Being Gay, Brown and Middle-Aged!

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It is not easy being gay and brown and middle-aged!  I still feel like an outsider, and relatively marginalized from the mainstream queer community.  This is especially the case if I am at a party or club in Vancouver and there are groups of people socializing.  The white gay men, who society seems to think is the cream of the crop of desirability, usually, hang out together.  I remember one of my friends asked me why are most of my friends’ people of colour?  I said it’s because they’re the only ones who want to be friends with me and who like me.  I have tried to hang out with people of all backgrounds, but the ones that stick around are usually those that I have something in common with and that includes our shared cultural upbringing, heritage, and skin colour.

I have experienced oppression in subtle ways.  I met an attractive Italian guy when I was 30 and doing my post-graduate in England. Let’s call him Frederico.  He was from Rome.  We ended up dating for a few months.  Of course, I had to ask him out.  It’s been rare in my life to be actually asked out by a good looking white guy.  He said to me “you’re quite handsome for an Indian guy.”   I did not know if I should take this as a compliment?  Nonetheless, I didn’t feel comfortable being the token person of colour in his social circle and soon we ended our relationship.  At the end of the day, most people want to feel like they fit in.

I wonder sometimes, am I still desirable enough for the gay world?  The gay world is still so obsessed with youth and beauty.

I arrived at my student housing at the London School of Economics which is probably one of the most ethnically diverse schools in the world.  To my surprise, the students made friends and even sat in the cafeteria based largely on nationality and ethnicity.  The Latinos sat together, the Europeans sat together, and the Asians sat together.  As a gay male with family history from India and born in England and raised in Canada, I didn’t know who to sit with.  Fortunately, I made some friends from Canada and the USA and with a few closeted gay students. 

I even experienced explicit ageism in the gay world while in London.  I went to a gay bar, as I turned 30 in the city, and an older white Englishman asked me about my age.  When I told him, he stated: “You’re past the expiry date.”  

Now I am 47 years old.  My life is getting better in some ways.  I have a nice house and car, I have a successful business, and I have good friends and family.  On the downside, I am not as toned, getting bald, with grey hair.  I have joint pain.  I can still swim for an hour virtually non-stop which I am proud of, nonetheless.  I wonder sometimes, am I still desirable enough for the gay world?  The gay world is still so obsessed with youth and beauty.  I grew up with media images of white, smooth, muscular young men and “twinks”, both of which I look nothing alike. 

I am currently focused on self-care and supporting and making a difference in the lives of others who are struggling, especially queer youth. 

In my counselling practice, I have helped many young brown men who have internalized racism and internalized homophobia.  This means they do not like themselves for being brown or gay.  Can you imagine?  They have to come out and accept their ethnicity and sexuality.  Talk about trying to deal with double the societal oppression and self-esteem and self-identity issues.

I am writing this article to let the next generation of queer youth, especially queer brown and queer people of colour, know that there is hope.  You can love yourself.  You can be loved.  You can find your place in our queer family.  

If you are youth between 16 and 30 demonstrating involvement, commitment and leadership in the queer community feel free to apply for the Sher Vancouver January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award which has cash prizes of $1000, $600, $400, and $200 Canadian Dollars.  For more information check out:  http://www.shervancouver.com/youth-award.html

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Alex Sangha

Alex Sangha is the Founder of Sher Vancouver which is a non-profit society for LGBTQ South Asians and friends.Alex is the recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) from the Governor General of Canada. You can contact him at alexsangha@gmail.com
Alex Sangha