“It Felt Amazing” After Sikh Man Took Off Turban, Cut Hair, Came Out of Closet

by mandeep jangi

My name is Mandeep Jangi and I’m from Middlesex, New Jersey.

When I think about my journey in life, my story, and kind of where I came from, it actually doesn’t start as a gay man. I often times tell folks that it starts with a more visible aspect of my identity. I think that first piece was really the turban and the long hair that is part of traditional Sikh culture. My parents are from the Sikh tradition, or Sikhism as most folks in the western world refer to. So, S-I-K-H.

There was a lot of pressure on me to almost be that last bastion – that last hope… to keep that culture of my mom and dad after my older brother cut his hair maybe five or six years earlier.

So I have a reputation in my family of making big announcements during holiday family gatherings. So I told my family I was cutting my hair Memorial Day weekend of 2010.

Everybody got entirely silent. I remember my brother and sister and their spouses just looking down at the ground, which I thought was a little funny. My mom started crying because it meant a lot to her for me to keep up that faith and tradition. Largely the reason why everyone got quiet and energy levels changed was because of my father. Everyone was very curious what my father’s reaction would be. His reaction was that he assumed I was doing it out of shame. I told him I wasn’t, and that was pretty much the end of the conversation as far as I can recollect.

But a few weeks later, I actually went to a salon in Center City, Philadelphia, the first time getting my haircut at the age of 24, I had no clue what I was doing. So I did call ahead, explained the whole situation. They were very comforting.

It wasn’t until she was done cutting my hair and I saw what it looked like for the first time that I realized that the entire salon had shut down. Patrons, employees, were watching. And they just started clapping when I was done.

I would say after cutting my hair, the high that I was riding on eventually went back to that same low energy I had before I cut my hair. And that’s because there was a feeling that wasn’t changed on the inside. There was still that pit, and that pit was being created by the lack of dealing with my sexual orientation and embracing it.

It was September 2011. I was driving from my company back to my apartment, which was out in the suburbs at the time before I moved out to Philadelphia. And I had a really, really crappy day.

And I said the words out loud to myself in my car, “I’m gay.” And that was the first time I’d ever said those words out loud. And it felt amazing.

Thanksgiving Day, I told my family. And this was during lunch. And I could barely get the words out. I was choking up, I was getting teary-eyed, and my mom got very serious and she asked me, “Mandeep, what’s happening?” And I choked out the words, “I’m gay.” And again, energy levels, similar to Memorial Day when I told them I was cutting my hair, changed. My mom cried again, as she did the prior time when I told her I was cutting my hair. And my siblings and their spouses were shocked. But I remember it was my sister-in-law who spoke up first, and she said, “Now, are you happy?” And I said, “Yes.”

It was definitely a relief, but a different kind. Because the difference between cutting my hair and coming out was that when I cut my hair, I could chart a course. There was a line of sight. I knew plenty of Sikh men who had cut their hair and had very successful lives. I knew zero gay men who were South Asian. Quite frankly, at that time I had zero gay friends.

So it was definitely harder coming out than it was to cut my hair.

But one thing that I’ve learned that is very important is that when you try to normalize these types of conversations and make people realize that it’s okay to be who you are, whether you’re choosing to cut your hair, whether you’re choosing to defy family values that were put on you, or cultural values or just giving the big middle finger to society for making you feel bad about yourself for no logical reason. People need to realize that it’s okay to march to a different beat.

So really the message is: do what you need to do, take care of yourself because no one else will until you take those first steps.

Mandeep-Jangi

15 Comments:

  1. God bless the process can be difficult but the rewards and relief will show you the way. Welcome to the community

  2. You should never have to hide what you are if you are Gay say it out loud & proud there is no shame in that

  3. What’s the best is what is always attacked. Your parents failed because if your gay, you are, and God created you this way. Sikhs were a barrier to the British who wanted to invade punjab. The British saw the source from which Sikhs gained their powers, The Bible, Vedas and the Quran don’t accept the gay. Why don’t you study your religion by birth. They accept you but you should have never cut your hair. You have won nothing but you can’t see what you have lost. Study sikhism’s scriptures and god will show you the path. A lucky man like you who was born in such a great religion would go back to his religion which forgives you and accepts you.

    • I’m sorry but you are wrong concerning the bible not excepting gay people, Jesus said to love everyone, the reason the bible says it is sin , is to show we are all sinners in one way or the other, but God still loves us so much, that he let his son die for our sins. It is the Quran that excecutes Gays, not the God of the bible.

