Sher Vancouver: Vancouver’s LGBTQ+ South Asian Non-Profit
Sher Vancouver LGBTQ Friends Society, or “Sher Vancouver” for short,” is an LGBTQ+ registered charity that provides for the B.C. South Asian community.
“Sher” is a Persian word meaning “lion.” All Sikh men adopt the middle name Singh which means “lion”, and all Sikh women adopt the middle name Kaur, which means “lioness or princess” in Punjabi, respectively.
Originally established in April 2008 by Alex Sangha, Sher Vancouver evolved from an online Yahoo group to a registered charity in nearly 15 years.
In partnership with No Fear Counselling, Sher Vancouver’s Courage Fund provides 100 sessions (the equivalent of $14,000) of counselling to the organization’s members in crisis.
They help refer people to counselling sessions available in multiple languages and multiple locations throughout Metro Vancouver.
Peer Support Groups
Sher Vancouver offers three support groups: Pyar is Pyar, The Dosti Monthly Meet Ups, and Women’s Group.
Sher Feline and Sher Jupiter also launched in 2017, utilizing Facebook to connect LGBTQ+ South Asian women, men, and other gender-marginalized groups.
Pyar is Pyar is the newest group, which launched on January 8, 2023. It’s an in-person weekly peer support group for individuals 19-30. “Pyar is Pyar” means “love is love” in Hindi.
My Name Was January
In 2018, Sher Films, the organization’s film division, released its first documentary, My Name Was January. It highlights the life of January Marie Lapuz, a trans woman of colour who served as Sher Vancouver’s social coordinator. Lapuz was murdered in 2012, and the film is a memorial and eulogy for her.
The film celebrates her life and discusses discrimination and violence towards trans women. Sher Vancouver further honours her memory with its Youth Leadership Award in her name, given annually to youth aged 16-30 involved and committed to the LGBTQ+ community.
Emergence: Out of the Shadows
In 2022, Sher Films produced its first feature film, Emergence: Out of the Shadows. The film focuses on three main individuals, Amar “Alex” Sangha (the founder of Sher Vancouver), Jag Nagra, and Kayden Bhangu, as they document their experiences of queer South Asian identity.
The film’s main point is that “for a gay or lesbian kid growing up in a patriarchal culture,” it isn’t guaranteed that a family bond will remain the same after coming out.
Aside from the services listed above, Sher Vancouver also manages:
- A podcast
- The Out and Proud project, which profiles the stories of LGBTQ+ South Asians worldwide
- Outreach workshops and film screenings
- Community LGBTQ+ resources
- A student practicum and mentorship program
Sher Vancouver plans to launch The Sundar Prize Film Festival, celebrating impactful films with stellar storytelling.
Alex Sangha and Emergence: Out of the Shadows director Vinay Giridhar encourages filmmakers to submit their creations delving into topics such as:
- Human rights
- Marginalized people, including people of colour and LGBTQ+ individuals
- Environmentalism and climate change
Films released after December 25, 2020, are eligible to win up to $5,000 in cash prizes.
The award officially opened on December 25, 2022, and closes on January 1, 2024.
As Sher Vancouver approaches its 15th anniversary this year, the organization can celebrate its many efforts toward the LGBTQ+ South Asian community. From counselling, support groups, films, podcasts, and other resources, Sher Vancouver continues to widen its reach as a registered charity.