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Kal Penn, Ex-Gay, G-A-Y, Birth Certificates and other LGBTQIA+ Stories this week
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Kal Penn, Ex-Gay, G-A-Y, Birth Certificates and other LGBTQIA+ Stories this week

Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham

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Welcome to QueerAF, your weekly connection to our community. We've got the top LGBTQIA+ news you need to know. The queer content you don't want to miss. And a beyond the binary spotlight on the voices that deserve to be heard.

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How I met my fiancé - Kal Penn shares about his 11-year relationship with partner Josh

Kal Penn coming out as gay is a big moment for a few reasons. First, because he's an international actor who also spent some time working for the Obama Administration.

But, specifically, because there are so few prominent South Asian queer voices out there. And the reaction of this community, and indeed Indian media's says how much of a moment it is.

You might know the Indian-American actor from How I Met Your Mother, House or more recently Designated Survivor - but Kalpen Suresh Modi, (Known as Kal Penn) is best known for playing Kumar Patel in Harold & Kumar.

While Penn's work at the White House was in the Office of Public Engagement under President Barack Obama, in 2009-11.

Speaking to People, while promoting his new autobiography You Can't Be Serious, he explains he's actually always been open with close friends and family. But details why, now, he is excited to share his relationship with the public too:

"I've always been very public with everybody I've personally interacted with. Whether it's somebody that I meet at a bar, if Josh and I are out or we're talking to friends. I'm really excited to share our relationship with readers. But Josh, my partner, my parents, and my brother, four people who I'm closest to in the family, are fairly quiet. They don't love attention and shy away from the limelight."  

- Kal Penn, speaking to People

So how has Indian media talked about this moment?

A scan of the headlines in India shows that the country is still in its infancy of welcoming LGTBQ people.

  • Kal Penn comes out as homosexual, says he wants a big Indian wedding with his partner Josh - India Today
  • Kal Penn (Kalpen), a most eligible Indian-American bachelor, says he is gay - The Times Of India

It is, after all, only three years since the repeal of anti-LGBTQ law Section 377.

The law, brought in during colonial British rule, effectively made queer relationships illegal. It specifically criminalized all sexual acts "against the order of nature" - and was used against LGBTQ people. This included the Hijra community, a recognised third gender that includes trans, intersex and asexual people.

And its repeal was a globally significant change. In one swift unanimous supreme court ruling, it meant a fifth of the world’s population was legally allowed to be LGBTQ. It was the biggest single decriminalisation of being gay in history.

So it's no surprise why among the headlines for this story, is a big focus on South Asian people's joy at this moment:

  • Kal Penn Is Out of the Closet. And South Asians Can’t Keep Calm - Vice
  • South Asians react to Kal Penn coming out as gay - BBC

TLDR

For me, this quote summed up why this moment counts:

“This is as big as Neil Patrick Harris coming out. It’s breaking a lot of stereotypes because, in so many people’s imaginations, Kal Penn is this cis-het comedic icon. On top of that, he has always resonated with South Asian millennials for representing us in Hollywood. It builds more queer acceptance in our communities, especially among these masculine circles of South Asian dudebros who all look up to him.”

Bisexual Pakistani-American student Romaisa Mehdi told VICE World News.

Kalpen Suresh Modi (Kal Penn) represents mainstream South Asian visibility for many who have grown up watching him. And that voice is also now queer. Welcome to the family Kal.

Jamie Wareham, he/him, gay,queer,disabled I started QueerAF to fund queer media careers. Will you join our movement?
We've been working on our first founders briefing to send to those of you who have joined the circle this week. Look out for it in your inbox next week. Its great to add some more names to the list before we do, and this week welcome James Barr (Hits Radio, Gay and a NonGay presenter) and Vicki (Declassified UK) to our founding members this week.

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