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“I need you to fix his suit.” “The suit is literal perfection.” “It will be...when it fits a woman.”
dialogue is from CW’s newest and most badass production till date, Batwoman,
whose first look trailer is out now. Starring Orange is the New Black fame Ruby
Rose, Batwoman is set in a post-Batman world, the residents of which are
standing face up to an evil without their bat saviour to count on for rescue.
The 3 minute first look leaps us front and back to the origin story of Kate
Kane’s military past forsaken for being outed, along with her girlfriend Sophie
Moore, as a lesbian couple. Moore now works for CROWS Security in charge of
ridding Gotham of evil gangs but gets kidnapped on a rescue mission. Enters
Kate Kane aka Batman’s cousin aka Moore’s past girlfriend aka the hero we all
need, the hero we always needed. Battling her benevolently patriarchal father
who first dissuades her help as a “bad idea” and later calls her female Bruce
Wayne (excuse me!), she, with her cousin’s Batman’s suit and fighting gear, is
seen fighting off the villains for her love.
someone who remembers her childhood in flashbacks of Shaktimaan TV reruns, my
father’s imported DVD collection of Superman and X-Men, and copies of Chacha
Chadhury and Nagraj picked up for their chamakte
illustrations, the reality of a lesbian Batwoman who isn’t overtly sexualized
like every female character in comic universes is something. I crawl from my bachpan ka hatte-katte superheroes nostalgia to tell you how content I feel to
see the face of power change. I might be living in some parallel Earth, you
Flash fans might tell me for writing this Gender 101 piece on sex role reversal
of a fictional character who also happens to wear her sexuality as her driving
force for change. How does a Kate Kane, who happens to be a woman, a lesbian
woman, change anything in the DC universe or the real universe of its audience
whose face has always been a cis-het white male flaunting hard muscles? Haven’t
we gone beyond, way beyond, mere representations of diversity that culminate
into an entry into the woke club and die out? Recognitions without active efforts
of actualising them, of realising your past ignorance are not much, you know?
I am not denying any of this. We have come so far in our discourses around
gender and sexuality that we now have both the emotion and vocabulary to ask
for more, for better. It is because of years of activism and fight for LGBTQ+
rights that the archaic section 377 was read down last year, it is because of
an angry population demanding better from granters of rights that Brunei has
backed down from imposing a death penalty on gay sex. And still somehow there
are men in Alabama basking in their ignorant whiteness to decide for women’s
right to abortion. We are seeing the world clashed between pros and antis. The
reality is conflicted, kaleidoscopic and don’t tell me the black and white of
TV is my escape from its noise. Because I want my TV to represent more starkly,
more confidently the clashes, the conflicts, the myriad shades of our times.
Batwoman might just be another gender role reversal where the protagonist also
identifies as lesbian for DC to score well on the woke scale, so what? We might
disagree with the superimposition of Batman’s characteristics and expectations
(although the latter will always remain the same for every superhero) on
Batwoman and the simplistic reduction of all of it, but can we mark this as a
point where we finally get to see even a speck of recognition through
representation of queerness by a giant comic book publisher. I am not arguing
for the success of Batwoman for its diverse cast, which in itself is new for DC
as it has shied away behind a Harlequin flagging queerness, but the trailer
suggests one, a break in the traditional holders of power and harbingers of
peace and security (aka your very safed,
bulky male heroes), and two a recognition (although super late I admit) of the
extremely varied identities we inhabit.
your white cis-her outside chaddi wearing men are outdated now. They have fled,
like Batman here, to bask in their parallel universes where they are still valued
for doing nothing but flying across to save cities which are in trouble because
of them only. Now is the time for queer people to take centre stage as heroes
of our time. Heroes who we always wanted, heroes we were never given, heroes we
might see ourselves in. When we are identifying ourselves in all colours
rainbow, why can’t we ask for the same in our faraway superhero universes?
