When Shazad Syed Hai saw a photo of him and his friend kissing at a gay rights rally on Facebook, he never thought it could be construed as offensive.
Syed Hai and Kanwar Saini (or Sikh Knowledge, as he's also known) were photographed locking lips during the Global Day of Rage-Toronto: Against the Re-criminalization of Homosexuality in India rally on December 15. Both men were there to raise awareness following India's Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down a 2009 decision to decriminalize homosexual conduct in the country.
But even thousands of kilometres away in a country that promotes and celebrates LGBT rights, 30 year old Syed Hai isn't surprised at the explicit and negative comments that surrounded a single picture.
"Gay South Asians don't exist in mainstream media, so when people do see it, it can be uncomfortable," he tells The Huffington Post Canada.
The picture, which was posted on December 15 by Sikh Knowledge, was a response to India's law change. The next day, someone reported the photo and Sikh Knowledge's account was blocked for 12 hours, preventing the artist from posting status updates.
Part of the gay community himself, Syed Hai says although he never hears homophobic comments directly, his uncle who lives in the United States recently passed on the message that his grandmother wanted him to drop his last name because he was gay.
And while gay South Asians still appear to have shock value to some straight South Asians in Canada, Syed Hai says he hopes for acceptance both abroad and in his own community.
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