Recently, my photograph was unknowingly taken while waiting in a queue, and later posted on Reddit under the subject “I’m not sure what to conclude from this“. Now, I understand that being a baptised Sikh woman with facial hair might confuse some people. But I choose not to change my appearance because, in accordance with the Sikh tradition, I view my body as a gift from the Divine, as a tool for service, as a temple for my spirit.
I am well aware of how I am perceived by others: is she a man? A bearded woman? Transgendered? These perceptions find their roots both in simple curiosity and ignorance of the sheer diversity of the human race. I cannot stop people from forming convoluted first impressions based on what I look like, but I can stop them from turning that ignorance into misplaced assumptions or even hatred. This is why, having been alerted to the posting of the photo, I replied in the thread, and engaged with the posters discussing my appearance. What I learned from this experience is that building bridges between people isn’t really that hard: an honest conversation, a simple exchange of meaningful words that make up our lives, can change people’s opinions and change the world for the better – one step at a time.
JK Rowling’s new book, Casual Vacancy, perhaps aimed to do just that. Her novel, which features a Sikh family and portrays them in a realistic way, required her to do extensive research into my faith. And with the attention that Casual Vacancy has been getting comes the chance to start a dialogue and open our minds and hearts to stories of people different than us, people we did not know about before, people, who, at a second glance, are just like us. Unfortunately, the novel enraged Sikh leaders in India, where it is currently the subject of protests over Rowling’s portrayal of a Sikh girl teased for her body hair.
I hope those protests do not escalate. Violence and anger will only tarnish the image of peace-loving Sikhs, who in the past have only raised their swords when all other avenues have failed. Rowling’s character sheds light on to a reality that the Sikh nation is still struggling to fully understand, acknowledge and accept: a reality of bullying, and superficial impressions. Why can’t we, as a Sikh nation, write our own narratives and read them to the world through our actions, instead of protesting against the perceptions of the outside world?
Saoirse and Ula have a favorite story they are forever asking me to retell. It is about my first encounter with bullies in my kindergarten year. It goes like this: At the end of each day, my older brother and his best friend would pick me up from my classroom, and together we’d walk to our babysitter’s house in town. And each day, the moment we were off school property, a group of three bullies waited for us. They made threats, and we just kept walking. But the afternoon eventually came when fighting ensued. Each of the two older boys took on my brother and his friend. They instructed the youngest to “get the girl.”
I stared at him coming at me. Then I dropped my backpack off my shoulder. It held a metal lunch pail. I kept the strap in my hand. As soon as he was close enough, I closed my eyes and swung in a circle, clobbering the first thing that came into contact with the lunch pail and bag, which was the boy’s head. Golly, did he let out a wail. The cry was loud enough to break up the other two fights, and the three bullies went home to tell on me. No trouble ever came of the incident, and we were able to walk safely to the babysitter’s house after that.
The story is one of my most vivid childhood memories, as it was the end of my fear of bullies. Oh, how innocent it all was back then.
Flash forward to my early twenties, when I was working as a high school English teacher in Japan, with 600 students. As an adult, I never saw the bullying. But one of my students wound up committing suicide over it. Naturally, by the time I had children of my own, the idea of childhood bullying struck me as horrific. And while bully avoidance wasn’t the reason I chose to homeschool my kids, I was perfectly happy to sidestep that part of Saoirse and Ula’s growing pains.
It turns out I didn’t sidestep it as much as I thought.
by Scott Roberts
October 2, 2012
Britain’s largest professional body of psychotherapists has warned its members against attempting to “convert” gay people, after discovering practitioners were still offering the “treatment”.
Mr Brown said gay conversion therapy had “no basis in science or medicine”.
The Telegraph reports that the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has now notified its 30,000 members of the formal change in policy, advising them that being gay is not a “mental disorder”.
In a letter sent to its members the BACP said it opposed “any psychological treatment such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder, or based on the premise that the client/patient should change his/her sexuality.”
by Justin Snow
October 1, 2012
As LGBT-advocates continue to hail Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of a bill on Saturday that made California the first state to officially outlaw gay “conversion” and “reparative” therapy for minors, the anti-gay Liberty Counsel has announced it will file suit against the historic law.
In a statement released today, Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver announced that the group of social conservatives, which seeks to advance “religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family,” would challenge the California law on the grounds that it imposes a “catch-22” for licensed therapists.
“The California governor and legislature are putting their own preconceived notions and political ideology ahead of children and their rights to get access to counseling that meets their needs,” Staver said in a statement. “A number of minors who have struggled with same-sex attraction have been able to reduce or eliminate the stress and conflicts in their lives by receiving counseling of their choice which best meets their needs and religious convictions.”
According to Staver, who is also dean of the Liberty University School of Law, the bill and the ethical codes of the state’s licensing boards in California are on an “inevitable collision course.” He added that the bill would “harm children, stress families, and place counselors in a catch-22, because they will be forced to violate their licensing ethical codes.”
The legislation signed into law by Brown on Saturday is the first of its kind in the nation and prohibits children younger than 18 from undergoing “sexual orientation change efforts” at the hands of licensed therapists seeking to “cure” them of homosexuality. The law has been lauded by LGBT-advocates as protecting gay youth from abusive practices now deemed by the state to be harmful and dangerous.
By Lisa Leff
AN FRANCISCO — Gay rights advocates are making plans to get other states to join California in banning psychotherapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight, even as opponents prepared Monday to sue to overturn the first law in the nation to take aim at the practice.
After months of intense lobbying, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill late Saturday that prohibits licensed mental health professionals from using so-called reparative or conversion therapies with clients under age 18. Brown called the therapies “quackery” that “have no basis in science or medicine.”
Two New Jersey lawmakers already are drafting similar legislation, while groups that helped get the California law passed are sharing research, witnesses and talking points with counterparts in other gay-friendly states, said Geoff Kors, senior legislative and policy strategist for the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights.
“There are lots of folks today who are looking at this, now that the governor has signed it,” Kors said. “We’ll be reaching out to all the state (gay rights) groups, especially in states that have had success passing LGBT rights legislation.”
The law only applies to licensed therapists, not ministers or lay people who counsel teens to resist same-sex attractions.
Two Christian legal groups, meanwhile, said they would sue in federal court in Sacramento to prevent the law from taking effect on Jan. 1.