A student from Punjab, currently at a college in the Canadian city of Vancouver, has been abandoned by his family in India after he came out as gay.
The 21-year-old, identified only as Sukh (an assumed name since he is afraid of further repercussions if his identity is revealed) is studying computer science at a community college in Vancouver in the province of British Columbia.
While he is in Canada on a student visa, he was financially dependent on his parents, who live in Punjab, for sustaining him even as he lived with relatives in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver.
When the Sikh youth recently came out as gay, he was quickly disowned by his parents and thrown out of the Surrey home where he was also allegedly physically assaulted by a cousin. After that ordeal, he contacted the support group, Sher Vancouver, and is now temporarily living in a volunteer’s condo.
Relating the story, Sher Vancouver’s founder Alex Sangha said, “He contacted us about 10 days back. He emailed us from our website and said he was suicidal, he had nowhere to go.”
Sangha met the student after that, and said, “He looked anorexic to me. He wasn’t eating, he wasn’t sleeping, he was shaking, and he was crying whenever I mentioned family.”
Since the student still has two semesters to complete, Sher Vancouver has started a GoFundMe campaign to try and raise sufficient funds to meet his tuition expenses and those for immigration paperwork.
The page for that campaign states: “His family found out he is gay and disowned him and cut off all his financial support. Sukh is now at risk of homelessness and having no income or money to support himself to survive.”
Sangha said Sher Vancouver was founded to support the South Asian gay community in the region and often encountered episodes of homophobia but “nothing this extreme, when someone has no other source of survival here. But, this is why we exist as an organisation.”
However, Sangha also pointed out that tolerance towards gays within the community had improved in recent years. “There are still some who are against gay people, but over the last ten years, there’s been a lot of progress. There’s a lot of people who are accepting.”
This summer, Sangha was a grand marshal at the Vancouver Pride Parade, which also saw Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marching along.