A photo of a Sikh man wearing a rainbow turban at a gay pride event has gone viral – and people are thanking him for expressing his identity and for his inclusive message.
Jiwandeep Kohli took to Twitter on Saturday to post a photo of himself at an event kicking off Pride Month in San Diego, California, writing, “I’m proud to be a bisexual baking brain scientist. I feel fortunate to be able to express all these aspects of my identity, and will continue to work toward ensuring the same freedom for others.”
Kohli is a graduate student enrolled in the San Diego State University and UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in clinical psychology. He tells Yahoo Lifestyle that he was inspired by another Sikh man who also wore a colorful turban to a pride parade. While the other man’s turban wasn’t a perfect rainbow, Kohli realized that his turban could be, because he had the correct number of layers in his style.
“I realize that by being so visible, I'm opening myself up to backlash and negativity, but it's entirely offset by the sense of community that it's engendered,” Kohli said. “I'm receiving so many messages of support and sheer joy, and also a striking number of thanks from people who aren't as fortunate as me to be able to display their identities.”
Tweets in response to his photo were overwhelmingly positive.
Even former President Barack Obama commended Kohli, thanking him “for everything you do to make this country a little more equal.”
People on Twitter were especially interested in how long it took him to wrap the turban and how he managed to add in the colors.
Kohli replied on Twitter describing how it was one of his “normal black turbans” but it “took about an hour of tying, untying and safety pinning.”
The rainbow turban is a symbol of Sikh identity and holds deep religious significance to Kohli as well.
“It's a sign to the world that I am an individual who stands for equality and justice, and that people can turn to me in times of need for help,” he said. “What better way than with a pride rainbow to show that my values for inclusivity and egalitarianism extend beyond just religious freedom?”
This isn’t his first encounter with social activism, either.
Kohli explained that he was raised to stand up for equality as part of his religion, which means pushing for positive change in all domains. He was also an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley and was influenced by the socially-charged culture and history of the university.
Reactions to his photo showed him that by being visible, he can make an impact in his community.
"Visibility and representation matter even more than I had initially realized," Kohli said.
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