Tears flowed when Lucky Roy Singh married the love of his life. “I was coming down for the wedding procession, in bits, crying,” he recalls.
But those tears of joy soon turned into tears of anguish for Lucky.
Growing up gay in a Sikh household in Manchester, Lucky tried to suppress his sexuality so as not to dishonour his family and he never entertained the idea that he might one day marry a man. However, all that changed when he fell for his older brother’s best friend, also a Sikh. [For legal reasons, we are calling him Manav].
“We started secretly dating. He told his parents he was bisexual when he was 14 and said they were OK with it,” Lucky says.
“Things became serious and he said he wanted us to spend our lives together. I told him I wanted the same thing but asked how we were going to do it.”
Lucky’s side career in drag provided the answer when Manav decided to share a picture of his fiancé’s alter-ego with his mum. “That planted the seed,” Lucky continues.
Cooking up an elaborate ruse, she proposed a way that would allow the pair to marry without bringing shame on the community: Lucky would dress as a woman when tying the knot and then for three months afterwards while living with his in-laws.
“I thought: ‘Is she for real?’ but [Manav] said this was the only way we could be together. I was so in love with him — I am to this day – that I made the sacrifice and told him I’d do it.”
So, the wheels were put in motion as Lucky moved out, telling his none-the-wiser parents that he was going away for work.
The big day arrived and the “bride-to-be” was under strict instructions not to give the game away by lifting his veil, under which he was sobbing uncontrollably.
“The registrar [for the civil service] didn’t understand why I wouldn’t uncover my face and why I was crying. She stopped, called me into a room and asked if I was under duress. I just told her that I loved [Manav] and this is how I wanted to do it,” he smiles, sadly.
But the dream of being married to his other half quickly turned into a nightmare. Lucky says he endured months of cruel abuse at the hands of Manav’s mother and, later, his father.
“It started from when I said, ‘I do,’ in the registry. She pinched me in front of everybody. I had briefly lifted up my veil because I was so hot.
“She made me cook and clean from 5am and slapped me in the face on numerous occasions for putting too much salt in the food, saying I was trying to poison them.”
But that wasn’t the worst of it.
“She once threw hot water over me because I had a sari on, saying. I was disrespectful for [wearing] a short blouse. I told [Manav], ‘I’m burnt and she won’t let me go to the doctors’. He thought I was making it up and said his mum wouldn’t do that.” For Lucky, who also says he was forced to wear high heels, jewellery and full make-up even when he wasn’t leaving the house, the final straw came when Manav’s dad made a sexual threat.
“She sent her husband [to] my room. He said, ‘I want to see what the fuss is about. Why do all the men love you, are you a good time?’”
Fleeing, Lucky had nowhere to turn apart from a hostel because his parents disowned him after the wedding photos appeared online.
Four months later, he discovered Manav was set to marry a woman, who was expecting their baby. “I got my wedding dress, went to a river and tried to kill myself. I cut my arms, slashed myself. I just wanted to die,” Lucky admits. “I was taken to hospital and they contacted my parents. That’s when I rekindled my relationship with them.”
Having been through therapy, Lucky, now 29, has forgiven both Manav’s mother and his former love. “I’ve accepted who she is as a person and don’t want anything to do with her, but I forgive her,” he insists. “Manav and I still speak, we’re on good terms.”
But Lucky warns that his story is not an isolated one, both for women and LGBTQ people of faith.
“All these women started to come forward, saying things like: ‘This is what happens, you’ve just seen it from a male perspective, this is what happens to us, to gay people in our culture’.”
Throwing himself into activism, he has joined the ranks of Karma Nirvana, a charity helping those who are subjected to forced marriages and honour-based abuse.
“I’m one of their ambassadors so I visit schools, the police and the NHS to educate them,” Lucky explains. “[One of our projects] is around young people, including LGBTQ people, being taken abroad to get married. You put a spoon in your underwear so it goes off in the metal detector. Security have to take you away into a room, then you tell them [what’s happening].”
Having navigated so many twists and turns, it’s no surprise to Lucky that people compare his life to a soap opera. “Which it’s going to be hopefully,” he reveals. “I’ve had a few phone calls abou that...”
Listen to Lucky's story below: