By Shay Singh, IOPNZ chair
“In the end, we are changed by what we see, just as we are changed when we are seen”. This quote by Sir Trevor McDonald best describes my drive and motivation to establish Indian Origin Pride New Zealand. In other words, we - you - must not be invisible.
I, along with the founding trustees of IOPNZ, want to empower Aotearoa’s LGBTQIA++ community of Indian origin, so together we are authentically visible in every part of our lives, every day.
As a group, we each acknowledge the importance of our lived experience, and of having been on the fringes of our communities. It’s experiences like these that help inform what IOPNZ needs to be and who it needs to serve.
Today, I look at how far we have come. We are very fortunate that Mr Gay New Zealand 2021 is of Indian origin and his success should be celebrated by the entire Indian community.
But as a teenager in New Zealand in the 90’s, as I struggled with my own sexuality, next to no one was openly queer and visible and also looked like me.
Even today, with New Zealand’s progressive laws, the visibility of rainbow people of colour remains low. We face cultural barriers that others don’t, and a constant fear of us and our families being ostracized from our ethnic communities.
What would have really helped me and my family when I came out more than two decades ago was access to culturally aligned counselling and support services. It is important to understand when a person comes out to their family, their family is also going through a coming out process and does not have a ’rule book’ on acceptance and inclusivity. The first reaction is often fear, anger, and shame. The first question that is asked is “what will people say?”. Having access to services which have a cultural lens is critical.
For many, the journey results in a happily ever after. For many other, they are cut-off from their loved ones. Coercion and violence are used in some cases to get us to conform to family and society’s expectations.
IOPNZ has been created to bring together the LGBQTIA++ community of Indian origin in New Zealand. We want to create an inclusive community by harnessing our collective powers to create an environment where rainbow Indians can celebrate the intersection of their culture, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and sex.
We help answer the needs of our rainbow community by ensuring they feel supported and valued, and by ensuring the environment fosters kinship and pride in belonging. This support is also extended to our families, allies, and supporters.
When I reflect on my journey and look ahead to tomorrow, I want to know others like me don’t have that struggle too.
Together, as an Indian community, we can adapt and change to ensure we look after those close to us - so they know this wonderfully vibrant community is for them too.