30th July 2018   •   article
First ever British Asian LGBT conference breaks new ground in Birmingham

by Barfi Culture Team | @barfi_culture.
Image: Sisak movie
India’s first silent queer love story, Sisak (pictured), which has won 43 international awards, was screened at the inaugural British Asian LGBTI event this weekend at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

The one-day conference attracted activists from across the UK to discuss and debate issues affecting LGBT+ people from minority backgrounds.

"Are we ready as a South Asian community to talk about issues that affect us like mental health, sexuality, sexual health and domestic violence?" asked co-organiser Khakan Qureshi as he opened the event and welcomed participants.

Qureshi founded Birmingham South Asians LGBT - Finding A Voice, a multi-faith support group for men and women aged 18+. He organised the event in collaboration with Siddhi Joshi, editor of British Asian LGBTI, a Facebook support group.

He told Barfi Culture the aim was to open dialogue on issues including mental health, sexual health, women's health, HIV/AIDS, religion, Human Rights and Section 377 (a law that effectively outlaws homosexuality in India).

"I think it is important that we have these discussions and continue to do as more people are still struggling coming to terms with their identities, sexual orientations and gender," he said.

"I hope that the more we can speak openly about LGBT+ issues, the feelings many of us have experienced and continue to feel, such as isolation, discrimination, persecution and oppression due to cultural, religious and familial pressure is alleviated, and hopefully, is one day, stopped altogether."

He said the aim of the conference was also to "break the silence and taboos of South Asian culture" and "highlight the contributions of pioneers, activists and campaigners who are LGBT or allies, who are comfortable and secure enough in their own skin".

While there are LGBT+ organisations in Britain that primarily focus on minorities, many are aligned on religious lines (i.e. Imaan or Sarbat Sikhs). This conference plans to bring South Asians from across different communities.

Participants were treated to the first British screening of Sisak, which was made in 2017 and is written and directed by Faraz Arif Ansari.

Along with other talks, presentations and debates, visitors also had a video call with India's only openly-gay Maharaja, Manvendra Singh Gohil, who talked about the gay rights activism he does in India.

Organisers hope to make the British Asian LGBTI conference an annual event.

Some tweets from the conference

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