Sikhism and sexual orientation
Sikhism has no specific teachings about homosexuality and the Sikh holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, does not explicitly mention heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality. The universal goal of a Sikh is to have no hate or animosity to any person, regardless of factors like race, caste, color, creed, gender, or sexuality. Within the last few years the topic of homosexuality has become much more discussed in religions all over the world, and this has created a fierce debate of whether homosexuality is acceptable in Sikhism. The fact that it is not mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib has sparked debate within the religion, and the once tabooed topic of homosexuality is now being discussed within Sikhism.
Conflicting views in modern Sikhism
Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, of the Akal Takht (the temporal Sikh authority in India), has condemned homosexuality and said to visiting Sikh-Canadian Members of Parliament (MPs) that they had a religious duty to oppose same-sex marriage. In a report published in March 2005, Vedanti said, "The basic duty of Sikh MPs in Canada should be to support laws that stop this kind of practice homosexuality, because there are thousands of Sikhs living in Canada, to ensure that Sikhs do not fall prey to this practice." However, the Sikh-Canadian MPs voted in support of same-sex marriage.
As time progresses the divide between the two ways of thinking has become clear and the generational rift has created conflicting views in modern Sikhism. Many Sikhs believe there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, and that the view of some preachers in the Akal Takht is flawed. The opposition of beliefs creates two different belief systems in Sikhism. One group is more conservative and the other group is more liberal. This generational rift in the religion have different opinions about whether homosexuality is accepted in Sikhism. The more liberal side is much accepting of different sexualities because they believe that Sikhism does not discriminate against anybody.
The Sikh Rehat Maryada emphasizes the importance of a family lifestyle, and many Sikhs believe that since same-sex partners can’t reproduce and make a family that homosexuality should be condemned. Others argue that this understanding of family life closely resembles that of Christian and Catholic beliefs, that what is normal is moral. This heteronormative way of viewing the family is subject to question by those who believe that Sikhism is more tolerant of those who are not viewed as “normal”. Many people in Sikhism believe that the Rehat Maryada is meant to be interpreted and applied to life liberally rather than being treated as a binding contract.
Homosexuality in scripture
The Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib details what behavior is expected of all Sikhs. It is seemingly silent on the subject of same-sex sexual behaviour, while it frequently encourages a married life.[clarification needed] Marriage in Sikhism is seen as a union of souls, and the soul is seen as genderless, with the outward appearance of human beings (man, woman) being a temporary state. Same-sex marriage advocates refer to this as support for marriage equality in Sikhism. The Laavaan, the main part of Anand Karaj, are read at Sikh weddings for the union of two souls through marriage. In these hymns there is no mention of gender, but rather the participants are regarded as souls that are genderless. Marriage is seen as a spiritual journey to achieving lasting happiness through committing to the faith.
Although the topic of homosexuality in Sikhism is tabooed, the younger generation is looking to the internet for answers. The internet has become a new way for young Sikhs born inside and outside of India to discuss the religion and current issues anonymously through the internet. The internet allows people to get the information they need without the discomfort of talking about it within the community. The internet has become a tool for young Sikhs to get information about current issues that may not be discussed directly within their communities.
There are some individuals that are using the power of the internet to discuss issues of homosexuality in the community. Kanwar Anit Singh Saini, also known as Sikh Knowledge, openly speaks about his queer identity. He uses his platform to discuss his experience as a sexual minority within the Sikh community and how he believes that there is conversation that needs to be had. He did an interview with Kevin Newman where he discussed the lack of discussion about homosexuality in the Sikh and Punjabi community. This is the first time homosexuality in Sikhism has ever been discussed on live television on a Western news channel, and it addressed a topic that isn’t normally discussed in the community. Another Sikh named Manjinder Singh is using YouTube to open up about his experiences as a gay Sikh man. He’s creating his own platform on YouTube to reach a wider audience and is trying to get dialogue in the community started by defining what it means to be queer. In one of his videos he has a conversation with his mom about homosexuality in Punjabi. This video defines what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, and being transgender in Punjabi and is targeted to the audience that doesn't necessarily understand the different sexual and gender identities. Other famous Punjabi YouTube stars such as Jasmeet Singh, JusReign, and Lilly Singh (iiSuperwomanii), have openly voiced their support for LGBT rights.
Both the Sikh identity and sexual identities affect a person’s self concept and how they relate to their community. Like other religions, Sikhism strives to cultivate a sense of identity through religious practices, but in Sikhism there is a shared common physical identity too. Through the process of identity formation people begin to build a sense of individuality that allows them to find communities of people that they identify with. Identity formation at the intersection of Sikh and sexual identities has not been a focus of many studies. As the Sikh diaspora starts forming in places like Britain, some researchers are interested in understanding how these ethnic, religious, and sexual identities affect one’s self-concept. Many queer Sikhs find it difficult to reconcile their religious identity with their sexual identity.
Some research is aiming to understand how the Sikh narrative and the narrative of sexuality coincide and conflict with one another. In an article written by David Mair for the University of Birmingham, David examines the life narrative of an openly gay, practicing Sikh named Daljeet. This study aimed to understand how clashing narratives affect one’s self-concept and relationship to the community at large. After having an in-depth conversation with Daljeet, David found that many of the struggles that he faced were because of the clash of narratives in his own life. Daljeet’s narratives of Indian masculinity, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality conflicted with one another and his self-concept is deeply affected by it. Those who do not conform to heteronormative and binary definitions of gender and sexuality are tasked with creating a new narrative that incorporates all aspects of their identity in an encompassing way.
- World Sikh group against gay marriage bill, CBC News, Tuesday, 29 March 2005.
- "Sikhism and same Sex Marriages". sarbat.net. p. 1. Archived from the original on 3 October 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
- Naad, Project (2/9/2010). "Sikhism, Yoga and Sexuality" (PDF). Project Naad. p. 33. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-01. Retrieved 2 January 2012. Check date values in:
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