Pablo Sat-Bhambra on becoming first Asian gay man for Stonewall campaign

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BBC Asian Network presenter, Pablo Sat-Bhambra spoke to BizAsiaLive.com about becoming the first Asian gay man for a Stonewall campaign. The charity has been set up for lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality, working to create a world where every single person can be accepted without exception. Pablo’s association comes days after Stonewall research revealed one in five LGBT people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months. As well as the campaign, Pablo also spoke openly about his marriage to Stephen Sherrard Cook in the summer of 2016.

Congratulations on your wedding, how has your first year of marriage been?
Pablo: The first year involved a lot of travelling, Stephen was working in Delhi at the time and I worked back and forth in London and Delhi. So sometimes I’d finish my show on a Saturday, fly out on Saturday evening and return the following Friday, then repeat it all again! That’s what they call “Love”. We had a rule not more than two weeks can pass without us seeing each other.

Stephen: Yeah, the first year was very hard. I hadn’t seen my family in the US for almost two years, but we’ve come a long way. We went to see family and friends in New York City this summer, and I’ve started my new job in London, which I’m really liking. We’ve been buying really expensive kitchen utensils lately and cooking meals at home, which has been really nice.

You’ve broken all the stereotypes by coming out as an Asian gay man and that too getting married to a non-Asian man, what kind of emotions were going through you when you made the decision to go public with this?
Pablo: I was frightened at first, but the love that Stephen gives me over takes that fear. I understand that I’m on a public platform so wanted to make sure I could help others conquer their fears. I remember being very young and confused wanting to end my life, a teacher saved me and taught me to concentrate on my dreams and career, love will come when you least expect it, I’m lucky to have found my husband and to be able to do the work I do for Stonewall.

Stephen: Quite frankly, I was not prepared for the challenges we would face as a couple in terms of the rejection Pablo has encountered. Despite having similar values, our family backgrounds are very different. I’ve been out since before university, and my family has learned to accept my sexuality. In my journey with Pablo, I’ve learned to not take things personally, and the importance of not losing one’s own sense of identity, and the knowledge that things always do get better.

You’re a media personality and work on one of the biggest shows on the BBC Asian Network, how did you feel about how the BBC and moreover listeners will react to the news?
Pablo: I have had nothing but support from work and the listeners. In fact most of my team were at my wedding as ” my Family”. I’m truly blessed.

How have work ethics (if any) changed around you since the news about your marriage being published? Have people at your work starting treating you differently?
Pablo: No not really… I just can’t hang around after my show all the time for a late lunch, I’m still in the honeymoon period. I want to rush home to my hubby!

Your news of the marriage was announced by a popular lifestyle magazine this summer, why did you decide to go this route to “come out” about your marriage?
Pablo: At the time of our wedding, I remember Stephen and I being shocked about the homophobic shootings in Orlando. My husband has family there, and we were in shock, upset and thinking of the victims. We wanted our wedding to be an education.

Stephen: I think it’s been a cathartic experience for us having an opportunity to talk about the challenges we’ve encountered. So it’s been good.

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Pablo

My parents have very little to do with me and don’t talk to my husband at all.

You’ve been in the media for over twenty years, why did you feel now was the right to come out about your sexuality and marriage?
Pablo: I don’t think my sexuality has ever been a secret; I just never advertised it. I fell in love with the most amazing man, and I wasn’t going to hide it!

Stephen: It’s been an eye-opening experience for me to experience. People’s perception of who you are is influenced by so many factors.

Since going public with the news, how have friends and family reacted to the news when you’ve attended functions together with Stephen?
Pablo: The industry have been amazing and supportive as have much of my friends. My family have found it a lot harder. There’s still a huge sense of rejection I feel. My parents have very little to do with me and don’t talk to my husband at all. They also warned all family members not to talk to me. What’s really heart breaking is that my sisters were my best friends but I haven’t been to any of their houses for over two years. Having said that I have had support from the most unlikely cousins that I never use to interact with, it’s funny how situations create a new family.

Was Stephen prepared for the reaction that you both was going to attract from this sort of publicity? Is he much savvy to media limelight?
Pablo: He does it for me, the red carpets and pictures. I know he’d rather not; it’s just another reason for me loving him!

Stephen: Not at all. I’m a teacher and it can be quite exhausting. I think some things about the media limelight are silly, but I’ve met some very interesting and interested people.

Pablo

I only fell in love with a man, when you feel this kind of love you want to tell the world regardless and why not?!

How have people around you changed or not since the news of your marriage was announced?
Pablo: My family defienelty feel a sense of loss, I want to scream I’m still alive love me! Other then that work, friends and some now not son distance family continue to feel me how proud they are. I only fell in love with a man, when you feel this kind of love you want to tell the world regardless and why not?!

How do you feel young Asian men will take this news to help themselves in coming out?
Pablo: My work with Stonewall has shown and proved to me that attitudes within youn Asians is changing. They have questions, are able to respect and are willing to be open minded. That may be people who want to come out or merely want to respect and support someone who is.

You’ll become the first Asian gay man to feature on a new campaign led by Stonewall, tell us about this?
Pablo: Firstly it’s a privilege to be involved with the work Stonewall do, they go above and beyond and more. They have welcomed me with open arms, and I find it very cathartic working with them. They have taught me a lot and possibly opened me up to situations I was oblivious to. I remember doing a team session with them where I had to hold myself back from bursting into tears listening to some of the stories. I’m lucky and proud to be part of their new campaign.

Stephen: As an “out” teacher, I know how impactful it can be to have someone share their life story. I teach history, but I do feel that it is campaigns like Stonewall’s that is making history. What Pablo is doing is brave, and I’m very proud of him. I read some feedback from students who listened to his experience “coming out”, and they were moved in a profound way. We live in increasingly divisive times, and I think Pablo and Stonewall are doing important and amazing work.

Final message?
Pablo: Be yourself and hate no one and always remember FEAR is the mind killer!
Stephen: Everyone should have the opportunity to change the world.

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