Sikhism and sexual orientation

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LGBT Sikhs at London gay pride

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 or gender.[1]

Statements and teachings of Guru Granth Sahib[edit]

Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti of the Akal Takht (the temporal Sikh authority in India) has condemned homosexuality. In March 2005, he told visiting Sikh-Canadian Members of Parliament (MPs) that they had a religious duty to oppose same-sex marriage: "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".[2]

The divide between supporters and opponents of LGBT rights has become increasingly clear, creating a largely generational rift between older conservatives and younger liberals. Many Sikhs believe there is nothing wrong[3] with being LGBT or supporting LGBT rights more generally, including same-sex marriage. These Sikhs believe that the view of some preachers in the Akal Takht is flawed.[4][5]

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. This heteronormative way of viewing the family is questioned by those who believe Sikhism is more tolerant of people not viewed as “normal”.[6] Many Sikh adherents believe the Rehat Maryada is meant to be interpreted and applied to life liberally rather than treated as a binding contract.[7]

Homosexuality in scripture[edit]

According to the Sikh Council UK,

We have no objection to same sex couples wanting to make commitments/vows to each other, as they currently do so when they enter civil partnerships. Nor do we object to same sex couples having all legal and other rights, similar to a married couple within a civic union. However, we object to the word marriage being used to replace civil union. The word marriage and its concept is sometimes also used to describe or used as a translation of the 'Anand Karaj' ceremony. The 'Anand Karaj' is specifically a Sikh ceremony, when union between a man and a woman is solemnised in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. The Sikh Reht Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct and Conventions)", clearly states that the 'Anand Karaj' ceremony can only take place in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib in a Gurdwara between a male and female.[8]

Current discussion[edit]

Although the topic of homosexuality in Sikhism is taboo, 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 religion and current issues anonymously. The internet allows people access to information without the discomfort of talking about it within the community.[9] The internet has become a tool for young Sikhs to get information about current issues that may not be discussed directly within their communities.

Certain individuals use the internet to discuss homosexuality in the community. A Sikh, Manjinder Singh, describes his experiences as a gay Sikh man, using his own platform on YouTube to reach a wider audience in an attempt to generate dialogue in the community that begins by defining what it means to be queer. In one of his videos, he has a conversation with his mother about homosexuality in Punjabi.[10] 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 Sikh YouTube stars such Sikh Canadian comedian Jus Reign (Jasmeet Singh),[11] and Lilly Singh have openly voiced their support for LGBT rights. In fact, Lilly Singh announced her bisexuality on Youtube.[12]

In January 2005, the Jathedar (custodian) of Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Amritsar, Punjab, India, the highest seat of Sikh temporal-religious (miri-piri) authority for interpreting Sikh teachings, issued an edict denouncing same-sex marriages, and urging the worldwide Sikh community not to allow such marriages to take place at any Gurdwara." This was in response to clarification sought from Sikhs in Canada as similar legislation was being discussed and consulted on in Canada.[13]

Identity[edit]

Identity formation[edit]

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.[14] Many queer Sikhs find it difficult to reconcile their religious identity with their sexual identity.[15]

Narrative[edit]

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 hetero-normative 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.[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Collins, Zurich (26 May 2011). "Homosexuality and Sikhism". Gaylaxy. Retrieved 10 Sep 2022.
  2. ^ "World Sikh group against gay marriage bill". CBC News. 29 March 2005. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  3. ^ "Sikhism and same Sex Marriages". sarbat.net. p. 1. Archived from the original on 14 September 2010. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
  4. ^ Naad, Project (February 9, 2010). "Sikhism, Yoga and Sexuality" (PDF). Project Naad. p. 33. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-01. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  5. ^ Jhutti-Johal, Jagbir (June 9, 2011). Sikhism Today. A&C Black. ISBN 9781847062727.
  6. ^ Sorajjakool, Siroj; Carr, Mark; Man, Julius J (September 10, 2009). World Religions for Health Care Professionals. Routledge. ISBN 9781135220808.
  7. ^ "How Sikhs Got Their Rehat Maryada". SikhNet. January 2, 2013. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  8. ^ "Sikh Council UK Policy on Same Sex Marriages" (PDF). Sikh Council UK. August 2010.
  9. ^ Jakobsh, Doris R. (2006). "Authority in the Virtual Sangat, by Doris R. Jakobsh". Online - Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet. doi:10.11588/rel.2006.1.374.
  10. ^ Manjinder Singh Sidhu (June 7, 2015). "Coming Out Panjabi". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  11. ^ "MY THOUGHTS ON GAY RIGHTS (Vlog 273)". YouTube. Retrieved September 17, 2021.[dead YouTube link]
  12. ^ Baggs, Michael (February 25, 2019). "Lilly Singh: Why the YouTuber Coming Out As Bisexual is 'Worth Celebrating'". BBC. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  13. ^ http://sikhcounciluk.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Sikh-Council-UK-Policy-on-Same-Sex-Marriages.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  14. ^ Jaspal, Rusi (2012). "British Sikh Identity and the Struggle for Distinctiveness and Continuity" (PDF). Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology. 23 (3): 225–239. doi:10.1002/casp.2115. hdl:2086/8038.
  15. ^ Jaspal, Rusi (2012). "'I never faced up to being gay': sexual, religious and ethnic identities among British Indian and British Pakistani gay men" (PDF). Culture, Health & Sexuality. 14 (7): 767–780. doi:10.1080/13691058.2012.693626. hdl:2086/8019. PMID 22651130. S2CID 43364046.
  16. ^ Mair, David (2010). "Fractured narratives, fractured identities: cross-cultural challenges to essentialist concepts of gender and sexuality". Psychology and Sexuality. 1 (2): 156–169. doi:10.1080/19419899.2010.484597. S2CID 144930321.

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