Are We the People of Love…or Not?
by SS Jivan Joti Kaur Khalsa PhD
For quite some time, I have been disturbed by our attitudes about and treatment of members of the LGBTQ+ community within our Sikh Dharma. Many of our devoted siblings have felt forced out because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. They felt that they did not belong. They were less. This greatly distressed me. I would like to think that we are truly the people of tolerance, acceptance and love…welcoming all who love the Guru and want to be with us. I am glad to see that our attitudes and policies are changing at our yogic events and even in our training curriculums and manuals. Still there is a lot of misunderstanding and yes even prejudice of this population of our Dharma. For this reason, I joined the Khalsa Council LGBTQ+ Task Force. Our Mission is to bring equality of the LGBTQ+ community to all levels of our Sikh Dharma, including marriage.
There seems to be a general consensus that members of the LGBTQ+ community are welcome, except… This reminds me of the days of the Civil Rights Movement. African Americans were welcome, oh, except if they came to our churches, married our children, went to our schools or lived in our neighborhoods. Hasn’t the Siri Singh Sahib said that where there is a condition, there is no love? Didn’t he say that before God, we are one?
“When you have duality in you, and you are not one, how can you reach the One? How can two reach One? Understand the basic theory of God. God is one. You are one. One you and one God merge to become One.” – Yogi Bhajan, The Library of Teachings, November 27, 1984
The LGBTQ+ community is welcome to come into our Gurdwaras. Once they get in…” Oh I’m sorry you are not allowed to marry before the Guru. It’s our Guru, not yours.” Two people are coming hand in hand, bowing to the Guru as their Beloved, wanting His/Her/It’s blessing in marriage as the foundation on which to base their life together. Who are we to judge them? Who are we to give conditions?
These are not faceless people. They were among our first generation. People we loved. Some that were very prominent and respected members of our Sangats… until they revealed that they were gay or lesbian. They left. Somehow it was assumed that they would have to leave. They did not fit into our definition of “householder.” Some were yoga students, but it was easier to keep them “apart.” Then, our own children and grandchildren came out as members of the LGBTQ+ community. Hum, what do we do now? These were our own flesh and blood. Were we going to reject and disown these children (like many of our parents had done to us), who had grown up in the Dharma, gone to our schools, loved the Guru and our lifestyle? Some became yoga teachers, even trainers. Some became Sikh Ministers and took Amrit. Are they less too? Do they belong? Can they get married before the Guru that they had grown up to love?
Many things have been said about this issue. Some say that the Siri Singh Sahib said… He was a man who evolved in his views of the LGBTQ community from teaching us that it was a perversion of the First Chakra, that it was a mental condition that could be controlled, to agreeing that are born as they are. It is medically proven. One cannot “choose” how they are. They just “are.” We are a combination of polarities - masculine and feminine energies, which vary from person to person, which create our tendencies, interests, sexual preferences and even our gender identity. This was his teaching as well. Did you know that as many as .06% of babies cannot be clearly identified as male or female at the time of birth? In such cases, doctors decide which sex the baby is. It is called Gender Assignment. In such cases surgery is usually needed. Many times, the child grows up identifying with the gender they were assigned, but many times they do not. I interviewed two transgender members of our Sadh Sangat. I asked them the question, “When did you decide that you were transgender?” Both individually corrected me that one does not decide but IS transgender. There is a lot we can learn about to understand the complexities of sexual preferences and gender identification, if we but take the time and care to do so.
We’ve heard other things the Siri Singh Sahib said. I’ve heard someone say that he told them that the Lavan was between the polarity of a Man and a Woman. I’ve heard another man say that his sister went to the Siri Singh Sahib saying that she wanted to find a wife. His response to her was that maybe he was going to have to perform the first same-sex marriage in the Dharma. Personally, I’ve performed many marriages. The Lavan never once talks about a marriage between a man and a woman, but the merger of souls. He always told us that he was three people in one – Harbhajan Singh, the man; Yogi Bhajan, the Yogi and the Siri Singh Sahib, the Spiritual Teacher. His views as a man changed. Our times are changing. I firmly believe that he would be changing with them if he were here in his physical body, making his teachings relevant to the times.
Some contend – “It’s the law of the land. Same-sex marriage is legal in our great United States. Get with the times.” Others say, “It’s a ‘human right,’ where’s our humanity?”
Some say that it is written in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib… And, both sides will debate they are right in their interpretation. It is all in the eyes of the reader and “interpreter.” I’ve always been told that the Bride is the Soul and the Groom is the Guru, not gender specific. Others contend that those terms are gender specific. Look at other religions, like Christianity and Islam. The Bible and the Koran are interpreted in all numerous of ways, with versions of Christianity and Islam to support them. Didn’t many of us leave our churches and synagogues because of the hypocrisy we saw? Many of us were disowned and some parents even tried to have us de-programmed when we became Sikhs and adopted this yogic lifestyle. We have to open your eyes. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are us. Are we going to tell them – “You are not good enough to be a part of us and to be married in front of the Guru in our/their Gurdwaras?” Aren’t we then becoming like those parents that disowned us - narrow-minded, prejudiced and hypocrites?
Some say that we can’t go against the SGPC. But when was the Siri Singh Sahib intimidated by the SGPC? They never recognized Kundalini Yoga or even him as the Siri Singh Sahib. If we followed the SGPC, there wouldn’t be women ministers and sevedars of our Gurdwaras. We wouldn’t be who we are today. Aren’t we the pioneers of Sikh Dharma? Aren’t we the Sikh Dharma of the Aquarian Age? Don’t you think Guru Nanak, the Guru of the Aquarian Age, would be right with us advocating Sikh Dharma for all? The Sikh youth of the world look to us for this Aquarian spiritual guidance. Ask your children. This is a non-issue for them. They are our future. We can learn from them. If we don’t, they will do what many of us did – go looking for something else, somewhere else.
I challenge us to go within and transform from the Truth in our hearts and consciousnesses. We need to examine within individually and dialogue as a Sangat. Who are we as a people and as a Dharma? What are our values? What legacy are we leaving? Are we going to walk into the future as a Dharma for all? Or, are we going to be conditional in our acceptance and love? If it is the latter, we cannot profess to be “The People of Love.” We will become very small, limited and withered, without our future walking with us, our children.
Please, let’s not choose sides, debate or judge one another. Let’s dialogue openly and honestly and bring each other along. The times, they are a changing. We can be the change…together as one Sadh Sangat, one Sikh Dharma, with an exquisite legacy to uplift humanity in the Aquarian Age. Sat Nam, love to all!
“Let us be the blessed one[s] in the purity and piety of our environments and circumstances and let us rise to the occasion that we must serve all as one and oneness of God, so we realize our own objective, and never be subjective to death. Let us leave behind a legacy and serve the lineage to uplift the mankind, let there be peace and the privilege of life and beauty and bounty be our reward, Sat Nam.” – Yogi Bhajan, Library of Teachings, March 31, 1993