Love, union, and marriage – what do these mean to you? We each have our own ideas of these timeless concepts – some of us cherish union with another kindred soul, some are content with celibate lives, and some define love in another way – union with God or the divine. What we seem to all have in common however, is a genuine wish that our choices be respected, honoured, and celebrated amongst our friends, families, and communities.
Every once in a while a project comes along that shakes up our ideas of what a traditional wedding looks like. SONS OF ROSES is a bold and inspiring project that brings to light themes of love, union, marriage, and inclusivity. Haran Vijayanathan and Humza Mian (who are not together in real life), depict two grooms in a traditional, yet non-denominational, South Asian wedding. The shoot was directed and styled by Saira Hussain from Breath of Henna & The Sai Lens, and was a joint collaboration with Must be Kismet Bridal Show & Magazine and other artistic vendors. Abhirami Balachandram and Angel Glady, two members of the South Asian LGBTQ community, also participated in the project, portraying friends of the grooms on their wedding day.
Traditionally in the South Asian LGBTQ community, marriage hasn’t always been an option, due to stigma or lack of family support. Thankfully this is changing, and there are plenty of examples of parents supporting their children who wish to get married and come out to the broader community.
Haran, who is the executive director of the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention and an outspoken advocate, says that coming out was difficult but that he is grateful for all the support he received. “My mom and sisters were accepting and still are,” he says. “I am blessed to be accepted by family and all the support they give me for who I am and what I do.”
This coming Saturday, Haran will be the first Sri Lankan, Tamil speaking man to be a grand marshal at Toronto’s Annual Pride Parade, and will be marching alongside his mother and sister. His hope is that others in the community who are struggling with reconciling their religious or cultural identities with coming out will feel more supported and a little less alone by seeing someone similar to them represented.
On the topic of marriage, Haran says that his preferred wedding would be a simple affair without a lot of pomp and pageantry. “My wedding would entail some great Indian/Sri Lankan food stations in a huge outdoor field with lots of mini lights lining the perimeter on stakes with a dome of lights as well. Lots of music, very few speeches, and people just having a great time with us and us with them. People would be dressed in simple Indian outfits and just have nature bless all of us with the stars shimmering in the sky, the slight breeze of the wind rustling the leaves in the trees and gently cooling all our guests.”
Humza, who identifies as queer, is a veterinary technician by day and a popular drag queen by night. His followers on social media know him as Manghoe Lassie, and his vibrant personality and love of his craft radiate through his pictures and videos. He is partially out to his family – his sisters and cousins know and support him; his parents and aunts and uncles do not yet know. He believes that coming out is an ongoing process and not the same for everyone. Above all, individuals should feel safe and emotionally prepared in their choice to come out.
Humza envisions a wedding in his future, that may not be traditional or in line with his Islamic faith, but one that includes his friends and family. He speaks candidly about the realities of having a dream wedding. “I would love to have a traditional wedding, however, this will likely not happen,” he says. “The process of coming out for queer people of color is ongoing and for some of us it will never be a reality. I have come to accept this and I am actually OK with it (no really, I am!) and will make the best of my wedding with my friends and chosen family.”
Both Haran and Humza consider themselves religious, and take great solace in the tenets and practices of their faith. Haran, like many Hindus, has a mandir in his home, and does pooja twice a day in honour of the deities. He appreciates the many gods and goddesses in Hinduism, and the way in which this ancient religion considers people and spirit and life as fluid and ever-changing. Humza, a practicing Muslim of Pakistani descent, enjoys attending Khutbah, a formal occasion where an Imam preaches and conveys the teachings of Islam. He says that the principles of his faith that are most important to him centre around being a good person and service to others.
SONS OF ROSES aims to spark more discussion about queer weddings and help to create healthy conversations at home. It is one thread in the fabric of our collective stories of union and marriage that shows how love moves us to transcend all differences.