Sunday, March 30, 2008

KhushDC Fundraiser

Ron and I went to the KhushDC fundraiser last night. KhushDC is a South Asian group that fosters support for LGBTQ people in DC Metro's South Asian community. For its fundraiser, the group presented a night of entertainment, food, panel discussion, and dancing around the theme, "Dancing at the Intersections: Understanding Gender Variances in S. Asian LGBTQ Communities."

First off, the food was very good. It's difficult to pull off a really great buffet in a DC bar, but this group did it. We shared our dinner with a Sinhalese Sri Lankan. The South Asian community is very diverse covering many important cultures, languages, and religions.

The performers were Indian, Pakistani, and Tamil. Of course, I know what drag is, but this was something different. Two of the performers, Sudarshan Belsare and Bijli, did some knockout dances based on Pakistani, and Indian traditional dances. The other performer, D'Lo did a stand-up monologue of a Sri-Lankan mother talking about her gay son. It was disturbingly funny.

The panel touched on trans identity and its challenges in the South Asian cultures, but more than that were the deeply moving personal stories of moving from a traditional society's oppression to a personal liberation of self.

Three of the panelists had the vocabulary and philosophical underpinnings to place themselves in the context of a larger social movement. Two of the panelists did not use that lens, but instead, described their personal acts that moved them outside their traditions to a new place where they discovered their own personal freedom.

I liked the title of the evening. The panelists and performers are at the intersections of lots of communities, and maybe fit in none of them. I am not sure why gender is the panic button that it is for so many people. I don't feel threatened by a transgender person's conception of self, and respect for others demands that I honor others as who they truly are.

We all want respect. It's a tough cord to cut. That longing for respect can prevent us from living as we want to be. It can cripple out own notions of self. Somehow, we have to learn to marry our desire to be ourselves with a healthy notion of respect. If respect is never going to come from our families or our societies, we have to find that respect in other places: from families that we make and choose, and we have to build a society that values all of us regardless of our sex, our gender, our orientation.

So thanks KhushDC for the great food, the wonderful entertainment, and the thought-provoking discussion. We need to keep reminding ourselves who we are.