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PASSAGES South Asian LGBTQ community organizer Deepa Patel dies
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2018-04-20

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Original Trikone Chicago board member Deepa Patel, 31, died March 9 at Loyola Medical Center surrounded by family and friends.

Patel, who identified as a lesbian, was the first woman to be elected to the queer South Asian-focused Trikone board. During her time with the organization; Patel started many initiatives including "Ladies Night," keeping the Jai Ho Parties going, having a Trikone float in Chicago's Pride Parade, centering queer women and trans people in the South Asian community and starting a PFLAG group for family and friends of Trikone members. She set an example for other Trikone members by bringing her ally siblings to events and encouraged others to do the same.

Outside of her work with Trikone, Patel spent time teaching the South Asian community-at-large what it means to be LGBTQ.

Patel was born April 6, 1986 in Chicago and was raised in Schiller Park, Illinois. She received her associates degree in nuclear medicine from Triton College and spent her career working at Lincoln Park Heart Center in Chicago's Lincoln Park.

She is survived by her father Dipak Patel, mother Jayshree Patel, sister Roshni Patel and brother Jay Patel as well as many friends.

"She was a proud member of the LGBTQ community and lover of dogs," said Roshni.

"Deepa's willingness to be a visible face of the Trikone queer family and the courage she exuded by engaging with people both within and outside the larger South Asian community vis-a-vis sexual orientation and gender identity, an often stigmatized and misunderstood topic, should serve as an inspiration for future activists in the community," said long-time friend and fellow former Trikone board member Jay Ash Nair. "The pride she took in her chosen family, and in performing those crucial first steps in fostering a community for Desi-South Asian queer folks is the kind of steadfast dedication that will be missed. Above all, I will miss a dear friend."

"From driving our truck at Chicago Pride, securing her own brother to DJ our dance parties and organizing events for queer women, Deepa was integral in shaping Trikone in its formative years," said friend and fellow former Trikone board member Kareem Khubchandani. "Her no-nonsense attitude, warmth and her commitment to making every member of our organization feel like family made her a joy to be around. I will miss her so much."

"Deepa brought the much needed queer woman's voice to Trikone and had been instrumental in organizing the first kind of events for queer women for Trikone," said friend and fellow former Trikone board member Moses Tulasi. "One of Deepa's strengths was the way she reconciled her activism with her family values. She did not see them as mutually exclusive. She loved her family very much but at the same time she also embraced her queerness and there was no way she was going to abandon either of these aspects for the sake of the other. So she made it work. She gave them enough time to understand who she was and eventually her family became one of the very few South Asian families that visibly supported her at Pride marches and other events. I had always been envious of Deepa as much as I loved her for the kind of formidable life she led—full of love, compassion, grit and grace. It seemed she was living her life in fast-forward. Little did we know there was a reason for it, to leave us all too soon. The only thing left for us, her loved ones, is to learn from her life and try to make our lives as meaningful as hers."

"I moved to Chicago in January 2012 and contacted Trikone hoping to find a queer South Asian community," said fellow former Trikone board member Anurag Lahiri. "Deepa responded and invited me to the group's Ladies Night gathering, which aimed to make intentional space for queer women, in a community that is predominantly comprised of cisgender, gay men. This was my first Trikone event, and to this day I am still friends with the people whom Deepa introduced me to.

"After that Ladies Night, I went to my first Jai Ho party, where Deepa performed. She was Trikone's first drag king. A year or two later, I also performed drag for the first time with her. We performed Desi Girl from the movie Dostana, with another friend of ours. As time went on, I eventually joined the Trikone board as well. Deepa really pushed for Trikone's expanding presence across Chicago and the Midwest and her presence will be greatly missed by myself and our entire community. We will be having a get together every year around the time of Deepa's birthday, to honor the fact that she is the reason we know each other."

Patel's memorial service and cremation took place March 11 at the Bohemian National Cemetery according to Hindu customs.

The family has indicated that all monetary donations should be made to the Human Rights Campaign and/or the Humane Society in her memory.


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