Can i be queer and a sikh?

Written by Amanjot Singh Chadha (he/they)

I was born in a traditional and religious Sikh family. Since early childhood, I always knew that I was not straight. Being Sikh you can be easily identified because you are visibly very different from others. This is also the case with a lot of queer people who are not cisgender. It took me a great time to understand my sexuality and even greater time to understand what my religion says about it.

In queer spaces I have been called out because of my religion and I have witnessed people asking me out “is it okay in your religion to be queer?” and I don't know where it comes from? There is an attached pride, machismo, and history which is associated with the religion.

Sikhism is the most gender-neutral religion as there are no gender roles that are ascribed to its followers. Also, the Sikh religion doesn't discriminate on the base of sex or gender. It advocates for gender equality and shuns misogyny (Why call the women bad, she gave birth to kings).

The hymns of the holy Guru Granth Sahib provide transgender persons ( Kinner) the status of demigods. But due to the cultural heritage, there is a fair amount of homophobia within the practitioners of Sikh faith. It comes more from the Punjabi culture than from religion.

The Gurbani talks about inclusivity and tolerance as we all are children of God (Kudrat ke sab bande) and the entire humanity is one race (manas ki jaat sabe eke pehchanbo). So there is no question of outcasting queer community from that. It is also vital to note here that being queer is not considered to be a sin as per the religious texts.

Marriage in Sikh religion is considered to be a union of two souls who come together and become one. ( Bride and groom are not who pose as one whole, the bride and groom are they who are two bodies with one soul {SGGS ang 788}). Souls don't have gender, they are genderless. But the Sikh rehat Maryada which was devised in the twentieth-century to codify Sikh conduct has made marriage only a heterosexual union that needs to be revisited and altered. 

The Akal Takht, which is considered to be the highest religious form, has in past advised Sikh Canadian MPs to vote against marriage equality which gave a heartbreak to LGBT Sikh individuals, but it is important to note that it has made a lot of controversial decisions in past regarding pardoning Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim and altering the Nanakshahi Sikh religious calendar. Thus it is losing credibility within its practitioners.

It is high time that Sikhs all over the world should shun their biases and prejudices which they have against the queer community and follow the true path of Gurmat which tells to be inclusive and accept individuality. It is also the time to call for greater dialogue within the community and ways in which marriage equality can be provided to its queer followers.