The Two Faces of Gaysia

Screen-Shot-2014-04-29-at-20.18.11An unfortunately large swathe of the gay population understands what it means to have two 'faces'.

If you want to be less Nicholas Cage about it, you could call it two 'personas'. What it boils down to is that there are people with whom you can be yourself, and people to whom you present a heavily edited version of yourself. Gaysians are often necessarily this kind of two-faced, two-sided, split. I can't speak for all my fellow folk of South-Asian origin, but I'll hazard a guess that I am not alone in having once separated my life quite strictly on this line : gay stuff here, asian stuff there. Never the twain shall meet.


Weddings are a big deal in Asian culture. We are talking about the people of Bollywood here; there's no such thing as a demure dress, a one-day event, or a small occasion of just close friends and family. Close family alone would likely take you beyond the 100 mark. But if the couple are really in love and the families are really in support... nothing beats a desi (someone of South Asian origin) wedding. There is so much joy in the colours, the dancing, the clothes, the festival of it all. I can't count the number of cousins' and family friends' weddings I've been to and danced at. I'm known for being the first one on the dancefloor, and the most competitive when it comes to the dance battles between bride's side and groom's side. I'm not particularly girly/frilly dressing in my 'other face' but put me in a desi environment and somehow I really get into heels, and jewellery, and what colour my sari is.

Over the years, I have slowly brought the two 'faces' closer together and forged a more harmonious identity as both a gay woman and a desi. The discovery of nights such as Club Urban Desi and Club Kali were key to that process. (Clubbing therapy anyone?). I found myself in rooms full of people just like me. I can't explain how surreal it felt the first time I found myself on a dance floor with my girlfriend, dancing to Bollywood music. Surrounded by people who knew the songs and words, just like me. To the organisers of events like those: thank you. It might not seem it from the drunken dancing and giggling and tumka-ing... but it is at those nights that I feel a type of peace that no other environment has offered.

But weddings were one area where I never quite saw the two sides being able to meet. The traditions wouldn't work, I thought. The attempt to incorporate a wedding culture that is not only entirely structured around heterosexuality but also vehemently rejects your love, would come off  awkward. It would be vaguely desperate, and therefore cringe worthy. What would you wear? What would other people wear? What would be the point anyway, with the desi person's family unlikely to attend?

But then I saw the wedding photos of these two women, Shannon and Seema, by wedding photographer, Steph Grant.






I am not at all surprised that these went viral – if only from every LGBT South-Asian woman clicking and sharing it in a manic burst of hope. The wedding looks beautiful. It's far from awkward or cringe worthy. It feels as natural as the love I feel for women does. It looks like a joyful, colourful, (almost) typical desi wedding. The 'almost' is not for the fact of there being two brides. The reason it is not a typical desi wedding is because they haven't intended for it to be entirely typical. The wedding has successfully fused the heritages and customs of both brides, one of whom is not desi. A white dress, with henna and a tika. A gharara with the non-traditional base colour of white. Heterosexual cultural fusion weddings are increasingly commonplace as inter-religious and inter-racial marriages become more acceptable in South Asian culture. But the addition of two brides to the mix somehow also fits seamlessly here. That, perhaps tragically, is astounding to me.

A gay, desi, wedding.

It's possible.



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