Kanwar (Sikh Knowledge) talks about his self-mutilation and suicidal tendencies

20Jan

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This has to be one of the most candid interviews I’ve ever done. Kanwar Anit Singh Saini also known as Sikh Knowledge, underground producer and artist, let me into his world where he spoke openly about being gay, his suicidal/self-mutilation tendencies and sexual abuse. As much as some choose to ignore these important issues that plague our community behind close doors, it’s important we talk about sexual abuse especially. I would like to thank Kanwar for speaking openly about these issues, let’s all continue to talk about them and not turn a blind eye on these matters.

Petz: How has suicide affected your life?

Kanwar: I think suicide plays a role in a lot of gay people’s lives, especially through the coming out process. I know a lot of gay people who have contemplated it, when they were coming out, especially at younger ages. The first generation as well, who are from North America, but whose families are immigrants. It’s difficult because it’s a compromise, everything you have, which is essentially your family. The first generations aren’t as established, as the North American general heritage counterparts. It’s impacted my life only for the better; obviously I’m still here today. I did contemplate the thought of suicide; I did have to seek professional help when I was younger, for these thoughts and tendencies. I did exhibit self-mutilated behavior at one point; I would burn my hand. Unfortunately suicide amongst young gay people is very high, especially among minorities. It impacted me for the better because I went the opposite direction, I went ultra positive with myself. I gave myself the emotional resources I needed to succeed in whatever I wanted to do.

Petz: How old were when you had the suicidal thoughts?

Kanwar: 18. It lasted 18 to 20. And 20, I formally got help; I took a pro-active role in my own coming out and living life.

Petz: When you came out, did anyone directly or indirectly tell you “Oh you should kill yourself!” “You are better off dead!” “You’re worthless!” “How can you call yourself a Sikh, when you’re gay?”

Kanwar: No, no one really said that, I’m lucky; I have three amazing older sisters that protect me from a lot of negative attitudes. If anyone said that, I didn’t hear it.

Petz: What took place, when you finally reached out and got help?

Kanwar: It was scary; my case wasn’t as severe as a lot of people. I was still a relatively stable person; I had some sort of control over myself. I felt humiliated and embarrassed, it’s a different type of humiliation; it’s a humiliation at your own hand. Until you realize that it’s necessary, and there’s no need to be humiliated – it’s just a reality. You tend to grow proud of what you’ve conquered. It helps you find a way to get past it, I took a very pro-active role in my life, and I attended a sexual assault group for men. The reason why I attended a sexual assault group for men was because a lot of my suicidal thoughts stemmed from the sexual abuse I endured. A lot of this stuff, I want to address through music, you’ll hear it. I was sexually abused as a child for many years, during that time I also participated in sexual abuse and it was all within the family. I find this happens a lot within the community, I would say within the Punjabi community, first generation and so forth. There’s a lot of confusion to what sexual abuse is, what pederasty is – an older and younger person type of relationship. Some people think sexual abuse and pederasty are the same thing, but I feel there’s fine lines between the two. I was a part of the latter – the sexual abuse. This all bubbled up inside me, in my late teens and early 20s. The humiliation and embarrassment came from that aspect, I just had to look at it in the face and deal with it.

(Petz) It’s rare for me to become speechless during an interview, normally I have my questions lined up, I have them memorized and I’m ready to have them answered. But after what he shared with me, a flood of emotions took over; I was truly in awed by Kanwar’s honesty and bravery. Sexual abuse for example tends to get swept under the carpet. Kanwar broke the silence, not just for himself, but for others who are going through the same suffering he went through as a child.

After I thanked him, Kanwar continues…

Kanwar: It’s not a problem, I don’t care whose pointing fingers at me, and I have the greatest family in the world. My sisters are truly amazing. The embarrassment in the community, none of that shit matters to me. Or what people are going to say about my family, I lost my mom when I was 16. I know she’s looking down at me, she knows I’m trying to help other people. There’s no sense in communal embarrassment or whatever people might fear. If I can be a voice in this community or any community for that matter, just by being me as an artist and what I’ve been through – so be it. I will take that bullet, I’m 29 now, I’ll do it and I’ll be loud about this. These are pervasive problems that no one addresses.

Petz: When you look at your mutilation scars, what comes to your mind?

Kanwar: My scars haven’t healed in fact they remain on my hand. I have areas of thin skin on my hand, which often flares up in eczema because of the burnt tissue. Even my two sisters don’t even know about this, I used to burn my hand with hot water. The group I attended when I was younger, I used to tell them the pain made me feel alive because I was so disconnected from myself. I created this reality for myself, to help myself cope with a lot of the pain inside. The pain on the outside of my body would help unify the pain within and it felt great. When I look at the patches of thin skin, it’s a constant reminder to just take care of myself. I need to take care of myself physically and emotionally. If I don’t take care of myself physically, these scars are just going to flare up again. If I don’t take care of myself emotionally, that was the root the cause; it’s a case of metaphysics becoming physics. I don’t doubt when my soul is trying to tell me something, I try to listen to it because I have scars on my hands. At one point of my life, I created a reality for myself; I was that strong in my mind – totally false. I just need to stay grounded and rooted. After what I’ve been through, I’ve taken better care of myself.

Petz: For the people who are thinking about killing themselves, what would you like to say to them?

Kanwar: It’s not fair for us to say it gets better. When I had these thoughts and feelings, you are literally physically, chemically in your brain; a different person. At this point, whatever you are going through, someone has it a lot worse. Imagine your threshold and imagine it way beyond what you think it is right now. You can get past whatever it is; I would encourage the readers to seek professional help too. It’s ok to talk to someone and to be in a professional setting with a group of people who are going through similar thoughts and tendencies. It doesn’t make you any less of a person; it will help pull yourself back from committing suicide.

Part 2: Kanwar talks about being gay, coming out and the abuse he went through as a child.

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