Alex Sangha: On South Asian gay and bisexual men who live a double life

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      Many communities, such as the South Asian community, have a strong emphasis on heterosexual marriage and having children. This poses a dilemma for many gay and bisexual men. Should they abide by cultural and religious norms and marry a woman? Or should they risk rejection from their family or community by settling down with a man who they are sexually compatible with?

      This is not an easy question to answer.

      Sometimes it's difficult for mainstream communities to understand why some gay men can't come out of the closet and be honest with themselves and others about their sexuality. What is important to understand is that many South Asian men may have had an arranged marriage when they were in their early adulthood. This may have been a time when they were still coming to terms with their sexuality.

      Others may not want to shame their family and community. Many South Asian men, for example, live in extended families. Their loyalty, land, money, and social status are tied to their family duty and to respect their elders and parents. As a result, sex in a marital relationship is often not a priority consideration.

      Partly due to this collective family unit, there is a lack of personal and sexual freedom. Many gay brown men probably won't bring their boyfriend home to meet their parents. Despite the 2008 Bollywood film Dostana which had a gay theme, there are not many gay South Asian role models in the media. In contrast, there are many Western “out” celebrities like Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres, George Michael, or Rosie O’Donnell.

      Living a double life can be an escape from home life and an opportunity to have some quality private time. These men can satisfy their repressed sexual desires. It's no wonder that many of these affairs are with men outside of their social circle and who are not a part of their cultural community. Privacy and discretion is of upmost importance.

      Without a gay sexual outlet, some married men may start resenting their wife and turn to anger or violence. Some people argue that being honest with yourself is necessary for emotional stability and forming a healthy sexual identity. If you go through your whole life repressing your sexuality, you are not riding yourself of these homosexual thoughts, but simply suffocating them.

      So what are you supposed to do if you’re married with these homosexual desires?

      It might be a good idea to be honest with yourself and with your wife if you can muster the courage.

      The consequences, nonetheless, of any life altering decision need to be carefully considered. For instance, there would be a huge stigma for the wife to bear in some cultures if her husband left her—especially for another man.

      If you're living a double life, you may be in deep denial. This means that you think you are straight even though you regularly have sex with men. Internalized homophobia, or unhappiness about homosexual feelings, may be an issue.

      So what are the consequences of a double life?

      Men may have unsafe sex and put their wife and possibly unborn child at risk of contracting STIs and HIV. If more closeted men would come out and accept themselves, there might be less bullying and discrimination in society. More out gay men could also save many youth from depression and suicide by giving them more role models or examples to look up to.

      Living a double life may put you at risk of being blackmailed and you may endure a lifetime of chronic anxiety.

      There is also the issue of a fraudulent marriage. It’s not fair to deprive your wife of her emotional, physical, and sexual needs, not to mention depriving heterosexual men of potential partners. Living a double life is unfair to the children as well because a father may be out having affairs with men instead of spending time with the children and building a family life.

      Last, the secrecy involved in living a double life could potentially lead to sexual addiction or become emotionally attached to your male lover.

      A double life is not easy. Find a way to be true and honest with yourself. As long as you are not hurting yourself or others, no one has a right to judge you. Be happy and live the life you were intended to live whatever path that may be.




      If you are questioning your sexuality, are seeking help with coming out, or want to meet and talk with other gay or bisexual men or counsellors, there are several resources in Metro Vancouver you can consider.

      You can find contact information for the queer community organization Qmunity and more information about their wide range of programs and services (which includes support groups and counsellors) by visiting their website. If you wish to talk to someone about sexuality issues by phone, you can also call their Pride Line (from Monday to Friday, from 7 to 10 p.m.) at 604-684-6869 or 1-800-566-1770.

      Counseling services (in person) are also available for gay men in Vancouver at the Health Initiative for Men.

      If you are South Asian and are looking for social support in Metro Vancouver, there are a few options.

      Sher Vancouver is a local social and support group for all South Asian LGBT people, and it has a special Punjabi division as well. Friends, family, and allies are all welcome to join.

      Trikone Vancouver is another local social and support group for lesbian, gay, transgendered, or questioning individuals of South Asian descent.

      Salaam Vancouver isn't a South Asian–specific group, but it’s a local queer organization for Muslim Canadians, which includes people of South Asian, Middle Eastern, and African descent.

      To watch videos from Dan Savage's It Gets Better project, which was created to send message of hope to LGBT youth, click here.

      One other option is to talk to your family doctor about what other health care resources might serve you best.



      Alex Sangha is a Registered Social Worker with a private counselling practice in North Delta. He is the author of The Modern Thinker.




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      Jan 22, 2012 at 12:00pm

      While understanding the cultural emphasis on the South Asian community, this is not specific to South Asian gay men. This is a 2012 fact of life where many gay men of all races and backgrounds and ages are coming out less and less - why come out in real life and deal with the difficulties when you can be someone in a chat room online that you've always wanted to be? There is a dangerous shift today where the lines of fantasy and reality are blurred: gay men want this image of body perfection, financial/academic success, and appearances, but it's all fake. No matter who they meet in these chat rooms, there will never be a future because none of it is real. So now we have an even smaller percentage of gay men in real life available and ready to date, and more gay men who are hiding at home with the doors locked, living in isolation, with no confidants who know their true identity. This is why parents are finding their gay sons hanging in the garage or dead in the basement. Nobody had a clue about what was going on, and since they never wanted to meet any gay people in real life, there were no gay friends to motivate them to get out there. If we as gay people don't know others are struggling, we can't do anything about it. That's what needs to be addressed: the community centres are disappearing. The gay coffee shops and dances are gone. Ten years ago there was so much activity at these gay-specific spaces; now so many are hiding at home alone, and with no clue on where to even meet anyone else. This is not what all this activism intended for the future. The internet is great, but it's also a great way for many to never move ahead. These chat rooms do not build social skills nor were they meant to be a substitute for real life . Unfortunately, as life is right now, many gay men no longer can afford to move to progressive, largely gay populated cities such as Toronto and they're stuck in smaller cities and towns for many more years than generations prior. It's hard to be alone and gay, especially in a hostile town. But there's so many of us now - we just have to trust each other a little more and get through it.

      multiple choice

      Jan 22, 2012 at 3:36pm

      This is a great article.

      I've noticed that the Indian mainstream media is starting to give this topic much more attention (there's even a super popular soap opera on ATN that has a complex story line about a gay man in an arranged marriage and they've detailed most of the issues you've mentioned. The concept of homosexuality is one that is shockingly not well understood in India and the Indian diaspora and homophobia is rampant.

      I hope to see more informative and beneficial articles like this in the LGBT section. Thank you.

      Priyanka Chopra

      Jan 22, 2012 at 7:10pm

      The name of the girl in the picture. She is fucking wicked hot.