Which is why we need a Kate Kane. We need a Kate Kane to acknowledge how men
have appropriated women’s work and legitimised it as the order of things as she
will not “let a man take credit for a woman’s work”. We need a Kate Kane who
identifies as lesbian as against a heterosexual character, like Marvel’s female
Captain Marvel or even DC’s Wonder Woman (the hetero bus has passed already,
you both) because it’s time the spectrum of identities we all move in and out
gets its fair television space. We need a Kate Kane because all of us need a
break from gender roles being replayed even today on our screens and lives. We
need a Kate Kane because we want to know what it takes to fight for love before
our heroes take on the world. We need a Kate Kane for young boys and girls to
love and aspire to be like.
first look suggests so much, I hope the series takes it only further. But more
than that, I hope our desi superhero universes take a cue and let us have a
gaysi hero of our own.
is no secret that representation of the LGBTQ+ Community is hard to find in
mainstream media—no doubt, it is easier today than a few years ago—but it’s
still not enough. I came across the name of the book The Summer of Jordi Perez in a google search for ‘LGBTQ+ love
stories’—something a lot of us may be guilty of—and was immediately intrigued
by both, the title, and the book cover, or more specifically the rainbow text
thing that I liked the most about the book from the very beginning was how naturally
it flows and how real the characters are. It is often hard for me to read Y/A
novels because they seem forced, or like they’re trying too hard to be
relatable to teenagers—but I never felt that with The Summer of Jordi Perez. Once I started, I couldn’t stop
reading—I have a set a goal of reading at the least 50 pages per day, but I
ended up finishing the entire book in a day.
character, Abby, is seventeen, gay and a plus sized fashion blogger. Something
else that I loved about the book is that while Abby is fat, it is not the only
focus of the book. She is happy and confident in her body, and there are, of
course, the usual insecurities that one has, as a teenage girl—but being fat is
not her entire personality, and the only thing anyone thinks about. Her
identity as a lesbian is also not her entire personality, or something that is
dwelled upon a lot. It just is.
The book starts with Abby landing a
summer internship at a vintage clothing store called Lemonberry, a store that she loves—and while usually these
internships are handed out to a single person, Abby ends up sharing it with
Jordi Perez, a girl from her school that she had never noticed before. It takes
no time for Abby to realize that she has a crush on Jordi, and from there on, things
begin to happen.
The characters in this book are so
full of life that you can imagine the lives of each one of them beyond the
book. From Abby’s new friend, Jax (extremely likeable) to her mother, Norah
(owner of the brand Eating Healthy with Norah!, less likeable), it’s easy to
see things subjectively from the point of view of every character and see why
they do what they do. Like any good work, the book starts when things are
beginning to change for Abby: her sister Rachel is not coming home for summer,
her best friend Maliah has a new boyfriend, she has landed a new internship and
made a new friend called Jax. With everything in Abby’s life being a little
wobbly, it often feels like things are going to blow up—but then, they don’t.
Instead, they are handled easily with communication and without any drama—which
only made me realize how accustomed we are to unnecessary drama due to what the
media usually shows us.
In conclusion, The Summer of Jordi Perez is a happy, fluffy book that addresses
important issues without making a huge deal out of them, and gives us the
representation we all need. The characters go through major character
development, and the only foreshadowing is that of a happy ending. It is not
just a book for the LGBTQ+ Community, but a book that deserves to be read by
every young adult.
Giving in to this meaning Slowly seeping in my being Like the ocean into titanic Her ennui wavers like lavender candles Do I turn around Do I look at her I feel she moves away Oblivious Sun sets by the helpless land A pull, I am here, I am not Pacify, console, curl inside, I look away Too much composure Too much evidence My voice could never make a sound Hers is like silence twirling around Even a sigh could reach her and shy away Hope my heart beat fades away in the music While all I say it’s just an infatuation
Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. - James Baldwin
Internalized homophobia is a natural consequence of living in a heteronormative society. It can be defined as ‘the gay person’s direction of negative social attitudes toward the self, leading to a devaluation of the self and resultant internal conflicts and poor self-regard.’ (Meyer and Dean, 1998). Repercussions of internalized homophobia have been linked to anxiety, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and abusive relationships. It is a tough battle for a queer individual to overcome false notions propagated about their own identity and avoid plummeting into the pitfall that is internalized homophobia and the associated mental and physical dangers.
