January 22, 2010

LGBT South-Asians in America Still Fight Stigma From Their Culture

From New York's Gay News:

Sadat Iqbal said he never planned to come out to his family. But then his father found the porn.

Iqbal, now 22, realized he was gay when just a child. As a curious ten-year old living in Queens, he surfed the Internet for sexually explicit images of men. A couple of years later, his father, a first-generation immigrant from Bangladesh, sensed something brewing and browsed through the computer. He confronted Iqbal about the graphic sites he found on Internet Explorer’s history.

“He told me to change this side of me, to tighten the screws in my head,” said Iqbal, his voice dropping.

From that moment, Iqbal said, he began to rebel by “acting out” and sneaking out of the house late at night. During one of his nocturnal escapades, he got mugged, and his parents had to fetch him from the police station. That left him even more conflicted than before.

“I felt isolated and alienated,” he recalled.

New York City may be one of the world’s gay capitals, but life is not easy for many South Asians. Stigma about homosexuality runs deep, and most say they have to hide their sexual identity from family. Such intolerance comes despite legal strides back home. Nepal’s Supreme Court in late 2008 ordered the government to legalize same-sex marriage, and India decriminalized gay sex among consensual adults last July. But that doesn’t change the thinking of many parents.
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