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Part I: DeQH - a National Helpline for LGBTQ+ South Asians

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

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Written By:

Krupa Patel with consulting from Hiba Ali, Assistant Professor of Art, University of Oregon and Kevin Narine, PsyD Student at William James College

There is a lot of diversity within the LGBTQ+ community, and it is important to provide culturally competent, aware, and sensitive resources. Not all LGBTQ+ experiences are the same though. A one size fits all approach that assumes that the norm of being queer means being White, monolingual, westernized/Europeanized, middle class, having housing, being neurotypical, non-immigrant and coming from a Christian family. That is definitely not the case for everyone, and a single-minded approach often causes harm, minimizing and erasing the experiences of queer and trans, Black, Indigenous and other people of color (QTBIPOC). In that respect, one of the resources that we highlight in the CPYD LGBTQ+ Resource Guide is DeQH, a LGBTQ+ national peer support helpline for South Asians and their families.

DeQH describes South Asians as people who are of “South Asian heritage, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tibet, as well as from South Asian communities in diaspora, such as Fiji and the Caribbean.” Scholar and artist, Hiba Ali, shares that ““South Asian” as a modern term, initially popularized in the late 60s, is used to group an extremely heterogeneous group of people together; these communities descending from the ‘Old World’ have vast histories of migration and empire that span from the 1st century to the present.” South Asian is a ‘fraught’ term, it is not always appropriate to use as it erases many marginalized communities on the basis of caste, class, religion, nationality, and more. It is always important to ask someone how they identify instead of identifying them yourself. In this article, we are using the term “South Asian” as a geographic term since many Indians and Pakistanis in the Northwest suburbs use that word (as well as others like, “brown”, “Asian”, “Desi” -- although not all use these terms) to describe themselves collectively.

LGBTQ+ South Asians often will face multiple sources of oppression, and it is imperative to use multiple lens to understand South Asian youth, adults, and families.

The Northwest suburbs of Chicago are home to some of the biggest diaspora of South Asian communities in North America. In Schaumburg alone, 10.2% of Schaumburg residents are Indian American according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Statewide, Islam is the second largest religion in Illinois after Christianity. The larger community is so visible that just a drive through Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, and other Northwestern suburbs shows many Indian or Pakistani-owned grocery stores, fabric stores, restaurants, jewelers, schools, tutoring services, mosques/masjids, a gurdwara, mandirs, gas stations, and other institutions and businesses.

South Asia and its diasporas also have a long history of gender and sexuality diversity -- from same sex love in the Mughal courts to references of gender diverse people in Vedic texts. Many queer South Asian stories look vastly different from one another, especially due to structural oppression including casteism, Islamophobia, and classism. For example, one in three Dalit South Asians in the United States reported experiencing casteism in their education in 2016 according to Equality Labs. In the 2018-2019 CAIR Survey, 40% Muslim students in the United States reported being bullied for their religion, many stating that it happened often. LGBTQ+ South Asians often will face multiple sources of oppression, and it is imperative to use multiple lens to understand South Asian youth, adults, and families.

It goes without saying that DeQH can be one of many important resources for LGBTQ+ South Asian youth, adults, and families in the suburbs. The DeQH national helpline centers their work on being caller-centered, non-judgemental, and respectful of a person’s multiple identities as supporting callers navigate complex circumstances. To help us learn more about the resource they provide and the experiences of LGBTQ+ South Asians, we took a moment to interview Kevin Narine, one of the DeQH hotline volunteers to learn about what makes their resource invaluable to the South Asian and LGBTQ+ communities.

If you would like to contact DeQH, dial (908) FOR-DEQH (908-367-3374) from 7-9pm (Central Standard Time) on Thursdays and Sundays, write an e-mail to or visit

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