More than 80 people gathered last month in Griffith Park to enjoy friends, family, food, and music. It was the annual Satrang Family Day.
Satrang is a nonprofit that supports South Asian LGBTQ+ communities, and this year they partnered with Desi Rainbow Parents and Allies — a national organization — to host and organize the event, which was started over 25 years ago.
“Several people of South Asian descent, a lot of them were first-generation immigrants, found each other in various LA coffee shops, bars, etc.,” says Sarita Bhatt, an audio journalist and an attendee of this year’s event. “And they were shocked that they saw other LGBTQ people at these places, who were also South Asian. So they started to informally gather together in people's houses.”
Bhatt adds, “Most of these people had never come out to their families, to anyone back home in India, Pakistan, etc. And so they really started to build this network and community amongst each other. And through there, they created a chosen family, a support network.”
About six years ago, Bhatt explains, Satrang wanted to pivot from mainly hosting nighttime events, like happy hours and dance parties, to a picnic that would include families. From that, The Family Day was born, and it has been growing ever since.
Bhatt says that having a safe space and community for South Asian and queer families was particularly important because of the stigma and intolerance in the South Asian region and in the U.S. that prevents people being out.
“There's a lot of people who are not fully out to their born families. And many people have to unfortunately live with two different identities. They're one person with their family, and then they’re their queer, honest self with their chosen family.”
Bhatt adds, “I mean, I was one of those people for a very long time.” She explains that earlier in her life, she felt like she had to separate out being South Asian and being queer.
And because of that, Satrang takes extra precautions when they host the Family Day. “We keep the location a secret until the day of the event, because many people, we have learned over the years, are still scared. They’re scared their parents will find out or their cousins or somebody will see them. So we don't do recordings, photos. Videos are generally not taken unless people give their explicit permission. So we have to really be sure that people feel 100% safe with the space that we're creating.”
Satrang Family Day and the community that has been built around it is especially important for Bhatt and her children. Her kids have the chance to see how normalized their family structure is and that it isn’t othered.
“That includes not just being a family household of two moms, but being bicultural. And so I wanted my kids to really see that, ‘Hey, there's other queer South Asian families who understand our culture. Who when they smile for a photo, instead of say cheese, everyone screams samosa.’”
This year, Satrang is celebrating their 25th anniversary with a gala in Beverly Hills on October 29. To find out more, visit the website Satrang.org.