Manifestations of internalized homophobia can include: denial of sexual orientation to oneself and others, attempts to alter or change one’s sexual orientation, discomfort with other gay people, unsafe sexual practices and other destructive risk-taking behaviours, including risk for HIV and other STIs. Internalized homophobia also causes feelings of shame in young homosexuals which can contribute to unsatisfactory relationships. Furthermore, people identifying with different queer identities, have their own unique challenges with battling internalized homophobia. People who identify as bisexual often find themselves in an ambiguous position, facing marginalization from both straight and gay communities. This marginalization usually includes same-gender oriented friends urging bisexual individuals to adopt a gay lifestyle and heterosexually-oriented friends pressuring them to conform to heterosexual standards. Internalized homophobia is thus a phenomenon that exists at several degrees among various sections of social groups, and is rooted at misunderstanding.
Navigating one’s identity formation in India is especially difficult for a queer individual because of the associated stigma. From bullying in schools, to ostracization from the society, and outright violent crimes against the queer population, self assertion itself can be a risk of life in many regions in the country. It is also extremely difficult to confront one’s own feelings about their homosexuality when it is something that is barely acknowledged or fairly represented in the society. The Indian linguistics with its lack of vocabulary to encapsulate the queer spectrum further complicates the challenge of individuals trying to communicate their concerns. Being a socially marginalized group, the queer Indian population is prone to minority stress, due to various sources such as exclusion from private and social establishments, like marriage and family.
It is crucial to identify, acknowledge and address internal homophobia, for it is linked not only to a queer individual’s sexuality but to their sexual and mental health, risk taking behaviour and may also further perpetuate homophobic notions in the society.
If you’re someone who’s battling internalized homophobia, or want to help someone who is, here are some tips to overcome the challenge:
Critically evaluating your thoughts - By identifying negative thought patterns and behaviours that increase homophobic tendencies and behaviours, it becomes easier to start working towards a positive self image.
Finding a community - A supportive group or community that celebrates homosexuality can help you to become more accepting of yourself. Being exposed to this environment can be a powerful reminder that you are not alone.
Distancing yourself from toxic influences - Keeping yourself at a safe distance from sources that promote homophobic attitudes can help reduce feelings of anxiety.
Seeking therapy - A queer positive therapist may be able to guide you in your journey towards self acceptance.
Be part of the movement! - Gaining information on the origins of the LGBTQ+ movement, and the various LGBTQ+ activists along with putting your own efforts into raising awareness can be an extremely rewarding experience.
Get out of the closet: While this step can require a tremendous amount of courage, accepting your sexuality publicly may help you feel more confident.
Remember: It’s not you! - The internal confusion that you may experience is a result of a wide array of social factors, that are constantly being propagated. You are not to blame.
Set, Z., Altinok, A. (2016) In Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Individuals: Attachment, Self-compassion and Internalized Homophobia: A Theoretical Study. Journal of Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy and Research 2016; 135-144
Larson, E. (2014) Internalized Homophobia: The Next LGBT Movement After Same-Sex Marriage. Mashable India.
Ross, M.W., Rosser, B.R., Smolenski, D. (2010) The Importance of Measuring Internalized Homophobia/Homonegativity. Arch Sex Behav.
Ranade, K. (2018) Growing Up Gay in Urban India: A Critical Psychosocial Perspective.
Sanjeev, K. (2019) LGBT Community in India: A Study.
Teenasai Balamu aka GrapeGuitarBox is a 24-year old indie musician based in Bangalore, India, out exploring the alternative side of pop by interpreting popular songs with their unique style. Playing the guitar and singing since age 15, their new EP and recent single ‘Run’ is all set to launch this month.
We got to talking with the artist about their music and what it means to create a queer work centred passion project as a non-binary musician.
Q. Tell me a bit about your creative process.
Generally, my creative process in song writing is I work on the melody first— the tune comes first and then often I start stringing words together. The idea of the song comes together usually in the first three times of this process. Once the main structure of the song is built, I start work on the lyrics. All my songs so far have had a melody first always and then the words would flow next.
The stories behind the songs are usually inspired by my own life and experiences; I don’t think I have written any songs outside of my experiences other than ‘28’ (link). With my new single, Run, I wrote about my previous relationship which was a toxic one. There was a time that I found it very hard to stop going back to the person even when I knew they were not good for me. That is where the main idea of the song was born. In the chorus of the single when I sing ‘I’ll run back to you, even though it's wrong’ is basically the crux. My creative process is always literally from my own experiences.
