Ethnicity, Sexuality Are Linked, Panelists Say

Issues of ethnic origin and human sexuality are closely linked, according to participants in a forum conducted last night by the Harvard Radcliffe South Asian Association (HRSAA) and the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Students Association (BGLSA).

More than 50 people attended the forum, which focused on issues of homosexuality among South Asian men and women.

The program included the screening of two films about life in South Asian gay and lesbian communities in India, Great Britain and the United States. The films were followed by a panel discussion covering a wide range of topics.

According to panel member Sujatha Balija '93, female sexuality is repressed in South Asian society, and homosexuality is not tolerated.

"When a girl is born, she is indoctrinated a lot with [the importance of] production, not only of children, but also of pleasure for men," Balija said. "When girls begin to show lesbian or bisexual tendencies, families either murder their children or marry them off very young."


Panelist Vernon A. Rosario, a graduate student who is gay, said his parents--who were troubled by issues of assimilation related to their own Laotian heritage--had difficulty accepting his homosexuality.

Rosario said that questions of sexual orientation are important to consider within the context of broader issues of discrimination.

"The problems of racism and assimilation in a highly racist society are enormous, and that's something that's totally interconnected with the sexuality issue," Rosario said.

Throughout the event, organizers said that ethnic organizations should be more receptive to issues of sexuality at Harvard.

"I think this is ultra-important," said BGLSA Co-Chair Sandi L. DuBowski '92. "So often, people are identified by either racial or sexual identity. There is never acknowledgement of people who are multiple identities."

HRSAA Co-President Muneer I. Ahmad '93 said the program had succeeded in reaching a broad audience.

"What we tried to do here is deal with an issue that doesn't apply to a majority of our members, but is nonetheless important," Ahmad said