For decades, British Columbians have viewed Langley as part of the Bible Belt. In this area of the province, right-wing Christianity reigned supreme and LGBT+ kids had to remain deeply in the closet.
Over time, attitudes began to shift. But as recently as 2021, the then Conservative MP for Cloverdale–Langley City, Tamara Jansen, spoke against legislation outlawing sexual-orientation conversion therapy.
In a speech to Parliament, Jansen justified her position by citing a woman in Calgary who had been “involved in lesbian activity”. That elicited howls of ridicule over social media. For a brief period, the hashtag #lesbianactivity actually trended on Twitter. Many welcomed more of it.
A few months later, voters bounced Jansen out of office in the federal election. And this year, Langley City took another step toward becoming more LGBT+-friendly when it elected Nathan Pachal as mayor.
He’s an out gay man and his husband, Dr. Rob Bittner, joined him at his inauguration.
I present to you, my husband! ❤️ https://t.co/YQjLUqBtsV
— Dr. Rob Bittner 🏳️🌈 📚 (@r_bittner) May 30, 2022
On Saturday (November 19), Langley will reinforce its growing reputation as a welcoming community with a free film screening at 2 p.m.
Sher Vancouver’s landmark documentary, Emergence: Out of the Shadows, will be presented at United Churches of Langley (21562 Old Yale Road).
Watch the trailer for Emergence: Out of the Shadows, by Sher Films.
Meet Kayden, Jag, and Amar
Directed by Surrey filmmaker Vinay Giridhar, it’s an intimate portrait of three Lower Mainland residents of South Asian ancestry explaining how they embraced their LGBT+ identity.
Emergence: Out of the Shadows also reveals how they came out to their parents.
To call this film heartwarming would be a major understatement. It’s utterly riveting and deeply emotional as the three central characters—Kayden Bhangu, Jag Nagra, and Amar (Alex) Sangha—share their stories.
Emergence: Out of the Shadows has been selected for nearly 50 film festivals around the world. It’s likely been unforgettable to anyone who has seen it. But for those who haven’t, here are just a few aspects that captivated me.
First off, let’s start with the stories. Each of the central characters comes from different circumstances, but they all must cope with taboos in the Punjabi community around homosexuality.
For Kayden, it’s outright hostility from his family in India before he moves to Canada.
For Jag, it’s her worries about what her immigrant parents will think if they find out that she’s a lesbian and that they might not become grandparents. Compounding Jag’s anxiety is the fact that her only sibling, Harv, is a gay man living in another city. So her sexual orientation has the potential to be a double whammy for mom and dad.
Then there’s Amar, who’s filmed sitting outside his former secondary school as he describes horrific bullying inflicted upon him.
Parents come across as role models
It’s honest and raw—and all three are incredibly articulate about what they’ve experienced. Their stories are reinforced by the touching commentaries from Jag’s parents and Amar’s mom.
These parents will most certainly shatter stereotypical views that some might hold about older immigrants from Punjab. They also serve as powerful and deeply impressive role models for any other Punjabi-born parents who might have an LGBT+ child.
“Everything I have in my life is because of my mom,” Amar, who’s also the producer, says at one point. “She has supported me my whole life.”
He adds that she defended him when others were making his life miserable. She made sacrifices on his behalf after her marriage soured. According to Amar, she never rejected him for being gay. And that is why he likens her to an “angel that has come down to help me in life”.
There’s nothing quite like the love of family. But for a gay or lesbian kid growing up in a patriarchal culture, there’s no guarantee that this bond can survive the shock of them coming out of the closet to their parents. That’s a central message of Emergence: Out of the Shadows and why it deserves to be seen around the world.
The director, Giridhar, warrants praise for the film’s magnificent camerawork, editing, animation, choice of locations, and use of still photos. Normally, an 80-minute film populated by “talking heads” is a bit of a challenge to watch. But not in this case.
It’s exciting to see something this compelling from a first-time director and from Sher Vancouver, which has been offering a haven to LGBT+ people of South Asian ancestry for so many years. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do for an encore.