Q. What do you expect the audience should feel through your music?
The most substantial thing I as an artist can ask is for the audience is to relate to my music or my work. To find relevance in people’s lives and experiences is the most excellent feeling ever. Generally, when we consume any art media, be it music, movies or television shows, we tend to like what can we relate to. A connection must be created and if that can happen with my music, that’s great! On a more tangible note people should be able to understand the story of the toxicity of the relationship I am talking about.
Q. How does it feel to have your first single out?
Honestly, it feels amazing. I have been so scared of putting my music out there and thus I have been procrastinating forever. I think I am finally in a space where I am accepting the fact that it is done, it is created. Even through the whole recording and mixing process I was not able to believe that my music was coming to life. Something that I would do simply in my bedroom is coming alive like this and it is an amazing feeling to have.
Q. Tell us a bit about your journey as an artist and exploring your queerness and identity through your art.
Talking about it publicly has been fairly new to me. I came out to my friends quite a while back and I came out to my parents and immediate family a little later. We’ve taken our time to process it together. It has been very recent that I decided to take the step of being openly out. I am still very apprehensive; I have been so used to being in the closet that this is all a very new space for me even though I have been out to and comfortable with friends for a while now. Putting myself out there feels very liberating and freeing but I’m kind of hoping that this particular EP that I am putting out and the songs that I am putting out are going to help me personally through the process and this journey. I have written these songs at certain points in my life when I was not feeling too great or in love and I think that the EP can reflect that.
Q. More about the artist.
A lot of GrapeGuitarBox influences include not only indie and pop artists of today like The Lumineers, Angus and Julia Stone, Ed Sheeran, but also teenage throwback artists such as Linkin Park, Green Day, Simple Plan and the Backstreet Boys. One of their greatest influences has been Tamil music, more specifically, the work of AR Rahman.
GrapeGuitarBox started out as a simple cover series on YouTube. Over time, it’s built a reputation for putting an interesting twist on popular music. Balamu's debut EP titled ‘Out’ that features six tracks written, composed, and arranged by them, is scheduled to be released in June 2019.
With their music, Teenasai wishes to create a space safe from labels, judgement, and discrimination; a space for all the misfits. They look forward to collaborating with different kinds of artists to discover new sounds.
They've been featured on media outlets such as Rolling Stone India, The Hindu, Deccan Herald, Deccan Chronicle, The Indian Express, NearFox, Planet Radio City, MTV India, The Inkline, and Humans of India as one of India’s upcoming indie artists. They have also performed as an opening act for artists like Prateek Kuhad, Harish Sivaramakrishnan (of Agam), etc. More recently, they also presented a TEDx talk about being a queer artist.
You can check out their recent single Run here- as well as the beautiful music video created by phenomenal queer artist Priya Dali.
At Gaysi Family, we are constantly striving to make our work as accessible as possible. To take this one step forward, we are working on translating our previous content as well as accepting content in languages other than English. If you or anyone you know would like to translate content for us or write for us in languages other than English, find us at gaysifamily[at]gmail[dot]com.
For someone who landed late
to the pleasure party, I am proud to write a piece entirely on the theme.
Erotic art based in queer lives often blurs the line between pleasure and
heterosexual fetishization and objectification. Added to that the risks that exposure
of intimate queer lives in times of worldwide hate can have, it took me
sometime to curate an instagram feed of queer friendly art for myself. Once I
did, I decided to share with you the result comprising some of the most erotic
queer pages on Instagram that I follow.
This is probably the first insta pages I began following for its depictions of
erotic lesbian love and female desire. A quick rummage will yield images of
women masturbating, of kissing their lovers along with beautifully detailed
erotic facial expressions that look so real that will make you too, an instant
To open this insta page without hitting the follow button is not a story I have
heard from any to whom I recommended this page. Capturing queer lives in the
Arab world, the page runs images of men catching a quick kiss in a car with a
“haram love” board in the backdrop, stealing glances of crave across the
street, enjoying flirtatious moments in bedroom; or images of women lying down together
or about to kiss, all painted in beautiful colours. The artist who chooses to
stay anonymous for safety reasons seeks to bring visibility to queer lives in
Arab countries. This page is a needed combination of everydayness and
subversion of LGBTQI+ lives rooted in their most intimate experiences, and that
is why you should follow it.
