12.09.2008

Why Sikhism Is Naturally Amenable to Gay Marriage (Sikhism and Homosexuality, Part I)

In light of Proposition 8, and the various religious arguments against gay marriage, I want to add a new perspective. Various policies regarding gay marriage in the Western world concern Sikhs. California, the home state of Prop 8, and Canada, which recently legalized same-sex marriage, contain high concentrations of the Sikh diaspora. In fact, the policies in Canada caused enough concern to generate some drama with the Sikh higher-ups (more on this later, in Sikhism and Homosexuality, Part II).

So in spite of the potential hate mail (if the wider world knew about queeristan) here is why I think that Sikhism unadulerated by cultural ideology is one of the few religions that is naturally poised to accept gay marriage.

The first point: the basic philosophy of Sikhism is that everyone is equal. It is one of the only religions that explicitly states that all sentient beings are equal. The Golden Temple, one of the most respected religious sites, has four entrances to symbolize this - anyone is welcome, regardless of their religion, color, caste, or gender. So it hardly seems in line with the religion that exceptions would be made to bar a specific group (in this case, LGBT's) from certain rights.

Secondly, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is mum on the issue of gay marriage. All the religion promotes is a family lifestyle and marriage for all adherents because all Sikhs belong to the community and have a duty to further it. Hence, the solitary lifestyle is discouraged (no hot rogues a la the Wolverine for Sikhs). What options does this leave a gay Sikh? Either pretend to be straight and get married, or come out and still get married, but to someone of the same sex. But why even pretend to be straight? Philosophically, gay marriage and gay adoption don't seem antithetical to the Sikh religion - in fact, it seems essential for a gay Sikh to push for gay marriage and gay adoption to remain a a good Sikh.

Sikhism's foundation lies on it's tolerance and egalitarianism; it's structure promotes community, family, and marriage. Denying LGBT's the right to marry, adopt, and participate in the community doesn't seem to fit quite right.

While you wait for Part II, where we consider the realities rather than the philosophy, consider how accepting a religion will be when it has followers who have altered it's main symbol (the Khanda...click to see original form) into this:


15 comments:

Who I Am... said...

SNAP.... all i can say ... "JO BOLE SO NIHAL SAT SRI AKAL" ... btw... Jainism is another Religion that does not talk about anything relating to Homosexuality or Marriage or Sexuality...

kiran said...

hm. I've heard that argument before and I think it's a little overexposed and undernuanced. Some thoughts:

Firstly, I have no clue what sikhism (or any religion) minus cultural ideology is. Religions shift and vary based on their cultural contexts and to hearken back to any textual truth is somewhat essentialist. For example, the British Raj's use of a Sanskrit-based brahmanical hinduism to ascribe a 'true hinduism' led to the hierarchization of that hinduism and the denegration of 'other' hinduisms. (Nevermind the use of the census to define hinduism in the first place!) It also dismissed ritual hindu practice (including women's hindu practice) and all South Indian Hinduisms as barbaric and not the true, pure Aryan hinduism.

I'm wary at using text to decide what a religion really means and i'm even more wary of interfaith discussions looking for the queer loophole. The truth is that there are homos who ascribe to every faith and there are haters of homos who ascribe to every faith too. The west has used religious practice as a method of and justification to colonial rule, and now that we've exhausted the jesus bible, queers want to use 'othered' religious practices as a method of and justification to queerness. It feels slightly imperial, especially since these seem to be western-based attempts to justify western queer identities.

Regarding the totalizing image of what the realities of sikhism could be: people who turn their religious symbol (khanda) into an image with guns, swords, and bullets, I want to contextualize this a bit. This is the album cover of a CD by a number of young, Sikh artists including two Toronto-based dudes who make killer (haha, pun intended) bhangra hits. The use of 'violent' symbols in music production is quite common. What makes me more excited than the use of this symbol to discuss the 'impure' realities of Sikhism is the use of Sikhism by diasporic, Sikh men who are searching for a belonging and thus, fusing radical diasporic movements (like hip hop) and their own religious identity to find home. The ascription of the cover of this CD with the forthcoming 'realities' of Sikhism almost screamed fundamentalist terrorists. If I wanted that, I'd look in the Vancouver Sun, not on a queer SA blog. Attributing one dude's graphic design skillz with the realities (coming soon!) of an entire religious faith seems a little excessive... Only recently, I wanted to silkscreen a boys' baggy yellow polo shirt with a giant pink khanda which was dripping with blood. I don't think that means that I like blood or violence. I'm just a pansy who likes to look tuff.

