Harmless Hugs, though an anthology of queer tales told by amateur authors, deserves to be read in order to dispel the stereotypes regarding the LGBTQ community in India. Harmless Hugs, an anthology, is a collaborative work of nine LGBTQ and ally writers hailing from different parts of India. There are nine nuanced stories in total, and each page reveals a tale of coming out, bullying, trans-lives, discrimination, asexuality, problems within the queer community, western as well as Indian views of homosexuality, and the closeted life of married people. The book was released on 11th December, 2016, at the Delhi International Queer Film Festival. The title, Harmless Hugs, is named after a Queer Collective of the same name. The compilation has been edited by Sahil Verma, who curated diverse perspectives from writers belonging to all spectrums of sexuality, which makes each story different than the other. Though more than half the stories in this anthology are sad and depressing, this book can still be seen as a celebration of the LGBTQ-normative world. Out of these stories is one titled ‘Dichotomy’, written by Yashraj Goswami, a Delhi based writer whose work has been published in Newslaundry and the Huffington Post. This hard-hitting tale is narrated by two personalities- one female and another male, of an unnamed queer boy who is struggling between his feminine soul, with which he identifies, and the socially accepted masculine demeanor which he is expected to cultivate. The conversations between the two sides sharply articulate the conflict of living a dual life- one inside the closet, the other outside it. Another remarkable story that stayed with me, long after I finished reading the book, was ‘The Pink Wallpaper’ authored by Kush Sengupta. The story speaks to the heterosexual members of society in a language that they seem to understand, by interchanging the social standing of straight and gender nonconforming people. The imagery is vivid. ‘My Last Diwali as a Man’ by Avinash Matta talks about a very important, but hardly discussed issue of internalized transphobia, which lingers within the LGBTQ community. The fact that cis-gender homosexuals often mistreat intersex people, especially when they are in a romantic relationship, deserves attention. The cover page of a book is not in sync with the content. The three people donning the cover are white, which is not the best choice for India’s first queer anthology. All the pieces are written by amateur authors and it shows in the unnecessarily long sentences and overused adjectives. However, despite the mediocre writing, every story manages to leave a mark and deserves to be told. In India, there is clear insensitivity and ignorance towards gender nonconforming people. Attempts to educate people often suffer because of hard terminologies being added to the ever-increasing LGBTQI acronym. In this scenario, these simplistic stories convey the feelings and the functioning of the queer community with graceful ease. It is totally worth it to spend 155 rupees on this book. Feature Image Credits: Notion Press Nihaika Dabral [email protected]]]>
India is a deeply homophobic nation, with not only rampant homophobia in mainstream society, but also policies that deny the LGBTQ community basic human rights and access to laws regarding equality and privacy. In such an environment, it is difficult to stay optimistic about love and support. However, the LGBTQ community in Delhi offers several events to combat the negativity that we face on a daily basis.
In the second week of December, Harmless Hugs and Love Matters organised the Delhi International Queer Theatre and Film Festival. While the turnout here was quite low, one of the most exciting events that the community looks forward to each year is the Pride Parade.
Taking place on the last Sunday of November, the Delhi Queer Pride Parade draws a huge crowd, including both members of the LGBTQ community and allies. The Parade kicks off each year on the crossing of the Barakhamba Road and Tolstoy Marg, and members marching until Jantar Mantar, where there is a stage for anyone who would like to perform. The Parade is characterised by banners, both heart-wrenching and hilarious, eccentric personalities, and smiling faces. The two years that I have attended Pride have ended in me going home with an aching jaw, tired from all the smiling that was the result of an environment of confidence, defiance, and happiness.
While the Parade misses out on a chunk of syllabus-cramming students due to its time of year, it never fails to garner publicity from major media outlets. Last year, renowned activist Laxmi led the Parade. This year, NDTV and the online portal Youth Ki Awaaz were some of the coverage partners at the event. While the most obvious cause of the Parade is the demand for LGBTQ rights, the march also focuses on contemporary issues. For example, the violence in Kashmir and the discrimination against Dalits were some of the topics this year.
For anyone looking to gain a sense of home, Pride is the perfect place to fit in, even among strangers. Despite 2016 being the worst, at least Delhi is keeping alive the culture of love in these awful times.
Two boyfriends at the Delhi Queer Pride Parade, 2016
Image Credits: Vagabomb
Being queer is tough in our country. To go through the process of understanding and accepting one’s sexuality and coming to terms with it, especially when no one around you seems to be open about discussing these topics, is tough. In an environment like this, to find people around you who not only accept their own sexuality but even yours and are open to discussing it is heavenly.
It was just a few days back that I attended a gay party in Delhi with one of my friends. It was his third party and he wanted me to come along with him to put an end to my never-ending questions about how it feels to be in an environment of total acceptance. We attended a party in Green Park, and to me, it was like an undercover mission that I was a part of. In a country where LGBTQ rights are not accepted legally, to be a part of this setup, even for some time was scary. What if something went wrong?
We entered the party while I was still a little nervous, only to sink into an environment of comfort. The party had a mixed crowd – from transgender people to gay men, and lesbian women. Initially, I felt a little left out and sat in a corner nursing my mocktail and observing the people around me. It was liberating for me, a straight woman, to see to see my friend, who otherwise is a shy man and a closeted gay, to come out in the open and interact (even flirt!) with people- accepting drinks from them, exchanging phone numbers and dancing. I can only wonder how liberating it must have been for him the first time he attended one of these parties and why, even though he doesn’t like the crowd much, he likes to attend these parties every once in a while.
I was talking to some of his friends who told me that these parties happened every Tuesday and Saturday. They also told me about Central Park in Connaught Place which also hosts several LGBTQ+ events.
I was soon asked to join them on the dance floor and, for the first time in the entire 19 years of my life, was hit on by someone. All I could do was smile at her and let her know about my preferences!
Image credits: princeton.edu
The sixth Delhi Queer Pride 2013 was conducted on Sunday, 24th November 2013 at 3pm. People assembled at the Corner of Barakhamba Road and Tolstoy Marg basking in the glory of the rainbow colors! With shouts of “Hum Anek Hai” and “One India”, people joined in to celebrate the diversity within the gender spectrum fighting for the cause of gender equality.
Here are a few pictures that demonstrates in city in spirit of the rainbow colours!