What was it like to grow up gay and brown in Surrey? (I am referring to Newton, of all places.) It was very distressing. I hope things have changed for the better. My adolescence as a sexually confused teen at Frank Hurt Secondary still bring back episodes of sadness and emotional struggle nearly 20 years later.
I came very close to flying to freedom towards the end of my senior year by driving off a nearby cliff. I felt it would be much better than the stress of studying for exams and the alienation I felt of being the only "gay kid" in the neighborhood. There wasn't a place for me to make friends or to turn to for help. Thank God we have the internet and email now to connect alienated LGBT kids. But it is still not enough. Nothing replaces the support of family and friends. Acceptance is the foundation from which to develop and flourish into a well-adjusted, stable individual.
I wrote a suicide note but I did not have the courage to follow through with my plan. I kept silent about my problem. I only managed to stay alive because I did not want to hurt my mother who had sacrificed everything just to raise me. This was the only barrier separating me from heaven or hell or being reincarnated into a lesser mortal as punishment for my gay existence.
The scary thought of being "outed" took up an exhausting amount of my time and energy. The mere mention of the words "faggot" or "homo", or any other slur that is commonly used in high school, would ruin my entire day or get me thinking about what the world would be like if I was no longer here. The name-calling and the rumours would make me depressed and take its toll on my self-esteem and self-confidence. I was being taught in high school to hate myself.
Alex Sangha at age 19.
I managed to slowly overcome this internalized homophobia at college and university. I learned to embrace my sexuality and started to feel inner peace and happiness. At college, I got my first break from this hatred by meeting men and women, many of them straight, who to my surprise did not pass judgment on gay people. It was a breath of fresh air and a whole new world separate from high school.
At university, I became interested in classical art and literature. I was amazed to discover that some of the most brilliant and greatest men in history were gay or bisexual. This magnificent list includes Alexander the Great, Leonardo da Vinci, Emperor Hadrian, Edward II, Oscar Wilde, John Maynard Keynes, Salvador Dali, Lawrence of Arabia, Rudolph Valentino, and my favourite, Michelangelo. I never learned this in Western Civilisation 12. I always thought it was kind of odd that Michelangelo would spend hours sculpting the statue David or painting muscular Gods on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Today, I am a fan of fabulous women who have come out and act as role models to millions of people such as Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O'Donnell.
I started to feel good about my identity and myself. I discovered that gay people contribute an enormous amount to humanity, despite the marginalization, prejudice, and homophobia they experience.
This is why it is important for the community to celebrate the achievements of gay men and women and spread the message of "pride." It is of benefit to everyone regardless of their sexuality. Anyone can be a victim of homophobia. This pain and suffering can be alleviated if society were more tolerant. No one has the right to judge anyone.
We need to help send a message to people that they need to help stop discrimination of all sorts including racism, sexism, and homophobia. We can learn to accept each other unconditionally in all our diversity.
This article was originally published in Xtra West and The Peak in 2001, but has been revised.