Under normal circumstances, South Asian Queer League, or SAQL, might be seen at pride marches or conducting workshops. Thanks to the pandemic, SAQL, like many of our programs, has gone virtual. However, also thanks to the pandemic, the importance of SAQL has never been greater.
The name SAQL comes from a word, pronounced “Shaql” in both Hindi ( शकल ) and Urdu ( شکل ), meaning identity, face, or form.
South Asian Queer League provides community and support for LGBTQ+ members of the South Asian community. Pre-pandemic, SAQL would go to pride marches, organize art, music, and cultural events, provide training to allies, and more. COVID-19 has forced SAQL to go virtual, but has not diminished its reach, impact, and importance.
In a time where we are largely confined to our homes, there are many in the South Asian LGBTQ+ community who are stuck with unsupportive, heteronormative family members. While ‘Coming Out’ is not an option for many South Asians with their families, SAQL welcomes all proud individuals to be themselves and stay connected with like-minded peers.
What Does SAQL Offer?
SAQL offers safe space. As in the name, South Asian Queer League is exclusively for Queers of South Asian ethnic identity.
SAQL’s monthly Satrangi Mulaqats (Rainbow Meetings) provide a support and healing group with a culturally-specific psychotherapist. These meetings help reduce anxiety and depression in an otherwise dark time.
Being culturally-specific, SAQL meets an unmet need. While of course LGBTQ+ peer groups exist, SAQL fills the gap for the South Asian Queer community. This means LGBTQ+ members of our community have a truly safe space and a community of supportive peers who understand the struggles of being Queer and South Asian.
While SAQL is a space exclusively for Queers of South Asian ethnic identity, SAQL+ is open to allies, regardless of gender, racial, and ethnic identities. Allies, of course, are anyone who is supportive of the Queer community.
What are SAQL and SAQL+’s Impact?
South Asian Queer League and SAQL+ are spaces for celebrating South Asian Queer identities, supporting one another, and teaching those in solidarity to be allies.
It connects South Asian queer, gender non-conforming, non-binary, and transgender individuals and families who are often marginalized in their own families and communities. But don’t take our word for it — here are a few testimonials from members of SAQL. They are anonymous for privacy and safety.
“This is my first time ever seeing my-skin people (Browns) in a Queer support group here in Twin Cities!”
“I have been going to local church support groups; it’s been great, but I feel there is something I miss – and that is I think my own communities and their support.”
“This is a very much needed space.”
“Thank you for thinking of us and creating this platform.”
The program is growing, especially during this pandemic, which shows that the need is greater. SEWA-AIFW’s LGBTQ+ programming will continue to grow and evolve to meet the needs of the community.
Interested allies can join the SAQL+ Facebook group here.
This project was supported by grant no. 2019-X0471-MN-UW awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, US Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication, program, and exhibition are those of author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women.