  4. You could have just kept your hair and still be gay. Surely there are gay people in the Sikh religion too. You were brave enough to come out of the closet. You could have stayed as a turbaned Sikh and help the LGBTs in the Sikh community. I accept your sexual orientation but can’t understand why you thought the turban as a huge burden.

    • I agree because what you did by cutting your hair was wrong. It had no correlation with a turban and by being a gay gursikh you could have helped so many others. In many ways it seems you cut your hair becuase you were scared of coming out to your parents and you channeled your fear into hating your hair.

  5. 17 year old, straight, sikh. We would’ve accepted you as gay, but there was no reason for you to cut hair

  6. It is no one’s job here to tell him that his decision was wrong. His decision is just that- his. Another teaching of Sikhism- don’t be judgmental. Don’t think it is your place to tell this fully grown, fully aware man that what he wanted, what he believed was best for him, is wrong.

  7. Buddy nice to read the whole thing and that’s almost same situation when I told my mom abt my decision however I didn’t cut because I didn’t wanted to go against her. But your story realy felt like it was my OWN REAL story. Thanks for sharing it.

  8. I’m a Sikh with a haircut & trying to grow my hair, if you actually practice the religion no person who approves of the these actions would condone cutting of the hair. If I had known & understood at 16 when I too made that mistake that what I know now is do not succombe to peer pressure & not to interfere with gods creation. However that’s my view & what anyone does is there own personal issue so cannot pass judgment but may waheguru bless him.

  9. God loves you so much, he loves us all, he knows we are all sinners whether we atre fornicators, adulterers, what ever, he hates the sin not us, when we except him he helps us to correct our errors. He doesnt hate us. THe Quran is the book that tells us to execute the Gays.

  10. Mandeep, I love your story and the ways in which you were true to yourself in the various critical moments of your life. I especially appreciated your final comment, which echoed something I heard years ago, though I don’t remember who said it. In any case, it is true that if we do not take good care of ourselves, it is unlikely we will find anyone else who could do it better. May you experience many more blessings and much happiness throughout your life, and many persons who surround you with love and grace.

  11. Harsharan Singh

    Mandeep, your story does seem to be really fascinating. From my perspective, I’d say that cutting your hair and admitting the fact that you’re gay isn’t a bad thing. You were brave enough to speak your inner feelings and i realy envy you for that. Most importantly, if you’re happy, then thats enough for me. No one should intefere with the happiness of an individual. Cheers!

  12. Sikhi is about acceptance. If your parents could not accept your for the fact that you were gay means that they are not true, good Sikhs at heart. But cutting your hair…I completely understand why your family did not like that. Cutting your hair just to prove a point is completely ridiculous. We keep our hair because it represents our identity. It is not something that you can chop off just to be rebellious. You are a truly shameful person.

    • It’s your life. Only you have the right to live it the way you want to. Whether you’re gay or not, whether you want to live with that turban or not, whether you want to live as a Sikh or not, it’s totally up to you.
      I strongly disagree to the assumption that you are a Sikh if you are born into a Sikh family, or you’re a Christian if you’re born into a Christian family etc. In fact, everyone should have the right to follow the religion of their choice. Our constitution guarantees us the right to choice of religion, but our families don’t. You were born into a Sikh family. but that doesn’t make you a Sikh. It’s your choice to follow it or not,to follow any other religion or not, to even follow a religion or stay an atheist, it’s your choice.
      haters gonna hate, just ignore them. If you consider yourself a Sikh even after cutting your hair, then YES, YOU ARE A SIKH, people are no one to tell you what makes you a true Sikh. You define your own definition of a religion, you follow it on your terms, you discard it whenever your heart feels like. Because that’s what freedom is. If your religion doesn’t allow you to question itself, it’s better you discard it.
      PS: I’m a Sikh, born into a Sikh family, following Sikhism because I WANT TO, not because I was born into a family of Sikhs. I have maintained my long hair, as a part of Sikhism, because I THINK IT IS IMPORTANT, when I feel like it’s not anymore, I’ll cut it off. When I feel like growing it again,I’ll do so. No one tells me what is Sikhism and what I am ought to do in order to remain a Sikh. And this is MY PERSONALIZED VERSION OF SIKHISM. No one can change that, but me.

      All the best for your future. May God bless you (if you believe in God). And kudos to you for having the courage to come out as your true self.
      Bu’bye.

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