Brittany Singh on Lesbian Visibility and Leaving a Legacy
Written by Rebecca Dass
Sunday June 4, 2023
“Growing up, I never saw anyone that looked like me talking about their sexuality. Hopefully, some of our followers who may be young or who may be going through difficult times with their sexuality [can see] that there are people who look like them, have those identities, and can also be successful.”
This pride month, I got to speak with Brittany Singh, 27, a Student-at-Law, J.D. based in Ottawa, Ontario. Brittany went to Law school at UOttawa and did her undergrad in Political Science at Queens University. Identifying as lesbian, Brittany does tremendous work for EPIC, a program within the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association (ICCA) dedicated to LGBTQ2S+ Indo-Caribbean people.
Brittany was born in Scarborough, but grew up in Markham where she moved when she was 8 years old. Being a Scarborough native myself, I had to ask about her childhood here. “I liked Scarborough, we moved because of some crime,” she laughs, “Markham was really nice, I think the schools were a little different. I think my school in Scarborough was a little more multicultural. I’m Catholic so I grew up in Catholic elementary and high schools in Markham.”
“But, other than that I think it was nice. I was like 8 and younger so I don’t remember much of it, but I remember seeing my friends and cousins a lot. Eating all the good food like curry and roti, I don’t cook much so I miss going home and getting all of that.”
“Both my parents are from Guyana and they immigrated to Canada when they were teenagers. For me, all my family is in Toronto, like all of my mom’s side is there so I had a lot of cousins growing up. Even from my dad’s side, we’d have cousins who’d visit from Guyana and spend summers together. I have a younger brother, he’s two years younger, and I also have a younger sister who’s 12 years younger, but it was just me and my brother growing up together. I think it was nice being surrounded by family and culture, I think that’s one thing I miss now because I don’t really have that.”
Brittany recalls that she moved out at a young age, and had a bit of a strained relationship with her family once she came out. “I went to Kingston to go to Queens [University], when I was like, 17 or 18. Then I met my partner when I was in my second year. It was a bit complicated with my family. I’m sure it’s not like that for everyone, but my family is quite, not accepting. So when I was 19 I moved out completely, and I have not moved home since. My partner and I have lived together ever since.”
Speaking on her relationship with her family now, “It’s kind of tough, but I have a good relationship with my family now. They love me, but I don’t talk about my partner and stuff when I go home. It’s kind of hard because I don’t get to be myself completely because certain topics are off-limits. But, it is good that I can go home and see my family. For a period of time, I wasn’t even allowed home when I was living in Queens when my parents first found out about my partner. Since then I think our relationship has gotten better, but still a struggle.”
Brittany’s journey with her identity and craving for a community lead her to join ICCA. She first found out about ICCA while she was in law school, “Someone I went to law school with, his name is Ryan, he told me about ICCA and I joined then. I did a LGBT panel and that was my first experience with ICCA. I wanted to join because, when I was living in Kingston and even now in Ottawa, I didn’t feel close to my culture. I don’t have any Indo-Caribbean friends, let alone Caribbean friends, so I wanted to meet other people who are Indo-Caribbean and who are my age and younger who have different perspectives. I also wanted to contribute my perspective on my sexuality and my experiences.”
“I recently did the video on Lesbian Visibility Week, I jumped at that opportunity for doing that because growing up, I never saw anyone that looked like me talking about their sexuality, so I was hoping by doing that, hopefully, some of our followers who may be young or who may be going through difficult times with their sexuality [can see] that there are people who look like them, have those identities, and can also be successful.”
Along with being a member of EPIC, Brittany uses her skills to help with getting ICCA a not-for-profit status. “I’m in law and we do corporate work at the firm that we’re at, so I’m going to use some of those templates and see if they can help with the not-for-profit documents.”
“I just would like to give back, set an example, and be someone that people can look up to and that they can reach out to,” she says, on how she hopes to make an impact. “For me, I know my own experience dealing with sexuality, and being a minority in places like Kingston and even Ottawa, still. It can be hard, especially in the legal field I would say it’s predominantly caucasian. In my field, I’m often the only person of colour. I just want to leave a legacy, help other people, and be visible, for other people.”
During law school, Brittany also co-authored an article called Pro-Pronouns: Gender Identities on Social Media, Video Conferencing, and Learning Platforms. “The article examined the possibility of including pronouns in the display name (or last name) field of 15 different platforms,” she says. “Ultimately, there is a need for developers to augment their platforms by making space for pronouns.”
“I want to contribute back to my own community. I see being Indo-Caribbean as one of the main parts of my identity, so that’s one thing I’d like to accomplish. Hopefully, I’d also like to bring some cultural events or events to do with pride here to Ottawa, I guess scaling our reach is something I’d like to accomplish. Also, I’d like to accomplish mentoring if someone were to reach out to me on any platform, by email, or even my number. I’d like to help people if they’re having any difficulties, or be someone they can talk to.”
“I have experience in those roles too, in University and Law school, I was even the Co-President of the 2SLGBTQ+ club at Law school at UOttawa.” While the Co-President of OUTLaw, Brittany was able to assist her team in hosting several events and raising awareness surrounding 2SLGBTQ+ issues. During the 2021-2022 OUTLaw, she co-hosted a panel on trans rights and trans justice, collaborated with the Black Law Students' Association to host a talk with Angela Davis, and even teamed up with Nelligan Law to host the first queer legal writing contest at uOttawa's Faculty of Law.
Brittany has a bright future ahead of her and is currently working towards multiple goals to accomplish. “Right now I’ll be called [to the bar] soon, so I’m kind of in a limbo situation where I’m not really sure what I want to do next, but ideally one of my goals is to start my own practice or practices, and maybe even be intra-provincial, so in Toronto and in Kingston.”
“My goal, on top of obviously being successful for myself, but I’d also like to give back in some ways. Right now I do a lot of wills, and it’s important to have a will, and not everyone knows that. Not everybody has a will, especially those who are low-income. So one thing I hope is to make wills more accessible to not just Indo-Caribbean people, but all people. So that’s one goal for my career, if it’s like showing [up] to a community center and offering free wills or will templates, that’s something I’d like to do.”
“Another goal I have for not-for-profit work [is], I’ve always wanted to start an LGBTQ2S+ foundation or charity and I would love it if it could also tie into being Indo-Caribbean. I know there is some work that is already done with the bar association in Guyana, I think they partner with SASOD and they do some work, so I’d like to contribute more in some way.”
And of course, I couldn’t end the interview without knowing what her favourite Indo-Caribbean food is, “that is hard,” she laughs. “Last couple of times I went home, goat curry and rice really hit and I love that. Other than that I really like achaar, and plantain chips too.”
Speaking with Brittany, you can see her passion and drive to inspire all people, whether it’s racialized folks or those who may be struggling with their sexuality, to see that they can be successful. Despite facing struggles, Brittany retains a positive attitude and spirit that is inspiring to many. “It’s okay to be who you are, everything will be okay eventually”, she says. “Even if it’s not all the way okay, you’ll always find a way to make it okay for yourself.”
About the Author
Rebecca is a Toronto-based writer and digital marketer, currently working in book publishing. With a BA in Sociology and a minor in Caribbean Studies, she joined the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association to continue her interest in researching and writing content about Indo-Caribbean history and culture.