Produced by Sher Films, Emergence: Out of the Shadows is the story of Kayden, Jag, and Amar, and the journey they took along with their conservative South Asian families while understanding and coming to terms with their sexuality. It closely follows these three queer individuals and their families as they explore topics of sexuality, gender expression, and shame in the South Asian community in Vancouver, Canada.
Some are heart-breaking, while others are terrifying; these stories depict the difficulties that families and individuals face as a result of the Punjabi Sikh cultural tradition, which considers all other sexualities taboo in their culture.
Emergence unfolds the queer individual’s journey to self-acceptance that starts in a setting that says loving yourself is selfish. It almost acts like a guiding mentor and emphasises the importance of redemption. This multiple-award-winning documentary gives hope that one can find joy and live a “normal” life and also have a sense of community living an authentic life even after coming out as queer.
Being queer doesn’t mean we have to give in to society’s expectations. Sometimes, only when we break out of certain traditions do we find ourselves, discover our communities, and discover our happiness. The documentary also talks about the shame that comes from within oneself. What helps is finding role models and mentors, who are like you and share your experience, culturally and otherwise.
It was heart-warming to not just see the tenacity expressed by these individuals who shared their stories and their most vulnerable parts, but also the valour their parents showed. They were willing to try and understand parts of their children that were vastly different from what was taught to them as socially acceptable.
Alex Sangha talks about “facing years of homophobia, failing to accept himself, and fearing rejection from his family.” He is now a social worker and the founder of Sher Vancouver, an LGBTQ support group. He has reached out and stood by many queer folks from his community and has been the producer and the main force behind “Emergence Out of The Shadows”. He hopes the documentary will help other individuals and their families with their coming out and acceptance journey.
Jaspal Kaur Sangha, Alex Sangha’s mother, a Punjabi woman, understands the criticism faced when going against your cultural norms. She raised him all by herself, and when she found out about his sexuality, in the early 1990s, she looked it up in the dictionary. “they say gay mean happy. I was very happy.” But as time passed, she grew to understand and accept her son and his sexuality.
She has accepted the fact that the traditional hopes of her son getting married will not be fulfilled but is happy accepting her son as he is. She said, “He struggled more because he was feeling obliged inside to one of these days get married, have grandchildren, and my mother will be happy. So, I make him understand that that’s not the only way. You have to be happy first.”
Oppression can be very intimate and burdensome, not just systemically but in our daily lives too. This award-winning queer documentary throws light on these instances of oppression. Directed by Vinay Giridhar, the documentary, Emergence Out of The Shadows, offers a lot of courage and inspiration to queer individuals and families that are struggling with acceptance. It is conveyed through the resilience of the families and the individuals to accept themselves and live life in ways true to themselves.