The South Asian gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community in Sydney recently launched a special forum titled ‘Let’s Talk’ on December 6 at the Metropolitan Community Church in Petersham, Sydney. The forum addresses specific issues of being South Asian and queer in Australia, mainly in relation to health, family and racism. Despite inclement weather, about 60 people attended the forum to hear speakers Robyn Moore, Social Planning Policy Officer from Marrickville Council; Senthorun Raj, a doctoral researcher working at the Sydney Law School; Mahee Haque, a health & LGBTIQ advocate working with South Asian men who have sex with men (MSM) living in Australia; Dr. Parvani Pinnewala, a Sri Lankan Clinical Psychologist and adult mental health practitioner; and Kevin Bathman, a cross cultural and diversity advocate discuss their views.
The forum began with moderator Paul Van Reyk introducing each panellist and the audience asking questions which were answered not just by the speakers but also specialists in the audience who participated by offering their expert opinions. While family and health were enthusiastically discussed, due to a lack of time, the topic of racism was briefly touched upon. What emerged from the forum was the necessity to have such discussions to garner a better understanding of these issues and reassure the GLBT community that acceptance and understanding is key in moving forward. “It is still hard for many to find the courage to raise such personal matters, that can often be seen as humiliating or hurtful,” explained Alan Maurice, co-founder of Trikone Australasia and convenor of the forum. “Open lines of communication and a safe place to have a discussion with professionals in various fields as well as in and with the broader straight community are essential to the GLBT community,” he added.
“The concept behind the forum was to promote awareness, visibility and cultural and legal acceptance of people with alternative sexual orientations and gender identities. It would help people proudly affirm both their South Asian identity as well as their sexual orientation,” said Maurice, adding that Trikone are looking to having smaller, intimate regular meetings in 2015. “The south Asian GLBT is evolving here and around south Asia, and it is our responsibility to be proactive and highlight difficulties and frustrations, and to help people understand that there is another way to live and live proudly!” explained Maurice. “Depression and death are not options. Trikone sees this very much as our mission to change within our community. But we have a lot to do,” he added. The event ended on a high note with the promise of future forums to facilitate a better understanding and acceptance of the GLBT South Asian community.
Maurice hopes for wider attendance from both the queer and straight communities at these forums in future. Founded in 2008, Trikone Australasia is affiliated with San Francisco-based Trikone and follows its mission to offer a supportive, empowering and non-judgmental environment, where GLBT South Asians can meet, make connections, bond together and proudly promote awareness and acceptance of their sexuality in society. South Asians affiliated with Trikone Australasia trace their ethnicities to one of the following places: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Fiji, India, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tibet