So, just some thoughts to maybe start a dialogue...
-k.

Harjant Gill said...

interesting point except ... the symbol that you used to end the article with is very specific to the Khalistani movement, which has largely dissipated and is rooted in political history rather then religious ideology that at least you are referring to.. i think the two are very different debates and must not be conflated without providing the context.. perhaps an interesting place to explore is Sikh Masculinity and how homosexuality might threaten it... also notion of a heteronormative 'gay family' is relatively new one.. and has not become as popular in India yet... so to use that to support your argument is bit ethnocentric.

djdrrrtypoonjabi said...

So, when's Part II dropping?

Anonymous said...

I have to say that articles like this leave me conflicted. The publishers name is "Kaur", which I would assume insinuates someone who is some what learned in this history of Sikhi and the Khalsa. I must admit, I agree that Sikhism inherently is amendable to Gay Marriage. However, the way in which this blog chooses to convey this message is disturbing and has a malicious undertone (which isn't amendable to Sikhi at all). Now I'm not trying to personally attack the author, but I would like to point out a few inconsistencies that I have noticed with this argument that is being used.

This blogger tries to use a definition of Sikhi that is "unadulterated by cultural ideology" (i.e. essentially separating the Khalsa Panth from the SGGS). Now I am not here to discuss whether such a separation is correct or incorrect, however in using that definition the author must realize that they cannot use "culturally indoctrinated" examples or ideas to support their own definition when convenient. For example the author uses reference to the fact the Harmandhir Sahib (a.k.a. The Golden Temple) is one of the most respected religious sites by Sikhs. Discussing the significant message that this Gurudwara is meant to send to the world. A message that the author forgets to acknowledge is not written in the sacred scripture of the SGGS, however has been culturally indoctrinated by the Khalsa panth to all its followers. The importance of the Harmandhir Sahib is one that is rich in relevant history that directly corresponds to the SGGS, more importantly giving significance to and context to the hymns that are in the SGGS. Ironically, this debunks the authors original underlying argument that cultural ideology has worked create a regressive or non-inclusive religion.

Secondly, I think its sad and disheartening that an individual would actually try and attack the adaptation of the Khanda to depict AK-47 and other modern weaponry. It clearly shows the authors lack of historical regarding struggles Sikhs have faced and continue to face even more so today. Furthermore, the malicious attack at this image is a direct attack on the Sikh's last Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Understanding the continuous on going oppression Sikhs would face (even after his death) Guru Gobind Singh Ji strategically intertwined a Marshall identity with the Sikhi spirituality. The image adaption is often thought of to be a "gangster wannabe creation", however such arguments refuse to acknowledge the valid grievances individuals like Sant Bhindranwale had to the modern world about embracing the ideals and values of Sikhi. More importantly the image speaks to the fact that Nation states (especially India) will attack the orthodoxy of Sikhi to grow and prosper. The image speaks to protect the thousands of mothers that lost their husbands, sons, daughters in India because of their belief and the Faith. The same mothers that even today have been forced to live in poverty without justice or any basic freedoms or rights. To question such an image, is refusing to acknowledge the enormous battles Sikhism is facing to exist today. And to relate that battle to the frivolous right of being able to marry someone of the same sex in a gurudwara I think is wrong and unnecessary.


I must admit, I applaud the blogger to think critically about their religion or certain ideas that they are not willing to complacently accept. Not enough people do it these days and I think its the only way we learn.

I myself am a Queer Sikh and after vast amounts of research and consultation with different members in the community. I have realized that this battle of marriage rights is one of which takes away from the larger and forever on-going battle of the existence and authenticity of Sikhi in its entirety.

oh no.. said...

according to sikhi, everyone is equal...relationship between men and women are the way it should be but the way god made you is something you should accept..!! marriage in sikhi is considered union btwn two souls to reach God...

i dnt think its too much of a problem in sikhi..
i cant picture a gay singh though lol because singhs ar supposed to be the fighters...strong manly..with shastrass..
but i dnt think sikhis principles are against the gays!

Anonymous said...

im straight, im sikh, im male, and im for LBGT rights.

(I blame rural cultural norms and discrimination against us from holding back progress)

Bluez said...

