“LGBTQ people are magical” says Sundeep Boparai

Sundeep Singh Boparai is an LGBTQ advocate and influencer. His preferred pronouns are he, him, and his. He is currently working as an Administrative Operations Manager in the healthcare sector. He was born and raised in Queens, New York. His parents are Sikhs who moved to the US from Punjab several years ago.

When did you realize you were queer?

I kind of always knew. When growing up, I was extremely bullied. People told me I was gay. They made fun of the way I walked, behaved, and my feminine voice. It was difficult to internalize at that age. I needed to accept myself before letting anyone else tell me who I am. Now, at the age of 29, I have grown and accepted myself for who I am.

LGBTQThe phrase ‘Coming out’ in itself give too much validation to others’ opinion. It should preferably be called ‘coming in’ since it is about revealing to yourself your authentic self. So, what is your ‘coming in’ story?

I have an issue with the very concept of ‘coming out. Why do queer people need to come out in the first place? Why do I have to explain myself while straight people don’t? Personally, my ex-boyfriend is the one who made me realize that it’s ok to be who I am. He showed me that it’s possible for someone to love me just the way I am. Also, I was able to show my family that two men can be in a loving, committed relationship. My family realized that the people in a relationship are more important than their genitalia.

Your experience as a south Asian queer in the USA?

To me, being queer and south Asian in America has been the most tumultuous, difficult process of my entire existence. I was severely bullied and harassed at school. People threw slurs and demeaning names at me. After 9/11, some took the hatred up a notch and called me Osama bin laden. Now, I’ve taken those moments and instead of getting triggered, I use them to educate them about different gender identities and gender expressions.

Why did you build your social media platform?

Through my platform, I obtained a queer family there. Sometimes it’s so draining to maintain the platform since people don’t receive my good work the way it is meant to. But I always remind myself of its importance. The purpose of this platform is not to let any little Sikh queer kid out there feel alone, the way I felt when I was a kid. I have been able to connect with a lot of like-minded queer people. We are more similar than different. We grow up feeling very alone but now through my platform, we have been able to resonate with a lot of others’ lives and we feel less alone because of it.

LGBTQHow did you get interested in modeling and Healthcare?

I did modeling in my childhood days. My mother is a special-ed teacher and being an educator, academics are important to her. My mom saw my interest in modeling. But she said that I needed a backup plan and hence needed to focus on school. My older brother is an attorney and I’m an operations manager in healthcare administration. She instilled the importance of education in us.

I completed my Masters in healthcare administration. I remember googling how to become an LGBTQ healthcare administrator and nothing turned up. I think I manifested it for myself. I now run the first LGBTQ transgender program in long island, New york.

Modeling and social media are fun. But the grassroots works to push the LGBTQ movement forward is more important to me. I got in touch with a few companies like TurbanInc and arranged photoshoots which all went semi-viral on Instagram. It was probably because it was the first time people saw a queer Sikh on Instagram not being afraid to portray his authentic self. I realized the power of my platform that could help amplify LGBTQ voices. So I utilize my platform to do grassroots work like providing visibility and representation to other south Asian queers.

LGBTQHow do you plan to use your platform to spread your cause?

I was initially surprised that so many people were interested in me. But recently I and my team have changed the logistics and operation of the platform. Before, the platform was about Sundeep’s story, trauma, and perseverance. Now that I have a team behind me, we have made it about the community.

  1. We use it now to support Sikh queer south Asian brothers and sisters and educate the orthodox and older people in our community. I do get a lot of hateful, misogynistic, comments. Now I let it sit there than allow it to bother me. Because it says more about the people who are commenting than about me. I allow the comments remain there so that people also come to know about the hatred out there for the LGBTQ community and the discrimination we face. And these comments are proof of how some might even choose violence against us.
  2. Even today Trans persons of experience are being murdered in America. Mass media are blind to it. This makes me question what are we doing as a community to protect our trans brothers and sisters. Hence, I use my platform to keep spreading vigilance and awareness.
  3. The major goal of my platform is to normalize homosexuality in the south Asian community.

How to be allies to the LGBTQ community?

Allies are the bridge between the LGBTQ community and those who don’t understand or seek to oppress it. To be a good ally to the LGBTQ community,

  1. You should know the LGBTQ history. 50 years ago, on June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the stonewall inn- a gay bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. The riots that escalated are one of the pivotal moments in LGBTQ history. And that’s why we celebrate pride today because it was once a riot. It was because people wanted to be accepted and affirmed for who they were. It was people like Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, trans women of experience, who really pushed that movement and led that riot. We can’t forget that.
  2. Allies need to realize that, just like we learn about African-American history, Holocaust, and what happened to Sikhs in 1984 in India, we should also learn about the stonewall history of the LGBTQ community.
  3. you can support LGBTQ-owned businesses.
  4. Go on the internet and volunteer for the local queer community-based organization. Help, support, and amplify the work the organization is doing. It’s very important to show up, participate and leave judgment at home.
  5. Write to senators, representatives in congress to support LGBTQ equal rights.
  6. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Be honest about your misgivings and misunderstandings.
  7. Being an effective ally means putting in the work. Do the homework. It will reduce the toll of teaching for marginalized communities.
  8. Don’t be afraid to engage. There can be a stigma. But respectfully reach out and be a part of it.

What message would you like to end the interview with?

  1. Everyone should work together. Work with love than hate. A lot of things happen seamlessly when we work with compassion and kindness. We should all work together to normalize homosexuality in the south Asian diaspora. We should educate ourselves this pride month, and then reinforce that education within our own networks.
  2. If you are an ally and know nothing about LGBTQ, learn one single fact about it, go back to your friends, family, colleagues, and talk about it. The best way to break barriers is through unconventional conversations.
  3. It’s very important for everyone in the LGBTQ community to know that you are magical, and you are a rare anomaly. When we grew up, people bullied us and picked on us because they didn’t fully understand who we were.
  4. You better wake up every single day, look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are beautiful. Keep giving yourself positive affirmations. Dare to enable change. Only then, You make people want to have an unconventional conversation.
  5. We need to realize that when more queer Sikhs come out; when more queer Indians come out; when more south Asian trans people come out; we start to show more representation. That way younger children and other people who don’t understand are put in a position where they have to learn what it means to be LGBTQ. It’s essential to help and lead the next generation by example.

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