Indian Summer to discuss South Asian LGBT issues with panel of writers and artists

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      When Padma Iyer placed a personal ad for her son Harish in an Indian newspaper in 2015, it made headlines.

      While it's commonplace for parents in India to write ads in search of arranged marriages for their offspring, what was different about this ad—and why it garnered special attention—was that the mother was looking for a groom for her son.

      The state of LGBT rights and acceptance in India is a complex one.

       In 2013, the country reinstated a law against same-sex relationships that had previously been removed in 2009.

      Yet in 2014, an Indian Supreme Court ruling officially recognized hijras, including transgender, eunuchs, intersex, and asexual people. Due to the decision, state and federal governments allowed hijras to identify themselves on official documents as a gender alongside male and female.  

      Hijras have a history of existence and social roles on the Indian subcontinent since ancient times. However, they still lack legal protection from discrimination.

      Consequently, these varying levels of acceptance and rejection of LGBT people can also play out within South Asian communities in Canada. Canadian intergenerational social differences can add another layer of complexity as well for LGBT people struggling to come out despite the fact that LGBT Canadians have rights same-sex marriage is legal in Canada.

      A panel of four writers and artists from Canada, the U.S., and India will explore these issues and discuss what can be done about them.

      Toronto artist and author Vivek Shraya (She of the Mountains), San Francisco author Minal Hajratwala (Leaving India: My Family's Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents), Kolkata writer and journalist Sandip Roy, and Canadian comedian and writer Kalyani Pandya will offer their perspectives on the subject, with moderation by Vancouver journalist and editor Fatima Jaffer.

      The event, entitled Don't Let Them Know: Love, Sexuality, and the South Asian Family, is part of the Indian Summer festival and wil be held at 6 p.m. on July 14 at SFU's Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (149 West Hastings). Tickets are $15 to $20 and are available at the Indian Summer website.