Opashona Ghosh’s project KIN-a series of graphic illustrations using erotica
explores female sexual agency, queer desires, and vulnerability in such bright
colours that gives you a break from the black and white medium in which the
realm of sexual desires is usually explored. KIN appeals to me because it
places vulnerability and desire together in a frame asking you to sit and see
your most honest, naked selves.
Featuring erotic lesbian art, the artist, Jodi Sandler, creates the most
sensuous works in black and white lines. Find lesbian women in deep kisses,
their bodies draped into each other in various patterns. I follow this page for
its simple yet passionately intimate art.
@daintystrangerphotographs: Run by Raqeeb who was inspired to embark on
their Instagram journey when they began clicking pictures of their partner.
Their photo project: aspirations of
desire capturing the lives of queer individuals who have been shamed for
their desires and bodies challenges notions of sexuality and maleness. Having
discovered them through Gaysi’s website, what I love about Raqeeb’s feed is the
honesty in desire, the rawness of being, and the intimacy which comes across
through their photographs really well.
6. @ambera.wellmann: Ambera Wellmann paints desire not in its usual objectified lens of male gaze but a female perspective. Motivated by ““a search to pictorially structure female desire”, Wellmann’s erotic paintings have a uniqueness of bodies flowing into each other and their surroundings as if to suggest multitudes of desires, the myriad possibilities of it. There is a mix of paintings: while some are more defined, others blend heavily, aptly conveying the complexities of eroticism and desire.
Mohit Tiwari’s Instagram page is an aesthetic pleasure you cannot not give
into. Their work detailing queer desires through women inching towards a kiss
with every swipe, or men playing with their tongues is not only a sensual
delight but also an artistic one. You can check their Behance page for their
series on queer desires, Crush: Love Has no Labels, once you have experienced
the beauty their instagram page is.
@a_janevsky: Erotic art based in science fiction! Can you imagine?! With a
focus on precision and detail, this super erotic page illustrates women having
sex with women in myriad postures, and expositions of multiple women sharing
the most passionate moments. This page excites me because one, it is intricate,
and two, it reminds of real sci-fi comic books but only better.
@thedannyguy: This page captures intimate queer
desires in their most everyday and sensual forms. For someone who loves a good
description of how the artist is interpreting the image, what do they want to
convey through their pictures, this page becomes a home of artistic and
literary pleasures. Their recent series, “documenting life beyond gender and
sex”, is a poetic journey of desire that you cannot miss.
Zach Nutman is a needle artist producing the most erotic gay and lesbian art.
Find multiple men sexually pleasing each other, women of colour enjoying
self-pleasure, and cowboys, a lot of cowboys to give you moments of pleasure.
As if that is not a reason enough, all this art is done in colourful
11. @pulkitmogha: Pulkit Mogha’s photographic genius to represent their private vulnerability of identifying as gay and that of a queer South Asian overturns the imaginations of being on the spectrum whose ideas of being are borrowed from the west. Their representations of queer experiences across bodies, races, genders capturing intimately constructed moments of being queer have been a subject of censorship. After a third instagram account Mogha stays put knowing their work is appreciated by many for its normality and most importantly, a sensitive depiction of desires.
Veer Misra is the last in this list but never ever the least. Beautifully
documenting experiences of being a South Asian male, Veer’s pink tinted art
speaks desire in subtlety making you crave for more. Their art is also
subversive in challenging the western notion of queer male bodies, love, and
These are some of the Insta pages I follow and
like. In future I’d like to be more intersectional in my approach by having,
for example, more trans people, people having disabilities, etc.
If you have more suggestions, do mention in the
comments below. Because who doesn’t need a good piece of erotic art once in a
"The expression of a well made man appears not only in his face It is in his limbs and joints also It is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck the flex of his waist And knees, dress does not hide him The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broadcloth To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem perhaps more You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder side." - Walt Whitman.
…….. Smell is a poem about love, lust and separation. About the city, the sea and desperation. But who wouldn't lust after this deity's physique or his smell, which would linger long after he leaves.
