trikon,” kicked off in Jan 1986.

Which then evolved into a full-fledge magazine catering to the Queer South Asian community, for many years.

Prop 8 was brought to the table to the California voters whether or not the LGBTQIA+ community would be allowed to continue to marry their soulmates.

I remember being at a San Francisco Hotel with my dear friend Poonam, it was a very sombre mood. My mother was working for the elections at the time, bless her heart, she even called me around 9pm to tell me, even though “No on Prop 8” was losing there were still plenty of votes to be counted, we’re losing in San Francisco.

It was the usual suspects in SoCal, that sealed our fate. We had lost. But like generations of LGBTQIA pioneers from all spectrums of the community, we weren’t going down. We were determined to be heard, watching the protest video above on Market Street, it brought back so many memories of beautiful souls I connected with.

At the time, I was doing these weekly video blogs with Stone Darth. So we created this channel that, in some ways, may have been far ahead of its time; we wanted to create an inclusive space for lesbians and trans men.

We witnessed some unsavoury behaviour between lesbians and trans men. Bigotry and just not being kind. It annoyed me; it was bad enough we had to deal with mainstream kicking our communities down for decades, but when there’s inner conflict within the Queer umbrella, that’s the time when dialogue is needed.

Stone Darth came up with Lick Your Gender; I thought it was fantastic. It wasn’t putting our content in a narrow scope; we knew our objective, creating solidarity between our communities through playfulness, humour and compelling narrative.

I think we tackled all three, but sadly all good things had to end. But it’s fun looking over our content.

2008 brought us Milk, a biography of late San Francisco openly gay Supervisor, Harvey Milk, who was gunned down and killed along with Mayor George Moscone.

The killer was former Supervisor Dan White, who had resigned, but after getting a call from a KPIX reporter, he decided he wanted his job back.

He claimed he had no intention to kill Milk or Moscone, but he made it a point to sneak in the basement to bypass the metal detectors.

It was a crazy time for San Francisco if you’re not familiar with the history; a few weeks before the slayings, the Bay Area was shaken to its core by the brutal killings in Jonestown.

A religious fanatic, Jim Jones took his congregation into the heart of Guyana to build a “greater paradise”, but Jones had a sinister twist lurking behind this “greater paradise” initiative.

Several San Mateo residents rallied around Congressman Leo Ryan, begging him to go and investigate what was going on in Jonestown.

Ryan empathised with his constituents; he took the future Congresswoman Jackie Speier and reporters to Jonestown to investigate.

While a facade was put on that everyone was happy, a brave congregation member passed Congressman Ryan a note that he wanted out of Jonestown. Ryan acted swiftly and saw through the facade.

But sadly, that sealed his fate. Ryan and others were shot and killed at the tarmac; Speier survived. And over 900 members were forced to drink cyanide; Jones’s henchman shot anyone who tried to escape.

And just a few weeks later, as Moscone was weeping at Leo Ryan’s funeral, San Francisco wept for Moscone and Milk.

While my generation fought against Prop 8, which would take away the rights of LGBTQIA+ to marry, in Milk’s time, there was a similar proposition, Prop 6.

That would ban the LGBTQIA+ community from teaching the kids. Similar propositions were passed around the country, led by Anita Bryant and her crusade to pray away the Gay.

Thankfully unlike Prop 8, Prop 6 didn’t pass.

We eventually got there, though, but let’s not forget there are other people in our community across the world who still can’t express their love; in some cases, it could be life-threatening. So we have to continue fighting, educating, and reminding others love is love.

I can’t forget the tireless effort everyone made and continue to make; I’m grateful Stone Darth introduced me to the “flip video” to document this critical time in our community.

I know I’ve gone deep into history, but I think it’s important to highlight things, to spot these connections. We’re doomed to repeat it if we don’t learn from history.

I leave you all with this last video and words of wisdom from the late and great activist and poet, Ifti Nasim. I miss you Ifti.

Thank you!

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Last week I got a call from the Independent that Gaysian Faces made it on the Rainbow List 2015: Ones to Watch.

It was a nice surprise, for the past couple of months… it’s been quite an organic journey.

I have to give credit to Kip Fulbeck, his book Part Asian/100% Hapa inspired me to do Gaysian Faces.

My sincere thanks and gratitude to all the participants who have taken the time to share their stories with me and all of you.

Thank you to the Rainbow List Judges and the Gaysian Faces supporters for nominating me.

I’ll be heading back to San Francisco (where I’m originally from) for three weeks to visit my mum. San Francisco is home to Trikone;  the oldest South Asian LGBTQ organisation in the world. I’ll be reconnecting with old friends from Trikone and they will be sharing their stories with you too. 🙂

In solidarity,

Peta

ps. If you would like to be a part of Gaysian Faces, here’s our FAQs. If you have any questions you can drop me a line gaysianfaces[@]gmail.com

LGBT Muslim Solidarity Campaign

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Last Wednesday, the Peter Tatchell Foundation launched the LGBT Muslim Solidarity Campaign by the Whitechapel Tube station. There was a mix reaction of hostility and support from the surrounding Muslim community in East London.

The campaign urges to unite against all hate, oppose homophobia and support LGBT Muslims. It’s also meant to help build solidarity between Muslims and the LGBT community.

