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Bake Off Rav: Homophobic letter used my faith to 'tear me down'

Rav Bansal on Great British Bake Off

When Rav Bansal came out as gay in June this year, he says he expected to face some backlash about his sexuality.

But a homophobic letter he received last week "cut deeper" than any other comments he's received because it came from someone who, like him, is from the Sikh community.

You might remember Rav from the 2016 series of The Great British Bake Off, where he placed seventh.

Although he was angry, he says it felt "necessary" to share the letter online.

That's because for Rav, his Sikh faith was something that helped him come out.

"For me, my faith is something that's actually helped me overcome many of the kinds of issues that I had from having this secret," Rav tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"The reason why this cut deeper is because Sikhism is supposed to be something that is really positive and empowering and here it was being used to essentially tear me down.

"When you look at Sikhism, and what the religion teaches, it teaches equality, and it's supposed to be religion as welcoming and accepting of all people, regardless of who they are."

'Perverse lifestyle'

The person who wrote the letter says that they had supported Rav after seeing him on Bake Off, but after seeing his coming out story earlier this year, were no longer able to support him or his "lustful behaviour."

"When you look at the language used when they say they were offended by my 'perverse lifestyle', it made me wonder: What year are we living in?" Rav says.

"It took me some time to process the way religion was being used to kind of justify that opinion."

'You don't see out Sikh people who look like me'

Rav says reactions to his coming out from other members of the Sikh community has been almost entirely positive and that those reactions were part of why he chose to share the letter.

"You don't often see an out Sikh person, particularly somebody who's visibly Sikh like myself - the fact I wear a turban and I have a beard," he says.

"So I knew that me coming out would be a big deal for people."

Since coming out, Rav says he's received messages from others who have come out for the first time to him.

"When I received the letter, of course it was upsetting, and it did anger me, but I don't think anger and negativity is productive," he says.

"So I kind of chose to remain positive and see what I can do to help others rather than alienate and dismiss people's opinions."

"Let's open up a conversation - not just among the Sikh community, but people in general - to highlight what is and what isn't acceptable when you're trying to kind of express your religious opinions to somebody else."

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