A new and first-of-its-kind pride group to support LGBTQIA+ Indians is officially up and running.
Indian Origin Pride New Zealand, which aims to support and advocate for Indians who are part of the rainbow community, was launched at Parliament last night.
Founder Shay Singh said a conservative culture made it a struggle for some LGBTQIA+ Indians to come out as they feared exclusion from their community.
“We get to a point where you’re questioning your sexuality, and our community can be quite conservative. So our fear is, would they accept us or not?
“Often what we do is walk away from the [Indian] community when we come out,” he said.
Shay Singh found there was no community to support him and others, prompting him to start Indian Origin Pride New Zealand.
He hopes it will create visibility around rainbow members of the Indian community and ensure they feel accepted and celebrated through a support network.
“This is a way of saying I can be a middle-aged Indian man – part of the Indian community – who happens to be gay, and I don’t have to leave this community to embrace my sexuality; I can do both.”
The new organisation has given others in the community hope too, including Gurv Singh.
“You feel like I am coming out all the time being Indian because people still don’t accept it,” Gurv Singh said.
“It’s great to have something like this that embraces the culture as well as the identity, and that’s what’s needed.”
Akula Sharma has hope too after a tough journey to feeling accepted.
She moved from India to Europe to pursue her goal of becoming a doctor but when classmates found out about her sexuality they threatened to out her to her family back in India, where being gay was criminalised until 2018. So Sharma left medical school.
“I felt there was no acceptance wherever I would go,” she said.
Sharma moved to New Zealand a year later and despite initially feeling like she could not be herself, was accepted into a community and felt loved. She hopes Indian Origin Pride New Zealand will help to create change.
“We can make all spaces free from discrimination,” Sharma said.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson was at the launch and saw it as a significant achievement for people experiencing an intersection of marginalisation.
“You have a group in the Indian community who have experienced some prejudice in New Zealand and then, within the Indian community, you have the rainbow community, so I think there can be a double pressure there.
“We need to support the Indian Origin Group to stand up proudly,” Robertson said.
Shay Singh said the group’s work would start with a 12-month peer support pilot programme that would see rainbow Indians support each other.