“Smell” is about a man’s undying love for
…... When my nostrils register the faint sweetness Of sweat, musk and perfume My heart hurts with familiarity And the smell of perfume, takes me elsewhere
Reminiscence of a place- distant in my memory A sea shore and a cobbled track A stony bench on which we sat I thanked the winter sun For the heat made him sweat And I sat next to him Inhaling the perfection of the moment Flirtatious eyes turning toward him
A boy- perfect in every way. And I tried shielding my gaze But how could I? When he spoke I was only half listening And half studying his face
He spoke of passions that vexed him Of his mother, he loved with all his heart Of philosophies his 19 year old heart could seldom fathomed Of beaches, fish tacos and sand. Of his sister, his brothers and his father Of a girl I didn't want to hear about So I lifted my gaze and looked away Envy- now observable in mine.
But each detail of his face-memorized Each smell, like a fragrance-compartmentalized More perfume at an instance Sweat and soap at another Sweat and fresh when he played soccer Of the sea, salty and tempestuous When he swam in the ocean
His skin, smooth, untanned and untouched His mere presence fuelled dreams of intense pleasure And my submission- to this deity- I had already yielded As I whispered to him “Take me and do to me as you please-" “Hurt me and bruise my skin But please, don't leave" For I'm every bit less a human
Incomplete without you Your body and your perfume.
But if your love is too much to ask Stay with me, a little longer & Tell me about your dreams But don't ask me about mine For they're all consumed by you, your naked body and your perfume.
Preserved are our evenings of playfulness in a hologram Detached from the grasp of reality; Memories Of his black T-shirt coming off In his silver car Parked by the beach Of uninterrupted touching and love making Of his bare body pressing against mine Of his erection pumping to the rhythm of the sea Of moans, laughs and love professed Of regret, the day after Of him and I uniting One, our spirit and body Our Arcadia on Earth in that silver sedan.
But Oh! The misfortune of such love When one knows the other to be his twin, in body and soul The other, unaware A disposition of indifference Left alone to shed tears of yearning and separation.
Did she know the intricacies of his body? His torso and the veins on his neck Or his mind, a child-like temperament
Or his soul, a part of me He so willing let her steal And by doing so, crushing me. My Arcadia came crashing to this plane of diabolic reality
Done away with an ecstatic dream like state Under a then perennial winter sun Given way to a catatonic sleepless one Where even in my dreams Your presence is lacking.
And washed up on stony shores Like the foam of the wave that broke on this Is the Eden you so readily showed And snatched away from me An eternity worth of pleasure When you- Unmade my chastity
And when you slept that night Warm, by the campfire The cold stung me deep within Your body lay enveloped In the gentle embrace of the rays Bouncing off the burning embers Your complexion, fiery like the flame My sorrow, like stars in the smooth shimmering sea A distorted reflection of burning hot passion Floating amass , so near yet so far away from the object of it's desire What had once burned stronger than the flame Now cold, because of the distance From the element that fed it with the energy Much like my soul
Subjected to this cruel depravity.
And years from now If you see me on the street Of a city different from this Will you look me in the eyes And yet see through me Refuse to acknowledge my existence Or will you ask me how I have been And have the nonchalance rip my heart in pieces
Will you grab me by the throat And try erasing a passionate mistake you once made Or ask me if I'm doing fine And I'd say, how could I? When I'm deprived of the presence that once gave me life.
Would my standoffish eyebrow raise Give away my distaste For the woman your eyes so lovingly behold And for me has that censure A feigned hatred That boiled after that evening When two young souls did things Guided by unadulterated lust and liveliness
But before you part this time When she has her face turned elsewhere Pray, will you steal me one last glance One last gaze One last smile, for old times sake And see the wary, disarming tear trickle down my face To which you would half heave and half sigh
Two men, having accepted their fate.
And I would foolishly pray To be the only reason For your footsteps to retreat Back to where I stood To kiss my lips and touch my face Or to push me away- Shove me against an incoming wave Lost to oblivion Lost in the sea of strangers- living without a face In a city- living without a name.
month, I had the pleasure of reading (and reviewing) I’m Afraid of Men, a
brilliant, emphatic work by Canadian-born Indian trans author Vivek Shraya with
self-reflections on identity, trauma, self-love, and community. I was eager to
deep dive further into writings by other trans authors, particularly South
Asian. Amazon showed up two recommendations – A Life in Trans Activism by A. Revathi and A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi by Manobi Bandhopadhyay with Jhimli
Mukherjee Pandey. While A. Revathi’s work reclines quietly in my book rack
waiting for its inauguration, I spared an evening to finish the 180-pager A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi.
became the talk of the town in 2015 when she became the ‘first transgender
principal’ in an Indian university. She
sprung back to the limelight over the next two years with the release of her
biography and allegations of harassment from colleagues doing the rounds.
