Khakan Qureshi - Celebrate guest speaker

Posted by / Wednesday 22 June 2016 /
Celebrate - Khakan

On Wednesday 15 June, Role Models and Regional Champions of Action for Children’s LGBT network, Celebrate, gathered at our Cape Hill Children’s Centre in Birmingham to make an action plan for the next three months.

Just before lunch we welcomed our guest speaker, Khakan Qureshi, who had noticed our activity on Twitter, @CelebrateLGBT. He is the founder of Finding a Voice, a group for South Asian LGBT men and women in the Birmingham area. The group is a safe place for the community to get support in the face of the difficulties that come with being gay, of faith, and seeking acceptance in a community that sees homosexuality, at best, difficult to talk about.

Khakan touched upon an ultimatum he had received that he should leave his partner, and return to the family home if he wanted acceptance and support from his family, and the difficult decision to distance himself from those around him that didn’t accept him being openly gay. He has now been in his interracial, interfaith relationship for 24 years.
Khakan
Despite facing criticism from family members, local Imams and fellow Muslims, Khakan has built a safe network for people that face little hope they will ever be accepted. He describes his efforts – which have been recognised in national awards, an invitation to 10 Downing St to meet Mr Cameron, and are done in between his ‘main job’ of supporting the homeless – as the thing in his life which gives him the most fire in his belly.
 
In a particularly poignant moment, he revealed to us that this was not his first contact with Action for Children. A few years ago staff based in Manchester reached out to Khakan for advice, as they were supporting an 18 year old Muslim gay young person, who was facing rejection. He was isolated both geographically, living in a rural area, and from the community around him, leading him to attempt suicide. Khakan mentored him every week until he regained his confidence, going on to study at college and enjoy a happy relationship.

Khakan inspired us with his sense of purpose, and endless energy promoting tolerance. He describes himself as a ‘minority within a minority’, and teaches others that being a visible LGBT role model means, in part, self-acceptance and the courage to live freely. He pointed out that people in the LGBT community may have gained legal rights, but there is still prejudice in cultures and communities to tackle. He implored us all to challenge homophobic bullying and prejudice – speaking out for others until everyone can find a voice.

 

You can find out more about our Celebrate work here or follow us on Twitter.

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