Alex Sangha struggled to come out as a gay man, enduring emotional crises and contemplating suicide. Coming out can be difficult for any person — especially years ago, before governments codified human rights and equal marriage — but Sangha thinks members of some ethnocultural communities have a tougher time due to religious and family pressures.
Sangha is a Sikh man, but he faced backlash from members of his religious community when he founded Sher Vancouver, in 2008, as a Sikh gay group.
“At that time, the president of a Sikh temple said there was no such thing as gay Sikhs,” Sangha recalls. “A South Asian radio station had a poll and I think 85 per cent of the people said ‘we will not support a gay Sikh group.’ So we strategically turned it into a gay South Asian group. We separated it from religion.”
Nevertheless, the vast majority of members, he says, are Punjabi Sikhs.
The negative attitudes underscored Sangha’s feeling that such a group was necessary.