In the late 1980s, eleven members of the newly-established South Asian LGBT group, Trikone, marched during San Francisco’s Pride Parade in multicolored lungis and kurtis, wearing masks to conceal their identities. Their presence roiled California’s burgeoning South Asian community. “People didn’t think there was such a thing as Indian homosexuals. To many people, if you’re homosexual, you must be a hijra,” recalled parade attendee Rann Shinar, 73, one of Trikone’s earliest members.
For LGBT South Asians in America, the road to visibility has been an arduous one. Despite inroads from June’s historic Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, equal rights activists in the minority community of more than three million nationwide say they’re struggling to find their place within the larger, American struggle for equal rights, while battling cultural hurdles at the same time.
Dr. Riddhi Sandil, a board member for the South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association (SALGA), says the ruling did not change the unique barriers faced by LGBT South Asians in the U.S., who often find themselves negotiating their identity and lifestyle between the challenges of American and South Asian heteronormativity.