Sikh Woman With Facial Hair Generates Online Controversy

A Ohio State University student posted a picture of a woman with facial hair wearing a turban to Reddit in mid-September of 2012 with the caption “I’m not sure what to conclude from this.”

That posting led to varied responses from teasing to others condemning the posting as being in poor taste, and stating unacceptable to post pictures of people without their permission. This story though has a happy ending. It turned out that the woman in the photo is Balpreet Kaur, a neuroscience and psychology student at Ohio State. A friend contacted her on Facebook and told her about the picture, after which she replied to the post on Reddit. Her response:

“If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled. Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being … I’m not embarrassed or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positive] that this picture is getting because it’s who I am … My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognized that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it?”

Her response led the original poster of the photo to apologize to Kaur and anyone he might have offended, writing on Reddit, “I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, to Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture.”

All in all a nice happy ending to something that seemed a little misguided and insensitive. The original poster learned something, and maybe a lot of others that saw the comments and even those reading this article may be a little more enlightened.

Sitting and reading that article I couldn’t help but think as a gay Asian man, how exactly opposite the gay community is, to the understanding and value placed on what’s inside a person, that Balpreet is espousing. The gay community has a stereotype of valuing appearance above all else, one that’s borne out in dating sites with comments like “Asians, prease reave me arone.” As a married gay man (yes I have a husband), it’s rare that I go out to clubs, but my husband and I went out for probably the first time in over 5 years to a gay dance club last month. As I stood in the middle of the dance floor, I felt invisible the entire time I was there, as if everyone was seeing right through me, while I took notice of many men sneaking glances at my very white, Caucasian husband.

And then a message like the one Balpreet espoused comes along to remind us that it’s not just appearance that makes us who we are.

While there’s probably not much I can do to change the obsession with appearance in gay culture or the apparent discrimination against Asian men, I can comment that October is the anti-bullying month, a good reminder why posting pictures of strangers who are different and making rude comments about them isn’t a good idea.

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Author: Tim

I'm a Chinese/Taiwanese-American, born in Taiwan, raised on Long Island, went to college in Philadelphia, tried Wall Street and then moved to the California Bay Area to work in high tech in 1990. I'm a recent dad and husband. Other adjectives that describe me include: son, brother, geek, DIYer, manager, teacher, tinkerer, amateur horologist, gay, and occasional couch potato. I write for about 5 different blogs including 8Asians. When not doing anything else, I like to challenge people's preconceived notions of who I should be.