Updated: Jul 15
Design by @aurawithwriting
Coming to terms with one’s sexuality is a vastly different experience for so many people. As many can relate, sometimes it feels like you cannot exist as part of both the LGBTQ+ community and the South Asian community. You may feel you have to ‘give up’ some of your South Asian identity and culture if you identify as LGBTQ+.
South Asian weddings are known to be nothing short of glamorous and this can be seen in the thousands of wedding videos on YouTube, the number of parties, and the fashion associated with each of those. Like many others, I became familiar with this idea at a young age and fantasized about the glamour of it all. I have attended more desi weddings than I can count on both hands. All of these ‘dream’ weddings I have attended or that are shown in these publicized videos are usually between a man and woman. The idea that I, a South Asian woman, would marry a man was so normalized that until a few years ago, it truly never occurred to me that I may not want to marry a man. Although I am still exploring my sexuality, I know for sure I am not completely straight.
Once I realized this, I started noticing just how heteronormative our weddings can be. Even though I know it is largely due to the tradition of unions between families rather than just love between a couple, I can imagine how polarizing this is for desi youth who do not identify as straight, female, or male.
Heteronormative refers to the attitude that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality.
I’m only 19 and if I get married it won’t be for quite a while, but sometimes I felt awkward talking about weddings. It seemed like if I did marry a woman, I couldn’t have this ‘dream’ desi wedding since I had never seen it done or people may shame and judge me. But why is it so different or ‘bad’ to see two people getting married with all our desi galore despite not being a man and woman? Why is it so hard to picture pride flags with all their beautiful colours among our colourful and glamorous desi weddings? If we were to recognize and normalize more LGBTQ+ identities within the South Asian community, it may not be so difficult.
There is a strong tendency in our South Asian communities to follow ‘tradition’ and not deviate from that. This has been especially true in the diaspora because as children of immigrants or immigrants ourselves, we are told to fit in with the larger crowd and hold on to some, if not all, of our culture. Unfortunately, this culture usually excludes LGBTQ+ identities despite their history in many South Asian cultures.
Our communities can become so invested in external acceptance and meeting others’ expectations that as a result, certain groups are neglected or rejected for the fear of not being seen as ‘normal.’ At some point, though, the question we have to ask is if LGBTQ+ relationships are really that different and if it’s really that bad to be something other than the current standard of ‘normal’. By acknowledging this, we can move closer to greater acceptance and normalization of LGBTQ+ relationships. To all the uncles and aunties out there: think about how validating it would be for your children to embrace both their whole culture and identity in a celebration of love.
The growing South Asian LGBTQ+ representation through online platforms and the media is shifting this narrative, showing how the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t need to be seen as separate from South Asian cultures. I recently watched “The Big Day”, a Netflix series showing the processes and stories behind extravagant South Asian weddings. I really appreciated their focus on a gay couple because it celebrated and emphasized the love between two people rather than only between a man and woman. Representation through the media is so important in normalizing South Asian LGBTQ+ relationships and weddings because it proves they can be celebrated equally. It also allows LGBTQ+-identifying people and those figuring out their sexuality to feel seen and accepted without feeling like they are unusual.
Seeing greater representation of the South Asian LGBTQ+ community reduces the unequal, heteronormative focus and helps normalize all types of love. This is instrumental in making the journey easier as I continue to learn about my sexuality. June may be pride month, but we should celebrate all types of love, all year round. I look forward to the day I search ‘desi weddings’ on YouTube as late night procrastination and find that the list of normal and glamorous weddings includes even more of the LGBTQ+ community.