Pride: People’s District: Dan on Feeling Whole
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“My parents moved to this country so that me and my brother could go to college. They could have retired with a cushy life in India, but they came here with us and started over. My Mom worked as a janitor in a high school and a cashier at 7-11. My father also worked as a cashier after working in the army as a civilian foreman in India. My parents are an amazing testament to what parents will sacrifice for their children.
“I came here at 17 and this country offered me so many incredible opportunities. This country allowed me to be well educated, to pursue my love of dance, and to realize and appreciate that I am gay. Had I stayed in India, I likely would not have been able to pursue those things.
“In India, I went to a fundamentalist Christian school all of my life where we never talked about sex ever…I mean, ever. I didn’t even know what the word gay was in India. It was a surprise for me when I came to U.S. and found that I was attracted to men. In India, heterosexuality was the only sexuality I knew of. At first, I thought I could pray myself straight. Then, over years of personal reflection in my twenties, and finally my introduction to critical theory and women’s studies, I became more open to my sexuality.
“I didn’t come out until my 20′s and it was not an easy topic for my family, especially for my mother. She didn’t even know what the word gay meant. I had to both come out and explain what gay means. Unfortunately, my sister and brother were not very supportive. They couldn’t deal with it and wanted me to go to therapy or pray. While I needed them to help and support my mother, they chose not to. Because of that, I lost touch with my brother and sister 13 years ago.
“I speak openly of my hardships because I know that there are others who struggle with these issues. My mother eventually came around. For someone who lived in a country with no open discussion of sex or homosexuality, she fully accepts me. It is hard for her as she is not sure how to reconcile me with her Christian belief that I am going to Hell, but she loves me. I only wish that my father had still been alive for me to tell him, too. I don’t know if he would have reacted differently than everyone else, but I wanted him to know me fully as I really am.
“I thank this country for making me feel like a whole person. I think that all of these challenges made me who I am today and help me explore my love of dance. I grew up in Chennai, which is a very culturally rich city, but to pursue the arts and dance are a luxury and very exclusive. Here, I was able to study dance in college and have pursued it ever since, all while working full-time.
“In 2003, I formed my dance company, Dakshina, to focus on a combination of classical Indian dance, modern dance, and club dancing. I like to use my pieces to explore concepts of social justice, sexuality, and cross-cultural issues. I think that this is a very open minded city where people are eager to be challenged with the arts. I only hope that the government can change the situation in D.C. to make it easier for artists. The budgets are being cut immensely, and yet many people here still view art as something that should be provided for everyone. I believe that it should be. We, in the arts community, just need the support to continue doing it.”
Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company is an emerging dance company that performs and presents Indian dance forms, such as Bharata Natyam, and Modern dance, mirroring the multiple identities of second generation South Asians. The company combines the arts with social justice issues both by incorporating the themes into our work and via partnerships with local community centers and schools. You can subscribe to their email list by emailing email@example.com, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.
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