Monday, February 25, 2013

Gay Indo-Canadian Activist Dedicates Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal To Murdered Trans Woman

Alex Sangha (L) dedicated his medal to his murdered friend
and Sher colleague, January Marie Lapuz (R)
[Vancouver, B.C.] “To me, getting this medal is about recognizing ordinary people who are making a difference in their community,” says Alex Sangha, who received a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal Feb 10 for his volunteerism and dedication to creating safe spaces for queer people of colour. “I feel that a lot of people who do social work, community service and volunteerism are under-appreciated in our society,” he says. “They improve our social well-being, they improve our quality of life, and why not celebrate that? If we don’t celebrate it we’re not going to appreciate it.” Sangha, 40, is the founder of Sher Vancouver, a 450-member social, cultural and support organization for queer South Asians and their friends, families and allies. Sangha, who is gay and Indo-Canadian, started the organization in 2008 as a safety net for gay immigrants alienated from their families and struggling with their sexuality.“It all got me so depressed, and I didn’t want to see this stuff happening anymore, especially in my Sikh community, where it is so taboo to be gay,” he says. Sangha admits he faced criticism from some members of his Indo-Canadian community about the group. “When I started Sher Vancouver, the leader of the Sikh temple was saying that there was no such thing as gay Sikhs. “It’s getting better now,” he adds. “We’ve been active in social justice and speaking out and going into the community to try to change attitudes.” Sangha is dedicating his medal to his friend and Sher colleague January Marie Lapuz, a transgender woman who was stabbed to death last fall in New Westminster. “She was basically transgender royalty within our social circle,” Sangha says. “She didn’t judge anyone, and she really opened up the organization to people of all different backgrounds, abilities, identities and sexualities,” he adds. “She was someone that I had a great deal of respect for.”

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