Desi Rainbow Parents & Allies

Desi Rainbow Parents & Allies

We are the people we serve. Our leadership is 100% Desi, grassroots and represents an array of South Asian diversity: of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, caste, class, national origin, immigration experience and age. Building trust and healing spaces is possible because we bring our own lived experience as LGBTQ+

Desi Rainbow Parents & Allies

All our programs are based on the peer support model and on promoting mental health. Our Founder/ED Aruna Rao (she/her) has over two decades of experience in grassroots mental health work, and is also a parent of a queer and trans child. Our Peer Support Providers for Saathi and Support Group Facilitators are trained by Rahim Thawer, LCSW, (he/him) a queer provider with extensive experience in minority LGBTQ+ community support through his work with Salaam Canada. We offer leaders ongoing support through monthly debriefs with our Coordinators, Hima Sathian (they/them) and Stephen Jiwanmall (he/him), and training on relevant topics. We get input from a Mental Health Advisor, Dr. Ekta Kumar, a psychologist who works with South Asian LGBTQ+ folks and families, at USC's Counseling Center and is the Director of DEI for the USC Dept. of Psychology. Much of the work of supporting LGBTQ+ folks and their families has to address suffering and risk, but we maintain a strong focus on affirmation and celebration. Living an authentic life is joyful, and we center that joy in our programs and activities. Shame can only dissolve when we stop seeing our LGBTQ+ children as lacking and instead see them as whole and beautiful.

About the Organization:

All our programs are based on the peer support model and on promoting mental health. Our Founder/ED Aruna Rao (she/her) has over two decades of experience in grassroots mental health work, and is also a parent of a queer and trans child. Our Peer Support Providers for Saathi and Support Group Facilitators are trained by Rahim Thawer, LCSW, (he/him) a queer provider with extensive experience in minority LGBTQ+ community support through his work with Salaam Canada. We offer leaders ongoing support through monthly debriefs with our Coordinators, Hima Sathian (they/them) and Stephen Jiwanmall (he/him), and training on relevant topics. We get input from a Mental Health Advisor, Dr. Ekta Kumar, a psychologist who works with South Asian LGBTQ+ folks and families, at USC's Counseling Center and is the Director of DEI for the USC Dept. of Psychology. Much of the work of supporting LGBTQ+ folks and their families has to address suffering and risk, but we maintain a strong focus on affirmation and celebration. Living an authentic life is joyful, and we center that joy in our programs and activities. Shame can only dissolve when we stop seeing our LGBTQ+ children as lacking and instead see them as whole and beautiful.

organizational budget

$50,000 - $100,000

existence for

0-5 Years

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

California • Connecticut • Delaware • District of Columbia • Florida • Georgia • Illinois • Maryland • Massachusetts • Michigan • Minnesota • New Jersey • New York • North Carolina • Pennsylvania • Texas • Utah • Virginia • Washington

organizational budget

$50,000 - $100,000

existence for

0-5 Years

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

California • Connecticut • Delaware • District of Columbia • Florida • Georgia • Illinois • Maryland • Massachusetts • Michigan • Minnesota • New Jersey • New York • North Carolina • Pennsylvania • Texas • Utah • Virginia • Washington

The Issue:

A recent survey of AAPI youth (The Mental Health and Well-Being of AAPI LGBTQ Youth at The Trevor Project)  found that 45% of AAPI LGBTQ youth said they seriously considered suicide in the last year (including 53% of those who are transgender or nonbinary) and 14% reported they had carried out a suicide attempt. It also found that LGBTQ youth who felt strong affirmation from their families reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who lacked social support.  The data points to distinct protective factors to support wellbeing and preventing suicide. One is a strong connection to cultural and ethnic background, and the other is accepting parents and family. AAPI LGBTQ youth who have supportive family and friends and access to LGBTQ-affirming spaces reported lower rates of attempting suicide.

The diasporic Desi (South Asian) community is mired in misinformation, fear and bias about LGBTQ+ identity due to a variety of cultural issues (colonization and subsequent institutionalization of homophobia and transphobia in countries of origin is a big one!) and lack of information. Queer/trans children and adults are suffering, and their parents and families are misinformed, angry and fearful, as well as targets of shaming and silencing by extended family and community.

The Solution:

Our work is based on the premise that culturally sensitive interventions at the family and community level have a huge impact on parent/family acceptance of LGBTQ+ children and adults, creating healing and affirming spaces for inter generational communication, reducing mental health disorders and the risk of suicide.

We recruit and train a multigenerational group of parents, allies and LGBTQ people to offer support, education and advocacy, almost all of it virtually.  Offering a safe space for parents to meet and learn creates peer-to-peer support and changes hearts and minds. Desi Rainbow harnesses the strength of family allies by training them to support LGBTQ Desis who are struggling with rejection by family and community. Our affirming community is multigenerational and based on values of familial connection and shared culture. Cisgender, straight parents benefit from connecting with others like them who have learned how to accept their own children. LGBTQ people benefit from building a chosen family of affirming elders who validate their identity and worth.

Our Programs include:

  1. Monthly Peer-to-Peer Support Groups for LGBTQ+ Folks and families, facilitated by community members/peers, with a focus on mental health and wellness.
  2. Saathi:  Individual, multilingual, peer support for community members – LGBTQ+ people and parents trained to offer emotional support and referrals through phone and video calls.
  3. A text based support group for parents
  4. Proud Possibilities: A spring/fall series of interviews with LGBTQ+ and allied “Possibility Models” with the purpose of demonstrating to the larger Desi community the wide range of lived possibilities that their LGBTQ+ children can aspire to.
  5. Storytime: A spring/fall series of book readings featuring affirming childrens books read by LGBTQ+ folks and allies, with the goal of making the diversity and beauty of sexual orientation and gender identity visible to children and their families.
  6. Our Stories: Short films featuring parents telling their stories
  7. Faith & Family: Affirming, LGBTQ+ centering celebrations of festivals such as Buddha Jayanti, Eid, Gurpurab, Dussehra and Christmas.
  8. Breaking the Silence: Allyship workshops for organizations and businesses

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