A group, calling itself ‘a minority within a minority’, is seeking to raise awareness of alternative sexuality and gender identity within the Kiwi-Indian community in New Zealand.

The Indian Origin Pride held an event in Parliament on Tuesday to focus attention to its cause. Chairperson and co-founder Shay Singh wants to sensitise the Indian community to the needs of the ‘rainbow people’ and to make it more inclusive and tolerant of people with different sexual orientations and gender identities. 

“We have started a support organisation for the Indian rainbow community which, to date, has never had one. It is meant for anybody who identifies as part of the rainbow community. Our aim is to provide peer support programmes for individuals and their families,” Shay told Indian Weekender.

The programme involves monthly get-togethers and social activities, both in-person and virtual. Shay, who came “out” in 1998, found no support group to talk to or identify with at the time. Sex and sexuality are still taboo topics within the conservative Kiwi-Indian community.

“ To date , that has not really changed. It is hard to find support within our own community and culture,” Shay points out. “So, because it is so difficult to find help, people just move away from their communities.”

Shay, of Indian heritage, felt judged harshly by the Indian community and sought the company of other people like himself. On his return from Australia last year, he decided to set up a rainbow organisation of Indian origin and created Indian Origin Pride.

However, Shay’s family stood by him.

“I never had any challenges with acceptance from my own family,” Shay recalls. “From day one, both my family and extended family have been supportive. But I’m the exception rather than the rule. For a lot of rainbow people, that is not the case. Their families just don’t accept them”.

Referring to the presence of politicians at the event in Parliament, Shay acknowledges that he has received huge support from the government and Indian community leaders, as well as organisations such as Auckland Indian Association, Wellington Indian Association and others.

Shay is also mindful of the role played by his colleague Arrun Soma, who set up the Wellington Indian Pride with the help of the Wellington Indian Association.

The two got together and established Indian Origin Pride, the umbrella organisation that has set out to be the catalyst for social change within the Kiwi Indian community.