Interview with Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention about the ‘Brown N Proud’ campaign

An Our Agenda interview with the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention’s (ASAAP) Shazad Hai about their ‘Brown N Proud’ campaign.

July 2014

Earlier this year, ASAAP launched a new social media campaign directed at queer men of South Asian decent in and around the Toronto area. This unique campaign responds to the fact that brown bodies are rarely well represented in mainstream queer spaces. The GMSH’s Daniel Pugh spoke to ASAAP’s Shazad Hai to find out a little more about what’s behind BnP…

Daniel: This year, you and the ASAAP team launched the Brown N Proud campaign – sounds so intriguing, please tell us more about it.

Shazad: I wanted to come up with a fun and powerful campaign that would celebrate our cultural identities, promote pride in our brown bodies and foster confidence to navigate how we connect, hook-up and love.   This was in response to gay/bi, South Asian community members, voicing that they are rarely well represented in mainstream queer spaces and experiencing ignorance and racism while trying to connect with other men.  With the help of the amazingly talented artist Eric Kostiuk Williams and an advisory committee, 4 illustrated images were created that show different online profiles of South Asian men. Using humour, each profile celebrates the uniqueness of queer brown men while creatively referencing and challenging the ignorance that brown men experience within the gay community.  

Daniel: Brown N Proud’s official launch party was held in March. At this event, you had the Dr. David Brennan (University of Toronto) @canadabren present his research from the Imagine Men’s Health project. Why was it important to have your campaign based on local research? Did Imagine Men’s Health help inspire BnP and if so, how?

Shazad: What initially inspired this campaign were community voices and the Imagine Men's Health study (IMHS) results.  IMHS was a community-based study that examined the relationship between experiences of racism, homophobia, ethno-racial identity, resilience and risks for body image dissatisfaction, and associated eating behaviours and attitudes among ethno-racial men who have sex with men (MSM). Our communities have already been speaking about their experiences when exploring the queer community, but by having a formalized study that further highlights these narratives, really propelled us forward in taking some action.  Out of the 4 ethno-racial groups that were surveyed for the study, South Asians were significantly more likely to report experiences of racism and social appearance anxiety. These unique findings demonstrated how brown faces and bodies are rarely well represented in mainstream queer spaces.

Daniel: How have guys from south Asian communities across the GTA been responding to your campaign?

Shazad: I've had many guys say they have identified with it, and have echoed the quotes saying, "Oh wow, I've heard all of these things before!" or "It feels good to have something that speaks to our experience!" 

Daniel: There are four Grindr/Scruff-style images that accompany your campaign. How does these images portray life for brown queer men in Toronto?

Shazad: It portrays that queer south Asian men are very diverse and come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and physically we all don't look the same or fall into a particular archetype, but a lot of us share some similar cultural experiences.  

  • You can find out more about the Brown N Proud campaign, including all the images click here Tweet: #brownproud
  • Want to hear more about the Imagine Men’s Health Study? Read the report entitled Body Image, Racism and Well-being among Gay and Bisexual Men of Colour in Toronto click here to read the report 
  • In addition, you may want to learn more about the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention here:  or you can follow @ASAAP 

Shazad Hai is the MSM Outreach Coordinator at the Alliance of South Asians AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) where he coordinates HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention-based programing for self-identified South Asian queer men. He facilitates 'Dosti' - a social support space for South Asian men and runs the group's well-established online presence.  Shazad is also a founding member of 'Rangeela' a quarterly event for queer identified South Asians, profits of which are donated to various local and international non-profits and is an aspiring fitness expert/model, queer advocate and your friendly neighbourhood Bollywood go-go boy! You can follow him @shazadhai

Daniel Pugh works for the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance of Ontario as the Knowledge, Transfer Exchange Coordinator and lives in Toronto.  Daniel is in the process of completing his Master of Social Work at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto. Follow @thejrwoodie 



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