9 Sep 2017

Sikh celebrations in London open to all

126,000 followers of Sikhism live in London and have a visible impact on the city. Outside the capital, this vibrant faith hailing from Northern India may be comparatively unknown but Londoners often have either a colleague, neighbour or friend spotting a turban that reveals their faith.

Southall in West London is known as THE destination for Indian culture, particularly Punjabi and Sikh culture with several Gurdwara (houses of workship), community organisations, restaurants and even a radio station, I attended the festival of "Nagar Kirtan" for the second time in 2016 and was so amazed by it that I created a humble short documentary about it on my YouTube channel with the help of a Sikh friend. The aim is to explain the festival to non-Sikhs and encourage them to learn more about their neighbours.

In the area of Southall you not only have the largest Sikh concentration of the UK but also have many Muslims, Hindus, East Europeans and other nationalities sharing this part of town. I often hear comments that reveal ignorance or misunderstanding about Sikh practises that I am keen to clarify, not least with this video.

P.S.: If you speak another language, like this video and want to help, I would appreciate your contribution here.

17 Jan 2017

Actors of first major black gay Hollywood movie use offensive term

American actor Trevante Rhodes isn't gay but in an interview with People.com, he acknowledged the following:
‘Being a black man in America is relatively difficult right now, being a gay man in America is incredibly difficult. And so being a black, gay man … can be perceived as the worst possible thing right now."
Rhodes was giving an interview about a protagonist embodying this double identity that he part-played in the 2016 movie "Moonlight" (premiering in February 2017 in the UK). It seems that this is the first major, black-directed and black-cast movie that addresses issues with growing up gay. Benjamin Lee rightly said in The Guardian that
 "Stories of LGBT people of colour have been largely ignored in film or at least relegated to the sidelines".

This being 2017, one would be forgiven to think that a movie like this would have been long overdue. As a (white) gay man in the UK, issues with my sexuality seem to be a thing of the past decade or two. Bullying, awkward coming outs and even just overhearing hurtful comments seem long behind me and I feel that 90% of the general population would treat me respectfully as a gay individual.

However, is this the same experience for black gay people in America today? I am left wondering even just after watching two interviews by the two other actors that played the same character at different lifestages: In the following two interviews, Ashton Sanders and Andre Holland both struck me as a little insensitive or even ignorant when talking about the gay character they played:

I came across the interviews randomly in excitement reading up on the film I was about to watch. However, I was suddenly struck with a certain "oh!"-moment when both actors used the terms "homosexuality".

This term, although neutrally defined in dictionaries for what it technically describes, is culturally a little insensitive. So much that when people use it, I automatically assume them to be either very ignorant about gay people or at worst outright homophobic. The term comes across overtly medical as it was mostly used at a time when people talked about homosexuality in clinical terms, something of an illness that needs addressing or even curing. GLAAD, in a media guidance publication describes the term "homosexuality" as a "term to avoid" and "offensive". 

In my experience, people that genuinly know gay people wouldn't really use this term nowadays because they would have never heard their friends say things like "I went to this homosexual bar last night" or even "I finally mentioned my homosexuality to my boss". Instead, we use "gay" or "lesbian" and maybe "same-sex" when becoming poltical. But never "homosexual". 

I wish that these two actors, who both through various interviews suggested the movie was a great source for insight, reflection and emotional maturing, would have learnt to be a bit more insightful about the various cultural overtones used to describe someone's sexuality.

So not just measured by the numeric value of the release year, but also th evident insensitivity shown by the very actors watering within it, the movie is indeed long overdue . I hope it will start more conversations about an identity that has perhaps for too long conveniently been dismissed as a "white" thing.