Explaining the thinking behind the campaign, Peter Tatchell, said:

“The LGBT-Muslim Solidarity campaign is seeking to reach out, create dialogue and bring the Muslim and LGBT communities together, to oppose the prejudice, discrimination and hate crime that both communities experience. We also want to support and empower LGBT Muslims, to give them a voice and visibility – and to tackle anti-LGBT prejudice in the Muslim community and anti-Muslim prejudice in the LGBT community. Our goal is unity and solidarity to oppose all hate. This is the first phase of our LGBT-Muslim solidarity campaign, to overcome divisions between Muslim and LGB people, for our common good,” he said.

Ejel Khan, a gay Muslim and social activist, and a participant at the launch event, said:

“It is imperative that our LGBT Muslim voices are heard and that we engage with the mainstream Muslim community. I’ve spoken in some mosques on LGBT issues but many mosques still don’t acknowledge and support their LGBT worshippers. That needs to change.”

Sohail Ahmed, who is gay and from a devout Muslim family, also attended on Wednesday. He added:

“As a gay Muslim, I always feared that Muslims and non-Muslims alike would view me negatively for being both Muslim and gay. I thought that mentioning I’m gay would make me and my religion look bad and that everyone would judge me as being a ‘fake Muslim.’ I felt so alone and thought that no one would understand me. I never told anyone. This campaign has the opportunity to change lives, and even save some. I wish I had come across something like this during my darkest moments as a young gay Muslim. No one deserves to be alone and unsupported, especially not LGBT Muslims, who often go through extreme difficulties because of their sexuality, faith and ethnicity.”

*Photo/Video credit: The Peter Tatchell Foundation

Celebrity street artist Pegasus creates an art piece for the Naz & Matt Foundation

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Pegasus met Naz a few years ago when he asked permission for Naz’s clinic’s (Face Clinic London / Soho Skin) outside wall in Soho to be used as a canvas for Pegasus’ open air exhibition of his street art.

Shortly afterwards, a fabulously cheeky drawing of Marilyn Monroe, wearing American flag hot pants and sneakers, appeared outside the clinic, amazing staff and putting smiles on the faces of everyone who walked past. The beautiful artwork has since become a tourist attraction and much loved by the Soho community.

Pegasus has since been creating high-profile artworks for Kate Middleton, to celebrate the upcoming birth of the future King of England. And most recently, the inspiringly cheeky portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth to celebrate her becoming the longest reigning monarch of England. Rumour has it that the palace and the Queen love it.

Pegasus has very kindly offered to donate his latest masterpiece to the Naz and Matt Foundation, to be installed inside the clinic of Face Clinic London and Soho Skin – the place that he met Naz and they became friends.

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Mawaan Rizwan takes us on a journey…

Last week BBC 3 broadcasted “How Gay is Pakistan” a documentary that followed Mawaan Rizwan to Pakistan to check out and learn more the Pakistani LGBTQ community in Lahore and Karachi.

For over five years Mawaan has made us laugh with his twerking and outrageous sense of humour on his youtube channel.

Mawaan takes us on a journey where he meets LGBTQ advocacy groups, goes to an underground club, learns more about the MSM scene and meets Imam who is convinced he has found a “cure” to make gay people straight.

UK AMA Nomination: Muslim Drag Queens

Earlier this year, filmmaker & journalist Kieran Yates produced “Muslim Drag Queens” for Guardian Docs. Which received over one million views on the Guardian’s website.

The documentary featured Asifa Lahore and followed asylum-seeker Ali as he transformed into Shilpa Jaan.

Kieran has been nominated for a UK AMA award for Best Investigation piece, if Kieran wins – this will be the first AMA award for a Gaysian documentary.

This is one of the biggest nights for Asian media professionals!

Good luck Kieran!

Is being Gay accepted in British Asian society? (Video)

The DesiBlitz Team hit the streets to ask that age old question…

Is being Gay accepted in British Asian society? They put all the answers together in this video.

Trikone Members Attacked By Modi Supporters (Video)

Although this is not the main video, here’s a glimpse of right wing zealots who support Modi verbally attacking, harassing and pushing the members of Trikone.

The zealots took signs from Trikone members and ripped them up and some Modi supporters even got physical. Here’s a detailed account from Trikone’s co-chair Ali.

Section 377 was brought back into the law books December 2013, Modi has yet to acknowledge 377 or make any promises to the South Asian LGBTQ community that he will get the code off the law books for good.

These types of horrendous actions remind us all that homophobia and ignorance is still very much alive, even in the Bay Area.

Do you know these Modi supporters who kept harassing the Trikone members?

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A Sinner In Mecca Crowdfunding Campaign

A Jihad For Love” filmmaker Parvez Sharma is crowdfunding for his new documentary “A Sinner In Mecca” which he hopes will be seen in cinemas around the world. One of the pillars in Islam is to go to Hajj, Parvez goes to Mecca; but as an openly gay man. He calls this a “Saudi Selfie Film” where he takes you on his journey.

Parvez is offering an array of perks for supporting this documentary, please donate what you can in order to support this film.

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Salim’s Secret

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Salim’s Secret is a children’s book, written by Noor Ramadani. It’s about a young boy coming out to his parents. We absolutely fell in love with the illustrations. Noor was inspired to write the book after coming across a young boy from the “Human’s of New York” page. The young boy expressed fears about being homosexual. The picture amplified so much love and support for the child.

Noor is an English teacher and resides in Indonesia. Salim’s Secret is free for campaign use.