Updated: Jul 29, 2020
This Part II of our two-part series on DeQH, the South Asian LGBTQ+ Helpline. In this interview, we speak with DeQH volunteer, Kevin Narine, to learn a little about him and the work DeQH accomplishes through it's Helpline for LGBTQ+ South Asians.
To view Part I, please click here.
Hi! Thank you for participating in our interview, Kevin! Tell us about yourself and how did you get involved with DeQH.
KEVIN: My name is Kevin Narine (he/him/his) and I grew up in Guyana, South America and immigrated to the United States at the age of eight years old. I am an entering first-year clinical psychology doctoral student at William James College. I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 with a major in psychology. I served as a full-time research assistant at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania, where I assisted in studies examining suicide risk and treatments for anxiety. I also served as a project coordinator to bring effective treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in underserved communities. As a clinical psychologist, I hope to implement culturally sensitive treatments for anxiety and trauma-related disorders in underserved populations.
I got involved in DeQH in May 2018 after a friend at UPenn recommended that I check out the organization. I immediately gravitated to DeQH since it was a trustworthy organization serving LGBTQ+ People of Color (POC). I hope to take every opportunity to develop as a compassionate and socially conscious leader in my commitment to use clinical psychology to meet the needs of underserved communities by being a culturally humble and responsive clinician, advocate, and activist. Thus, joining DeQH as a peer support specialist was a great way for me to serve and connect with others who share the colorful intersection of my identities.
What’s the history of DeQH? How did it get started and why is it important?
KEVIN: DeQH was launched in 2013 by queer South Asian volunteers to serve a critical need in our community. This group is run by a volunteer Steering Committee and includes a coalition of individuals and national organizations from around the United States. DeQH is North America’s first national South Asian LGBTQ+ peer support helpline offering free, confidential, culturally sensitive peer support as well as information and resources for LGBTQ+ South Asian individuals, families and friends around the globe. It uniquely operates under the mission of LGBTQ+ South Asian Peer Support Volunteers providing services for LGBTQ+ South Asians.
How can someone contact DeQH for support and what type of calls do you get?
KEVIN: Callers can reach the national helpline at (908) FOR-DEQH (908-367-3374) from 7-9pm CST on Thursdays and Sundays. For more information, please visit www.deqh.org or contact us at email@example.com. We provide a safe and supportive space for callers to share their concerns, questions, struggles or hopes through conversations with trained LGBTQ+ South Asian peer support volunteers. Some types of issues callers have expressed include coming out, marriage pressure/forced marriage, finding community, isolation, discrimination, victimization, issues with parents/joint family/extended family, religion, long-term perspective, and therapy.
LGBTQ+ South Asians can feel isolated and believe that there are very few people in their situation. They belong to two marginalized identities – the South Asian culture and the LGBTQ+ community.
What are some of the biggest struggles and strengths of LGTBQ+ South Asians?
KEVIN: One struggle among LGBTQ+ South Asians is isolation. LGBTQ++ South Asians can feel isolated and believe that there are very few people in their situation. They belong to two marginalized identities – the South Asian culture and the LGBTQ+ community. As a result, it can be difficult to find spaces that intersect both identities to provide support for the unique challenges they encounter. It can help them immensely to learn that they are not at all alone. One strength of LGBTQ+ South Asians is the supportive communities they can form either in-person or virtually. For example, DeQH has been one of the most supportive communities I’ve ever been a part of because there is mutual care and support from each other. There are also several centers across the country and virtual support groups for LGBTQ+ South Asians.
What are some other resources that might benefit other queer/trans South Asian Americans?
KEVIN: Some other resources that might be helpful for other queer/trans South Asians include joining support and advocacy organizations such as Trikone Chicago, Sarbat LGTBQ Sikhs, Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, Equality Labs, Caribbean Equality Project, and National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA). Many of these organizations have chapters across the country, virtual and in-person events, and other helpful resources to support a sense of belonging and community among LGBTQ+ South Asians.
What resources do South Asian families need to better support LGBTQ+ members?
KEVIN: It is important for South Asian families to better support LGBTQ+ members by using materials to understand the impact of acceptance and rejection on LGBTQ+ individuals well-being. The Desi Rainbow Parents & Allies organization is a space for parents and families of LGBTQ+ individuals to find community with another and learn how to better support their children. Additionally, PFLAG is the first and largest organization for LGBTQ+ people, their parents and families, and allies. These organizations provide valuable educational and support resources for families.
What’s some of the history of LGBTQ+ South Asians and diasporic queer desis?
KEVIN: As a diaspora, South Asian LGBTQ+ individuals are a multifaceted community with diverse histories. There are many historical events among LGBTQ+ South Asians, but some of the important ones to highlight include organizations that created safe spaces for LGBTQ+ South Asians including: Trikon (later renamed Trikone) in 1986, Khush in Toronto in 1987, South Asian Gay Association (SAGA, later renamed SALGA) founded in New York City in 1989, and Satrang in California in 1997. The South Asian American Digital Archive also has a few resources on the founding of South Asian queer and trans collectives. More inclusive timeline guides include: Wikipedia's Timeline of South Asian and diasporic LGBT history, the 2006 Desi Queer Datebook timeline, and the 2013 DesiQ conference shared history timeline.
How can a young person be a better friend to someone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community or questioning their identity?
KEVIN: A young person can be a good friend to someone who is questioning or a member of LGBTQ+ community by practicing a few strategies. First, listen to your friend and validate their experiences. Please keep this information confidential between you and your friend since your friend is trusting you. Second, avoid passing judgment -- good or bad -- on your friend’s thoughts, feelings, or actions. Being able to accept your friend unconditionally enables you to provide non-judgmental support throughout your friendship. Third, don’t be afraid to ask your friend for ways that you can support them – sometimes we think we know how to support someone, but it might not be the best approach for what your friend wants. Fourth, if you are unfamiliar with the LGBTQ+ community, please Google resources to learn about it, especially common practices to avoid (e.g., misgendering).
Any advice for how South Asian youth can get active in their communities and make a difference?
KEVIN: South Asian youth can take initiative in supporting their communities by reflecting on their experiences and identifying the issues that matter to them. It is important to identify issues, think through solutions, and collaborate to flesh out projects. For example, if LGBTQ+ advancement is an important issue for a youth, they can identify mentors at their school to start a support group for LGBTQ+ students at their school or local LGBTQ+ center.
Thank you for the interview, Kevin! And many thanks to the DeQH founders, board members, and volunteers for allowing us to connect with the organization further in this project. Without their support, this interview would not have taken place.
If you are a young person looking for support services and LGBTQ+ affirming programming in the northwest suburbs, connect with Kenneth Young Center LGBTQ+ Center located in Schaumburg, Illinois! We are a safe and welcoming place for all youth and strive to be intersectional and trauma-informed in our approach. We still provide services during COVID-19 as many of our services have migrated online. Click here to learn more and please reach out if you have any questions or comments at LGBTQfirstname.lastname@example.org.