Sher Vancouver is pleased to announce that Jaspreet Chahal is the winner of the January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award for 2016. This award recognizes a youth between 16 and 30 years of age who has demonstrated leadership, commitment, and volunteer work within the LGBTQ community whether locally, nationally, or internationally.
Jaspreet receives a Certificate and a $250.00 cash prize which was graciously donated by New West Pride. January, as many people know, lived in New Westminster and a grassroots “Justice for January” march took place in New Westminster shortly after her death.
Below is a brief listing of some of Jaspreet’s volunteer work in the LGBTQ and the broader community, as well as his coming out story:
- Volunteered at the Pride Dance Party in the year 2010 through Vancouver Pride Society.
- Lounge Care Volunteer at Simon Fraser University specifically Out on Campus from September 2014 to August 2015 which is a place where queer people can socialize and hang out.
- Volunteered at events held by Out on Campus such as Transgender Remembrance Day, Clubs Days, Queer Awareness Week, Weekly Socials, and Student Orientations.
- Guest Speaker to a Sociology class to talk about all forms of Diversity at Douglas College.
- Member of Sher Vancouver.
- Participated in the Sher Vancouver Pride of Bollywood Float in 2013 to promote diversity and inclusion especially in the South Asian community.
- Featured in the Sher Vancouver Out and Proud Project.
- Volunteer at Out on Campus at Simon Fraser University.
- Volunteer at the Sikh Temple to give out food and drink to people.
- Personally met and was a known friend of January Marie Lapuz.
Jaspreet’s comment’s upon receiving the award was “I am so honoured and thrilled to receive this award and to carry on January’s legacy. Thank you to January and to Sher Vancouver and to New West Pride.”
COMING OUT STORY
What was it like growing up?
I was born and raised in Manila, Philippines to a Sikh family. Growing up, I often asked myself What is love? What is sex? What is abuse? I did not fit in into a societal norm that media tries to convey. I always knew I was gay, but I had to suppress it because it is not accepted in the hetero-mainstream society. Overcoming bullying as a child, sexually abused by a family member, introduced to sex in my childhood years, and confusion on the concept of religion, at home (Sikhism) and at school (Catholic) was also part of my growing up. I had to define religion myself along the way in that everybody is treated with respect and equality,
How did you come out? What does that mean to you?
I came out to my parents who were visiting me in Canada at that time and my parents tried to push the marriage thing on me in order to get permanent residence as fast and efficient as possible. After I came out, statements from my parent’s were like “This is abnormal, you need a psychiatrist,” ” why are you choosing this path?”, “That’s a sin in the eyes of Guru Nanak,” “Medicine will cure you,” Until today, I’m 24. They are still silent on this topic and don’t want to discuss it. That’s fine with me, I have to live my life without regrets. Coming out to me means freedom from the lies of media, coming out means to be proud as a person and create my own path by loving myself and fully understand the depth of life and my existence in this world.
What has been your inspiration in life?
My inspiration in life is the pain, struggle, and growth that I endured in my life. I am a spiritual person and always connected to God and the universe whether its sadness or happiness. I am inspired by myself and the experiences of other queer South Asians. The fight for existence, the fight for immigrant status in Canada, fight for being queer South Asian, and fight for independence is very inspiring for me and for others. Our life is not limited to one thought or one view what media tells us to believe. We just expect that we have to accept and love ourselves in order to attain full happiness and be able to love and appreciate others.
What have been some of your greatest achievements?
The greatest achievement is to love me and to love God, the universe, and higher power. To achieve permanent resident status in Canada despite being taken advantage of in the workplace. The perseverance and patience that I have achieved through conflicts and struggles in life. The love and support that I achieved from friends and acquaintances.
What is your message to the world?
I would like to share to the world that always do what you love most and appreciate your life as a wonderful journey. There will be obstacles, but we just have to deal with it along the way and challenge ourselves so that we can strive and succeed in this world.
Everyone should identify what they are good at, not just blindly following others. Be unique and awesome and try to make a difference in the world. Hard work will pay off in the end.
You’ve got one life and mind as well … make the most of it and bring Change and Empowerment to the world.
Jaspreet Singh Chahal is a gay activist and Sikh immigrant based in Surrey, B.C. He is proud to officially become a permanent resident after seven and a half years of living in Canada. Jaspreet is currently employed as a sales representative. Jaspreet will be moving to New Zealand shortly to spend some time with his family.