Manobi, like most trans persons, has lived through her share of ordeals to
emerge resilient. Furthermore, she has formidable credentials, with a PhD in
Bengali Literature and authorship to multiple other books, magazines, and
hundreds of newspaper articles. In 1995, she founded the first Bengali
transgender magazine Abomanob
(Subhuman). It is undoubtedly commendable that Manobi put on a brave front in
the face of persistent humiliation and indignity. Belittled by others, treated
as a public spectacle, and bumping into the glass ceiling throughout the career
– such challenges are relatable to most queer individuals. The strength of
Manobi’s work is it calls a spade a spade, and the concluding sections
emphasizing her ascendancy in work-life are particularly inspiring.
this merit cannot compensate for the several problematic aspects in A Gift of Goddess that have shockingly
made it to print. Right off the bat, one senses a desultoriness in the writing
with banal details from Manobi’s family history lingered over. Clichéd phrasing
like ‘saved from the jaws of death’ rankle. Basic and avoidable errors of
mis-gendering and using transgender as a noun are frequently committed. Some of
the details of sexual intercourse are unnecessarily and cringe worthily
graphic. To make matters worse, the book peddles with common stereotypes about
the trans community, such as suggesting they have a natural inclination for
make-up and dancing. Furthermore, it overly emphasizes on physical appearance
as the litmus test for societal acceptance.
Manobi’s indignation towards the injustice faced over the years is justified,
the author(s) could have expressed the sentiments with more tact and thought
instead of languishing in self-pity and launching into thinly veiled
accusations on all and sundry. In many instances, she even puts down her allies
and friends. Mere rechristening does little to protect the identities of those
mentioned considering every minute details of their whereabouts etc. are
divulged. Manobi’s privileged upbringing has perhaps even blinded her to some
of the classist remarks she makes, from flaunting her own ‘educated’ and
‘cultured’ status on one hand to making condescending observations about those
without equivalent status. Despite her educational background, A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi rarely evinces
self-reflection; whether on societal constructions of gender, patriarchy, love,
companionship, and so on.
trans person, I seldom find dignified representations of transgender identities
in the arts. Take cinema, literature, or paintings, what usually occupies a
space in the mainstream imagination are either glorified or vilified
representation of cis-gendered heterosexual identities. Within the queer
community, transgender characters are particularly subjected to egregious
characterizations, with cis-gendered persons often coopting stories of our
struggles and successes for their own gain. We are viewed as either the ‘lowest
of the low’, the ‘despised lot’, or the ‘monster’ on one hand, or ‘the exotic’,
‘the supernatural’ and the ‘impossibly righteous figure’ on the other. Being a
researcher myself, I have sieved through reams of literature on transgender
studies. Most studies, usually by cis authors, have pathologized a trans
person’s sense of self from either psychological or sociological standpoint.
point of time, we need more transgender voices to reclaim their positionality
in the arts, seize the pen, the paintbrush, the camera, and illuminate society
about their own lived (or fictionalized) experiences. The autobiographical (or
biographical) mode provides a rich and powerful source for the world at large
to grasp the lived experiences and the authentic voices of trans people. This
is where the works of Manobi Bandhopadhyay, Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, Living Smile Vidya, and A. Revathi
become essential reading.
creators of media, and especially people in positions of influence, one must be
doubly responsible in their self-representation and cannot commit the same
mistakes that the society perpetuates. As a minority, the statements made by
the few who get a seat at the table are taken as the gospel truth, while
failing to consider that they too are human and therefore capable of erring and
holding prejudices. The solution to this is to critique community’s voices with
the same fervor that we show while critiquing others, as only this will help us
bring forth our lived experiences in a more matured, refined, sensitive, and
to A. Revathi’s A Life in Trans
(The article is written with some inputs from
Sindhu Eradi, a doctoral scholar at MICA Ahmedabad currently researching on