I am a 35yr old Sikh man who is Proud to be GAY. Sikhi is a way of LIFE As Our 10th Guru said Sikhi will evolve throughout the ages and adapt to the current situations.
Homosexuality will never be accepted in any religion no matter how u dress it up. The majority of homophobics are Str8 and will only c life thru the eyes of a str8 person.If u were living in India or Punjab, going out on a date with a girl was a no go, so what did the guys do for pleasure, used each other. Common in the Pinds.So it's ok behind closed doors but hey u open that front door n Say ur Gay Big No No. I came out 2 my family 16yrs ago. They married me off. I have lived a lie since then. I told my wife 6mnths after we got hitched. She chose to stay married for names sake(isat). I am now at a stage where I do not care about religion as it is only a way of controlling the masses of people.
I was born GAY, my earliest memory of fancying a dude was when i started primary school, 7yrs old. WHY r we trying 2 justify ourselves. If u beleive in religion then u cannot be GAY. In the eyes of the world. So b urself live an honest way of life which is what SIKHI IS ALL ABOUT & If GOD exists then he will reward u as he see's fit.

Sikhi 2day is lost in rituals, taken for granted ie, the names Singh & Kaur being given without the taking of Amrit?? read the history behind these names people!!
Bluez
Queer and Proud

Anonymous said...

I am Sikh (at least born of Sikh parents if some do not want me to be), gay and proud. But I feel sad how quickly the Sikh 'religious authority' have opposed Gay people. Are they sure they stand for truth and love? From what I know about Sikhism, Guru Gobinda beleieved that one must stand of his or her rights. I am sure he will proud if a gay person fought for his rights, even if he died for it. That would be a real Sikh according to me. Not those who supress others - even if its the politcal religious authority of Sikhism. I promise you that a Gay person will have greater strength in this case because there is conviction of his or her love. The temples and religious institutes merely have words and politics of religion behind this with no really understanding about the people they are talking about - that cannot provide real strength. If they really did why are they so silent about it till now? Because they choose not to care... Hope you understand what I mean. Of course, someone can die in any fight. But you know strength with conviction also provides bravery to not fear that? If God really exisst and is benevolent and there is a possibility to discuss this after-life I am sure these arguments will take the religious authorities nowhere with God. Of course, its my beleifs versus the other. But you know we know deep down what really is right and thats where life comes from - the will to stand up.

Sure a true fighter understands that, how much ever he or she differs in understanding of the other person's beleif?

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Anonymous said...

I don't know why this topic started, but since my last post, nothing seems to have come of it. The so called Leadership and majority of sikhs just do not agree with Homosexuality. They will not accept it no matter what they say to your face. I have tried with families n so called religious leaders n sants, but in the end their answer was to go top myself as that was the only way I would be accepted!!! Not a bad idea!!!
I am tired of being who I am, tired of living this stupid life, tryin 2 fit in. These debates r pointless as nothing will ever change, we r still stuck in the past, even the youth of 2day are exactly as our parents n grandparents were back in the day.

Duffy said...

sorry, sikhism is not amenable to homosexuality. they might tolerate it as another outcroping of human freewill in action, but veiw homosexuality as arising from and producing kharma, and is also veiwed as "an imbalance of male and female energy", as do most religions at some level and in some way. most religions tolerate homosexuality, but few are "amenable" to it, sorry

Anonymous said...

I've started a blog outlining tis issue, what do you think?

www.sikhout.com

Anonymous said...

Shut up to the gay guy going on about gangster wannabe.

The khanda was created during the misl period and adapting it is what it is.

No movement for independance in any state of India has ever died out just gone underground for a bit.


Weakness and sikhi are exact opposites you little pansys forget how Punjab and its identity has been forged as well as Sikhi.

BOLE SO NIHAL

Even asab who was just hanged was from PUNJAB.

Punjab de sure cut cut ke delhi de sarkar no sudh jonde
Pave Sikh, Musaalman, Jah Hindu Kahonde

BRUAH

I'd readily push that the Indian government at this time is the most oppressive and tyrannical in the world given the large population.

So stfu u faggot and go take a dick in the ass from the hind sarkar.

Gay people in general are cool, I'm gonna insult your very core because you seem to attempt to insult the very core of the Panth and Punjab.

Also the 6th guru made the Akal takht the Akal takht so hariminder sahib is important beyond anything.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across this site. I have been in the armed forces. I have fought for my country. I also had NO CHOICE about being gay. The only choice I ever had was to be honest. Why would anyone think gay people would actually CHOOSE to be the object of ostracism, hatred and bigotry. No. WE have to choice to be honest in this life. Don't judge please.