Alex Sangha is the founder of Delta-based Sher Vancouver, a non-profit charity for LGBTQ+ South Asians and their friends and families. He is a gay, South Asian man, a social worker and the documentary film producer of My Name Was January and Emergence: Out of the Shadows.
This transcription has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
Can you tell me about yourself?
I am a social worker, a counselor and a documentary film producer. I have made two films. The first was My Name Was January, and it was about a transgender Filipino woman – January Marie Lapuz – who was murdered. She was our social coordinator in Sher Vancouver. In a way, that tragedy is what got me into social justice filmmaking.
I talk about this in Emergence, but I had an out-of-body, spiritual experience that guided me to the work I do. I felt that the Creator wants me to pursue selfless service, social work and to help people – and I felt my community needed help. I went through a lot of suffering coming out and trying to accept myself, and I had a lot of internalized homophobia and internalized racism.
I didn’t want other kids to suffer, too.
What are some accomplishments that you are most proud of?
Emergence is really hitting a home run. It is very rare content – there’s very few films, if any, about Punjabi Sikh gay and lesbian people and their families. We’re a very vulnerable group because we are not only marginalized for being gay, but we are marginalized for being South Asian, too. There are layers of intersectional oppression that we have to deal with.
Emergence is approaching 40 official selections at film festivals, it’s won five awards and received four nominations. It’s also an official selection for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
Sher Vancouver is just a local, North Delta-based registered charity with a grassroots budget, but we’re having an impact around the world. I’m so proud of our team and all the services and programs we offer. We have a team of almost 50 people, people of all backgrounds, and they do such great, impactful work.
What do you wish more people knew about the queer community?
Pride is growing in Delta. It’s wonderful to see that we do have support within our community and with the City of Delta. Allies are very important. They have the power – it’s parents and society that have the power to love, embrace or reject your children. And a lot of times, they aren’t ready to understand the queer community.
If a queer person is coming out to you, my advice is to listen, be supportive and be a friend because that person trusts you enough to come out. You may be the only person who is a barrier in their mind to prevent them from hurting or harming themselves, and you may actually be saving a life by listening to them.