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Reshma Johar - LGBT History Month Stories

One of the first prayers I was taught was to respect my parents and elders. I try to maintain these simple teachings in my life today. The Bhagavad Gita (holy book) teaches two duties in life: to family, friends and society; the second is a spiritual duty to God.

My sexuality definitely made things confusing. For years I kept my family, religion and sexuality, which I thought was forbidden, separate. Although nothing I read about Hinduism specifically said being gay was wrong.

But it was only when I met my now partner that I raised it with family.  

We'd met at a Diwali party, dragged out by our respective friends, and met up one evening having exchanged numbers. After months of awkwardness, we realised we liked each other. One thing that made our relationship easier was our similar family culture and spiritual awareness.

Initially, to my family, she was introduced as my 'friend'. When I came out to my parents, they were shocked. They had some concerns and worried it would affect my career. My parents also told me not to tell my Grandma and if I wanted to get married, I should do this discreetly.  

I was incredibly close to my Grandma. I would always confide in her and couldn't see taking such a big step in my life without her.  I prayed and hoped she would understand. I wanted her blessing to get married and an opportunity presented itself one day when I found myself alone with her. I was terrified and did my best to explain in broken Gujarati. I said that I was in love with someone and that the person was a woman. I explained my feelings more and we shared tears and cuddles. We agreed to keep it a secret and wait for my parents to tell her. When that happened a few days later, my Grandma told them that they should hold a traditional Hindu engagement ceremony.

My Grandma conducted the engagement ceremony and was not at all fazed that it was two women.  It was a beautiful ceremony, conducted on an auspicious day and time according to the Hindu calendar.

After speaking to Priests and visiting temples, I learned that Hinduism teaches us to find peace to take care of all forms of life. Our souls are neither man nor woman. It seemed that all the conflicts I thought I knew about my sexuality and choice in partner was founded in ignorance and cultural expectations - not religion.

With the support of my Grandma, and religion not being a conflict, I researched whether Hindu wedding ceremonies could be performed. I spoke to four wedding priests who said that there was nothing wrong with two people of the same sex marrying. One of these, in particular, was very supportive and agreed to help us. We then had the usual hen parties, henna parties, Pithi ceremony, civil ceremony, pre-wedding prayers (mandvo) and finally the Hindu wedding ceremony.

Our Hindu wedding ceremony marked the union of two souls. Our priest was incredible and spoke of his knowledge in Hinduism and as a human, he said that no law can change a person's sexuality and that love has never been a sin. People have views and opinions, but a person cannot play God and try to change or ignore a person's instinct. 

I know that had I married a man, more family members would have attended but to me, the most important people made this possible: my wife and my Grandma. The Hindu wedding ceremony is not only the marriage of two souls but the coming together of two families.

As we had experienced some negative comments and some members of the family were unhappy, we decided to create a new surname. We were proud of the step we were taking and did not want our name to be tainted. Our surname was found with the help of our priest and means courage.

Two and a half years on from our marriage we both take part in the Hindu prayers, traditions and rituals. We visit and pray at the temple together.'

Reshma Johar is a Tax Consultant based in London