Growing up, I don’t think I even really knew what bisexuality was.
I knew I wasn’t gay – I was attracted to both men and women – but not having any LGBT role models that looked like me prevented me from seeing who I could really be.
I knew I wanted children and a stable family too, but that just wasn’t seen as possible for a same sex couple in those days. Instead, there was never any doubt I would have an arranged marriage, have children, and live the future expected of me. At just 21, my family introduced me to a potential wife and, even though we had only met twice, we agreed to marry.
Once we did there was an immediate expectation that we would have children, but we knew we weren’t ready. We wanted to get to know each other, get our careers off the ground and buy our own home before we had children.
We did just that, and then had two beautiful daughters, two years apart. But life as parents felt different. Our dissimilarities became more and more apparent and we seemed to drift apart. Our marriage ended when my youngest daughter was just two.
“Seeing a counsellor to help me deal with the breakup of my marriage, I experienced the turning point of my life.”
Seeing a counsellor to help me deal with the breakup of my marriage, I experienced the turning point of my life. For the first time, I said the words: “I am gay”. After years of ignoring my attraction to men and shutting it away deep inside, I had admitted to someone that I was gay. Her response? Simply: “That’s okay”.
Understanding and accepting myself as a gay man, I now faced the challenge of reconciling my identity as a Sikh man who is gay – and as a gay man who is the father to two children. I didn’t know any Sikhs who were gay, and I was not convinced these two aspects of my identity were compatible – until I researched the Sikh view on homosexuality and learned (to my surprise) there was nothing forbidding or condemning LGBT people. Indeed, there was plenty of evidence of equality for all regardless of their faith, colour, race, sexuality, sex or any other personal characteristic.
Now more secure in my identity as a gay Sikh man, I then had to reconcile what it meant to be be a gay dad. Again, there was little information to be found – until I found a Facebook group for gay dads, where hundreds of men shared the experiences and challenges they faced, and took inspiration from positive gay dad role models. Getting involved in this community, I was able to learn from other dads’ experiences of coming out to others, particularly ex-wives and children.
I now identify as a bisexual man, which presents its own challenges. Bisexual people are themselves marginalised by not just wider society but by some gay and lesbian people too; we’re told we’re not fully accepting of our sexuality as a gay person, or we’re not ‘trustworthy’ partners.
“Although I had reconciled these parts of my identity, I kept thinking about why it was so hard for me to find anyone to look up to”
Being a visibly Sikh man with a turban and a beard had led to much prejudice in itself, but being a member of the LGBT community means I’ve faced far more discrimination and racism than I would in mainstream society. ’Coming out’ to potential partners as a dad to gay/bi men can also make dating difficult, and being a bisexual man within the Sikh community means I face yet more prejudice and homophobia.
Although I had reconciled these parts of my identity, I kept thinking about why it was so hard for me to find anyone to look up to. So I signed up as a volunteer for a charity called Diversity Role Models, who facilitate LGBT awareness workshops in schools for young people, teachers and parents.
I decided I wanted to be a visible Sikh LGBT role model – both because within the Sikh community most LGBT people are unable to come out, but equally because I want it to be seen by the wider community that it’s possible to be religious and be LGBT. I want to inspire young people to be comfortable about who they are, so they can stride forward in life with confidence. By my last count, I have reached 1,369 young people and 71 staff and governors through working with DRM, and I feel incredibly proud.
I’m extremely proud, too, to call my own children my biggest allies. They join me for Pride in London every year and tell me they are proud to have a bisexual dad. Despite this, there is still a lot of work to do to eradicate prejudice for people, let alone people like me: LGBT people who are ethnic minorities, LGBT people who have a visible faith identity, LGBT parents. If I can make a positive difference to even just one person’s life, then I can feel a sense of achievement.
Deep Singh is a father, HR professional and facilitator for Diversity Role Models, writing under a pseudonym. He contributes to the Rainbow Dads podcast.