5 Platforms Advocating for Queer South Asians in Canada

Discover the trailblazing organisations empowering queer South Asians in Canada through community support and social initiatives.

5 Platforms Advocating for Queer South Asians in Canada

It's one of the pioneering platforms of its kind

In LGBTQ+ communities, the narratives and voices of queer South Asians have often been relegated to the margins.

Yet, within this landscape of intersectionality, emerged beacons of empowerment.

Within Canada, certain platforms have defied outdated norms and challenged notions of sexuality and culture among South Asian communities.

Their efforts give rise to a thriving national entity and catalyse groundbreaking research shedding light on the multifaceted challenges faced by queer South Asians in Canada. 

But, they also provide a spotlight to the wider issues that LGBTQIA+ South Asians face globally. 

However, these organisations provide resources, helpful content, and organise social events to help celebrate this shunned group instead of dwelling on the negatives. 

Join us as we explore the transformative journey of these initiatives and their profound impact on amplifying voices within the South Asian community.

Queer South Asian Women’s Network

5 Platforms Advocating for Queer South Asians in Canada

The QSAW network emerged to challenge the invisibility of queer South Asian women within Western LGBTQ+ communities.

It was founded in August 2019 by Sonali (Alyy) Patel, a gay gender-fluid Indo-African Gujarati residing in Canada.

Alyy constructed the QSAW Network from scratch as a personal endeavour to address the shared sense of loss resulting from being marginalised in both South Asian and LGBTQ+ spaces.

Alyy single-handedly established the Queer South Asian Women’s Network, nurturing it into a thriving national entity.

Furthermore, Alyy spearheaded groundbreaking research on the issues faced by queer South Asian Women in Canada.

In 2020, Alyy made history as the inaugural South Asian speaker at Pride Toronto’s Dyke March. 

Since its inception, the QSAW Network has enjoyed remarkable success in fostering connections among vibrant communities of gender-marginalised LGBTQ+ South Asians in the diaspora.

Presently, the QSAW Network operates with the assistance of a team of dedicated community volunteers, operating without external funding.

Sher Vancouver 

5 Platforms Advocating for Queer South Asians in Canada

Established in 2008, Sher Vancouver was created with the mission of offering arts, cultural, and social service programs to queer South Asians and their allies residing in Metro Vancouver.

It was founded by Alex Sangha along with his co-founders Ash, Josh, and Jaspal Kaur.

Sangha holds qualifications as a Registered Clinical Social Worker and a Registered Clinical Counsellor, possessing a Master of Social Work and an MSc in Public Administration and Public Policy.

Ash, a registered nurse, was the close friend of the late January Marie Lapuz, Sher Vancouver’s cherished former social coordinator and the first transgender individual to hold an executive position within the organisation.

Josh is a staunch advocate for diversity and human rights.

He is also a Founding Member of the Dignity Seniors Society, dedicated to supporting vulnerable queer seniors.

Lastly, Jaspal, known for her role in Emergence: Out of the Shadows, offers guidance and emotional support to Sher Vancouver members, who regard her as a grandmother figure.

Sher Vancouver is committed to safeguarding human rights by combating exclusion, discrimination, and prejudice.

Their goal is to educate, empower, connect, and support individuals within our community, fostering a just, compassionate, inclusive, and respectful environment.

Desi Rainbow

5 Platforms Advocating for Queer South Asians in Canada

Desi Rainbow Parents & Allies originated in 2017 to cater to South Asian families and friends of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning individuals.

They offer avenues to understand LGBTQIA+ issues, connect with the community, and enhance support for their loved ones.

The organisation serves Desi individuals and families whose roots trace back to South Asia.

Their mission centres on cultivating understanding and acceptance within families, aiming to affirm and celebrate LGBTQIA+ members.

Primarily operating in virtual spaces, the organisation conducts monthly online support and discussion groups for parents and family members of LGBTQIA+ individuals, as well as for LGBTQIA+ individuals.

They provide educational initiatives like Proud Possibilities, showcasing LGBTQIA+ role models within the community, and host speaker events.

The genesis of Desi Rainbow stems from the personal journey of a Desi mother who faced difficulties in finding support within her community.

Failing to find suitable resources, she took the initiative to establish a community platform.

Today, the organisation comprises a growing network of Desi figures, united by the belief that sharing personal narratives can positively impact the lives of LGBTQIA+ individuals and their families.

Although primarily based in the United States and Canada, the platform’s outreach extends to other countries and continents.

Queer South Asians (QSA)

5 Platforms Advocating for Queer South Asians in Canada

Queer South Asians, led by transgender individuals and supported by volunteers and mutual aid, is a community group established in 2015 by Arshi Syed.

Currently, QSA organises a variety of community programs aimed at broadening access to inclusive and culturally relevant spaces for LGBTQ+ South Asians in Toronto.

The term “South Asian” encompasses a rich diversity of cultural identities and communities.

They acknowledge the intersectionality and complex histories inherent in our cultural identities.

This platform serves as a space to engage in learning, collaboration, and deeper exploration of the unique experiences of queer South Asians.

Salaam Canada

5 Platforms Advocating for Queer South Asians in Canada

Salaam Canada is a national organisation run by volunteers, committed to providing a supportive space for individuals who identify as both Muslim and LGBTQ+.

It offers support to LGBTQ+ individuals who connect with their faith ritually, culturally, or spiritually.

The organisation advocates for social justice and addresses the intersecting issues of homophobia, transphobia, and Islamophobia/racism.

Services provided include discussions, support groups, and social gatherings tailored for LGBTQ+ Muslims.

Regional groups are active in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and Vancouver, organising local events and engaging in social justice advocacy.

Additionally, Salaam offers training services to platforms seeking to enhance their capacity to serve LGBTQ+ Muslims effectively.

The history of Salaam traces back to the early 90s in Toronto.

Here, it initially operated as a social and support group for lesbian and gay Muslims.

It’s one of the pioneering platforms of its kind in North America.

Despite facing violent threats and negative responses, Salaam thrived and in 2000, was re-established as Salaam: Queer Muslim Community.

It expanded its activities to include refugee support, annual Peace Iftar events, and forums on human rights issues.

As we reflect on the journey of these initiatives, we are reminded of the indomitable spirit that propels individuals to defy invisibility and carve out spaces of belonging.

Through resilience and collective action, these organisations are slowly breaking down the stigma of sexuality in South Asian spaces. 

From humble beginnings to its present-day stature, all of these movements have given hope and safety to a fragile and judged community. 

However, it’s clear that through power and tough action, they are changing that and championing individuals to be themselves. 

Balraj is a spirited Creative Writing MA graduate. He loves open discussions and his passions are fitness, music, fashion, and poetry. One of his favourite quotes is “One day or day one. You decide.”

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