Photo Credit: Brittany Kwasney – Bright Photography
What was it like growing up?
I grew up in an affluent Sikh household with parents who valued social status and “what would people say” more than anything else. My actions or inactions would either add or delete from the family standing in society. I always questioned the status quo, especially the treatment of girls and women, which soon made my parents view me as the troublemaker and as someone that needed more controlling. I felt I never belonged in India and often felt infuriated by the treatment of women, yet helpless to be able to make a change. I often felt alone in questioning the world around me as everyone else seemed blind to what I was seeing and feeling. Everything in my being made sense when I immigrated to Canada at 13. All of a sudden I found myself in a world where it was ok to be an individual and express myself.
How did you come out?
I was 18 when I came out to myself. I never questioned it. It was like, huh…..this feels absolutely right. So right that there is nothing to question about it. I lost a couple of friends, but I never seemed to struggle with it. I had some deeper sense within me that knew that nothing could be done to change this and everything was ok as it was. My struggle came with my parents for 10 years who refused to believe I was gay. They thought it was a phase and that it would change. When it didn’t, they resorted to persistent unkind words at which point I made the hard decision to cut ties with them. Their shame of me and my life was not my burden and I choose not to be defined by their shame. While I was waiting to be unconditionally loved and accepted by my parents, my life was passing by. I looked around and realised that I already had love and unconditional acceptance in my life. It came from my partner, friends and extended community so I decided to cherish and enjoy what I had and leave behind what I couldn’t change. Life has a way of surprising you. My brother recently reached out and it’s been great to slowly build a mutually respectful and accepting relationship with him. My door is open to my parents as well. Whenever they are ready to be proud of me and come to terms with my life. I am not waiting for them and fully at peace with things as they are.
What has been your inspiration in life?
Many things inspire me. The courage to experience this life on your own terms, audacity to think big and think differently and even the tree outside my window that sheds its leaves when it is time to let go and has no problem with change. The desire within each of our beings to always search for its wholeness and peace amazes me. The impermanence of life inspires me to fully be in each moment good, bad or indifferent.
What has been some of your greatest achievements?
Moving through this world as my truest self, proud and having created a life with my partner, friends and community that nourishes me and our community. I absolutely love my work. I get to create events and inclusive spaces that foster a sense of community, acceptance, pride and fun for all members of our community. It amazes me that all I had to go by was a niggling little feeling in my gut even as a child that pushed me to question the status quo and it wouldn’t let go until it created exactly what it was seeking.
What is your message to the world?
We have one precious life to live, be proud of who you are. You are perfect just as you are. Reach out for help and surround yourself with people that cherish and nourish you AND never forget to have fun!
Mandy Randhawa is the Event Producer at Flygirl Productions, one of North America’s leading lesbian event organizers. For Mandy, who grew up in an environment steeped in intolerance, creating exquisite opportunities for the queer community to experience wholeness and celebration is a way of sharing with others the influences that helped her through the hardest times – joy, spontaneity, and shaking up the dance floor. For more information check out: www.flygirlproductions.com