'Battled many challenges to take pride in my identity and sexuality'
Sukhvinder Singh Goraya (L) with his partner (R) and parents
Sukhvinder Singh Goraya alias Sam shares his struggle of coming out to his parents, finding acceptance, love and his happily ever after in a traditionally socially conservative Indian society.
BY PREETINDER GREWAL, AVNEET ARORA
Sam's coming out journey has been anything but run-of-the-mill.
Born into a traditional Sikh family in New Delhi, the Melbourne-based Odissi dancer said he was five-years-old when he realised, he was different, but at the time didn’t know that he was gay.
- Dr Sam Goraya is a Melbourne-based Odissi dancer
- He married his partner in Denmark in 2014 when same-sex marriages were illegal in Australia
'I am gay, and I was born this way'
Sam said, it all started with denial but years after fighting for acceptance, his struggle with sexuality has now culminated to a point where he proudly says, “I am gay, and I was born this way.”
“Once I realised that I was attracted to men, I honestly tried very hard to change. I even tried to marry someone from the opposite sex so I could become straight,” he said, adding that he consulted with doctors and psychologists to figure out “If what I was feeling was normal.”
“In 1986, I went to Canada to study. All I wanted at the time was to move out of India as no one knew about my reality, not my family, nor my friends.
“There I approached student help services and even went to a psychologist who told me you’re normal and there is nothing wrong with you.
“I even consulted doctors after moving to Australia in 2001 who told me the same thing. One of them even wrote a letter saying, ‘he should not be forced to marry against his will’.”
Gradually Sam opened to a few friends, finding solace in his work and studies, before eventually mustering the courage to come out to his parents.
He said he had everything chalked out in his head that if his parents decided to disown him after knowing about his ‘reality’, he would bid his goodbyes and never look back.
But what transpired that afternoon was something he had not expected at all.
“I clearly remember my parents were having their afternoon tea when I told them that I was gay. At first, my mum started crying and dad lowered his head.
“But suddenly he got up, looked at me and enveloped me in a hug. He told me that from this day onwards they would love me even more.
He told me that I was a strong person and would live my life without fear. Mom also followed and gave me a hug. We all cried that afternoon
He said that day he felt like he had conquered the entire world.
“Since then I have never worried and never looked back.”
Years later, Sam found love, got engaged in 2008 and six years later, the couple went to Denmark and tied the knot in the presence of friends.
“We got married in 2014 when same-sex marriages were not legal in Australia. We went to Denmark to get married, as it’s legal there. There was a priest, a lot of people were there and we had a proper ceremony.
“I remember both I and my partner called our respective families after the wedding. They accepted us nicely and gave us their blessings. All my relatives and friends are aware of our relationship and they love us. In fact, my partner often interacts with my parents in Punjabi."
'Soul has no gender'
He added that events like the Sydney Mardi Gras, an annual LGBT pride parade and festival, are making it easier for same-sex couples to stay together.
“Well I have never attended the Mardi Gras, but I believe such events help to raise awareness about people who feel different and increases tolerance for homosexuals in society.”
Sam said the real problem lies with the mindset where we often judge people based on their backgrounds, or sex or colour.
“I believe we should not see people as gay or straight, or based on their background or skin colour, but should look into their souls and treat them on the basis of their values.”
Click on the audio player here to listen to Sam Goraya's full interview in Punjabi.
Full article on SBS click here