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Alex Sangha: 15 wonderful ways in which Sher Vancouver is impacting the lives of vulnerable and marginalized queer people

Alex Sangha and son Kayden
Alex Sangha (right) and his son Kayden have participated with other Sher Vancouver members in various Vancouver Pride parades. Photo by Charlie Smith.

By Alex Sangha

Sher Vancouver is a registered charity for LGBTQ+ South Asians and their friends, families, and allies. Everyone is welcome! In 2023, Sher Vancouver is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a gala celebration at the Bollywood Banquet Hall in Surrey on July 8. The event is billed as Desi-Q, which is in reference to South Asian queers.

As we mark this milestone, I would like to share 15 wonderful ways that our organization has directly impacted the lives of vulnerable and marginalized queer people, especially youths, in Metro Vancouver.

Anti-bullying workshops

Sher Vancouver established the Dosti Project which was an outreach workshop that went into high schools in Surrey, Delta, Langley, and Vancouver to combat bullying, racism, homophobia, and transphobia. Dosti means friendship in many South Asian languages. The program was in response to incidents of gay bashings in Vancouver.

Trans documentary

Sher Vancouver produced a short documentary called “My Name Was January” as a eulogy to our late social coordinator, January Marie Lapuz, and to provide a platform for other trans women of color to share their strengths, struggles, and challenges.

Youth peer-support group

Sher Vancouver has established a peer support group called Pyar Is Pyar or Love Is Love for queer South Asian youth and friends 19 to 30 years of age that meets every Sunday at the City Centre Library.

Social support for all

Sher Vancouver has partnered with Solid State Co-op in Surrey City Centre to host a popular monthly meet-up open to all queer South Asian people and their friends of all ages. The program provides a hot meal, as well as arts and cultural performances, guest speakers, workshops, and crafts such as wreath making.

Podcast

Sher Vancouver has produced an amazing BIPOC and LGBTQ+ podcast that has completed 14+ episodes and has over 1,500+ downloads in the second season.

Free Counselling

Sher Vancouver has partnered with No Fear Counselling to provide free crisis counseling with virtually no waitlist to LGBTQ+ youth who need support in regard to their coming out, sexuality, or gender identity.

Vinay Giridhar and Alex Sangha
Sundar director Vinay Giridhar and manager Alex Sangha have seen their film, Emergence: Out of the Shadows
, screened many times, including at the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival.

Coming-out documentary

Sher Vancouver has produced an award-winning debut feature documentary called Emergence: Out of the Shadows, which was an official selection at nearly 50 film festivals including an Academy Award, BAFTA, and five Canadian Screen Award–qualifying festivals. The film was also broadcast on Knowledge Network, TVO, and OUTtv, and had over 40 screenings in schools in Metro Vancouver.

Social media

Sher Vancouver is using our social media platforms to facilitate outreach in the South Asian LGBTQ+ community. We have nearly 5,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin, and nearly 700 subscribers on our official YouTube channel.

Youth award

Sher Vancouver has supported the January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award every year since 2015. We have recognized many amazing youths and young adults form 16 to 30 who are demonstrating involvement, commitment, and leadership in the LGBTQ+ community worldwide.

Out and Proud Project

Sher Vancouver launched the Out and Proud Project, which profiles the coming out stories of amazing queer South Asian people from Canada, the United States, the U.K., India, and Australia.

Practicum students

Sher Vancouver has worked with practicum students from UBC law school, Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s arts faculty, and social work students from Douglas College, University of the Fraser Valley, and Dalhousie University.

Publications

Sher Vancouver has published a number of helpful resources such as Destination YVR, which is a survival guide for newcomers and international students, as well as a Lawyer Referral Guide.

Intake

Sher Vancouver has an intake, information, and referral program where over 150 messages per month from across all platforms are returned within three business days. People who are at risk undergo a mental health screening by a registered clinical social worker and registered clinical counsellor and are linked to appropriate internal and external supports.

Representation

Sher Vancouver made history as the first South Asian LGBTQ+ organization to formally march in the Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade. Sher Vancouver marched for multiple years.

Role models 

Sher Vancouver has compiled a list of the Top 15 South Asian role models every five years since 2011.

On the horizon, Sher Vancouver is working to further advance women’s and Indigenous safe spaces within Sher Vancouver, as well as to launch a social justice and human rights international film awards competition called the Sundar Prize and to release our third documentary feature film, called I, Migrant, about immigrants from India to Canada.

Alex Sangha is the founder of Sher Vancouver.

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Alex Sangha

Alex Sangha

Alex Sangha is the founder of Sher Vancouver.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.