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Ravina: I’m a Sikh lesbian but I’m so much more than my sexuality

Ravina was born in the UK and is of Indian descent. She identifies as a Sikh lesbian, having ended her marriage with a non-British man. My story started when I developed an attraction to the same sex

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Ravina was born in the UK and is of Indian descent. She identifies as a Sikh lesbian, having ended her marriage with a non-British man.

My story started when I developed an attraction to the same sex in secondary school. I had no exposure to the gay scene so I kept it hidden, not understanding that I needed to do anything about it. Then suddenly, because I’m from the Asian Sikh culture, you start getting pressured into marriage, start getting proposals. So I tried to come out to my parents by writing a letter explaining, but it was like they didn’t want to hear it. My mum said, “Oh I’ll take you to a spiritual person, who will heal you from it”. And because I was in my late teens, and I didn’t have any exposure to the gay scene or gay friends or anything, I was talked into it. That person basically tried to brainwash me and said, “you owe a duty to your parents and you’ll be fulfilling your duty if you get married”. I got talked into marriage.

Years later down the line, there was a proposal. And because I wasn’t ‘moving’ on either end; I wasn’t part of the gay scene and I wasn’t into boys, my mum and my aunts said, “you’re not going anywhere, you’re just stagnant you need to move on, your body clock is ticking”. I got talked into marriage but I was very unhappy. I literally thought, ‘oh my god I’m going nowhere, so maybe this is the right thing’. So I put my trust in the elders and went through with the marriage in 2005. I was like a zombie for a year. Just on autopilot, I would do anything anyone said and I wouldn’t care. It’s like part of me died or had given up, thinking: ‘this is my fate; just hand it over’.

The minute we came back from our honeymoon, the in-laws started acting quite negative towards me. They would play with me mentally and mess me around. I was getting weaker and weaker, and I ended up in casualty. My mum and dad came to see me there, and a doctor said, “don’t send her back to the in-laws”. And then my parents realised that those people weren’t right. They had been making plans for how they would use my status as a British citizen, use me as a sponsor to settle the whole family. So after that I didn’t go back, instead I went home and we started divorce proceedings. It was a year of hell and then I went into long term absence from work, like six months, and I got depression. It was like… after it was all over, my body or something needed to recover. I needed time out. So that was my way of recovering.

Exploring my identity as a Sikh lesbian

I went on a couple of dating sites like match.com and pinkcupid.com, but the majority of the people you meet on these websites are into ‘clubbing’, the ‘gym’. It seemed all superficial and artificial to me. Fortunately I went on a meetup.com group, and through that,- I met like-minded mature Asians who were professionals. One was a barrister, one was a social worker, the other one a teacher, the other a police officer. And that was my first taste I think, in my mid-thirties. From the way I was feeling at the age of thirteen, it took me until the age of thirty five, to take my first step into a gay bar! And it was like, ‘wow, you know, what took you so long?’ And I went out with them for years to parties. It was quite exhausting for me so I eventually pulled back a bit.

I realised that the gay scene is alright but… my life doesn’t revolve around it. I want to let the first timers know that your sexuality is not your life and it doesn’t define who you are. There’s much more to life than your sexuality. But when you’re coming out for the first time, because you’ve had to keep it hidden, it’s like one extreme to the other. All you want to do is mix with gay people! You think, ‘oh wow I’m going to accept everything and everyone, take everything on board.’ And I suppose that’s an important part of it as well, but then you eventually ground yourself. Something starts to tell you what you really like. Maybe you realise you like loud or fast-paced people or more calm and centred people. It ends up like in everyday life; there are certain people you respond to and certain people that repel you. It’s the same with the gay world.

I’m quite spiritual and that’s helped me a lot to deal with things. I’m quite fortunate that my religion, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t have any acknowledgement or even problem with sexuality. I go to a yoga group and they study Sikhism, which is the faith I’m from. And one of the co-founders openly says, “why is it anyone’s concern, who prefers what kind of partner?” It’s not even an issue and he laughs it off. That made me smile! I thought ‘you’re saying what I knew years ago’, but because of my environment, rather than believe what I felt, I believed what was put upon me.

So first timers really need to get to grips with that. Don’t deny your feelings. People will say ‘but how do you know?’ When you live with yourself, you know. If you’re feeling a certain way, take time out and explore. But don’t ever think you’re wrong. And the thing is to get your own space, so you’re not distracted by family matters or relatives and you can concentrate on yourself which is important. When you’re living with a family, ‘what you are’ is a small thing. Family matters take over all the time and that is distracting.

I needed to go through this journey. And what I appreciate about myself now is the older I’ve got, I’ve become quite broad minded. I live and let live. I admire open, confident people who are comfortable in their skin. People who don’t fear anything. I love that. I think I am starting to become that. I’m becoming what I admire.

Finding support for Sikh lesbians

SARBAT provides support for LBGTQ+ Sikhs, and runs regular social meet-ups in various cities around the UK. KISS, a support group led by sexual health charity NAZ, also offers regular meetings for South Asian women who identify as lesbian, bisexual or queer.

1000women@naz.org.uk

1000women is a platform for minority ethnic women to tell their own stories, on their terms. To find out more about joining the team or sharing your story, write to 1000women@naz.org.uk

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