‘As an LGBTQ+ Hindu, Holi is a reminder of how accepting the world can be’

People take part in the celebrations to mark Holi, the Hindu spring festival of colours at Assi Ghat in Varanasi on March 25, 2024. (Photo by Niharika KULKARNI / AFP)

Holi is the famous Hindu festival of colours, love and welcoming spring. For me, it isn’t just an annual celebration, it holds a deeper meaning and value in my heart. The festival itself celebrates the love of the deities Radha and Krishna, so love is definitely in the air when people start to celebrate Holi.

For me, it’s not just about playing with colours and stuffing myself with sweets, it transcends this. Holi is an expression of love, acceptance and unity (and yes, also sweets) which resonates with my identity as an LGBT+ person of faith.

My religion, Hinduism, helped me understand the importance of love, respect and empathy for people regardless of their background or beliefs. One of the core principles is treating everyone with kindness and respect.

I grew up in India and then Nigeria, where being queer was neither respected nor safe. Now in the UK, the world I live in still, unfortunately, doesn’t always accept me. Debates and prejudices, particularly around LGBT+ rights, create a sense of isolation among queer people. But I’ve always felt that my religion gave me an internal sense of acceptance and love, long before I was able to be open about my LGBT+ identity with those around me.

This is where the significance of festivals like Holi shines for me. We always say, “No one is your enemy on Holi”. What it means is, on the day of Holi we should embrace the people we don’t like or get along with, because we want to foster a joint feeling of celebration. It creates a space where strangers become friends, and communities come together as one. All differences melt away when you cover people in beautiful, bright colours. I have always loved this sentiment; there is no hierarchy, no judgment, and everyone is just a human who wants to celebrate.

The message of inclusivity and love is very comforting to me. When I was growing up, I often felt lonely because I was in a society where people had strong prejudices against queer people, so I never felt accepted. But festivals like Holi always serve as a reminder that love and acceptance are not just ideals, but values that people should embrace. Even though reality is often different from these ideals, it does give me hope that the world can be a better, safer, and more inclusive space for people.

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The rainbow is a symbol of both the LGBT+ community and of Holi, and so just like that, every time I hear Holi, I think of love. It is a reminder that the world can be more colourful and inclusive if we embrace love and acceptance for each other.

Oh, and most importantly, a world with more sweets.

Borbon volunteers as an ambassador for Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity. LGBT+ and aged
18 to 25? Sign up here!