By Preeti Mangala Shekar
Earlier this year on a trip to India, I met Aniruddh Vasudevan, a phenomenal gay rights activist in my home city of Chennai. Aniruddh's infectious zest to transform India’s pervasive homophobia and decriminalize homosexuality in Chennai energized me at a time when I was struggling to see how my perspectives and capacity as an activist based in the global north could support movements and work back home in India.
Our friendship quickly grew and by spring, we began to plot a queer arts and film festival in Chennai as a prelude to the annual Pride rally timed with LGBT pride rallies worldwide. We dreamed the festival could be a creative and intentional space that would build solidarity and community for queers. After numerous skype calls and endless emails, Nirangal, a two-day queer arts and film festival, was set to take place on June 19th and 20th in Chennai. Nirangal, (which means colors in Tamil), also attracted members from the LGBT community from other cities including Bangalore, as well as numerous allies, activists, artists, and journalists.
Nirangal was co-organized by two emerging gay rights groups in Chennai: Shakti Resource Center and Orinam. Shakti is a collective of activists, performers, academics and everyday revolutionaries who are creating a public dialogue on gender and sexuality in Chennai; Orinam is an online bilingual (Tamil and English) website that includes resources for families and friends of out/emerging LGBT members on overcoming homophobia.
We screened Are We Talking Straight?, a documentary which looks at the dominance of heteronormativity in Indian society. We also showcased performances by theatre groups like Viduthalai Kalai Kuzhu (Liberation Arts Troupe), comprised of transgendered women.
Fundraising for Nirangal was an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s incredible how far we have come in accepting all forms of sexuality, even in my own generation. So much of this was possible because of intergenerational movement building, which forged a bond between diverse and sometimes unlikely allies to work together to end discrimination. I also realized that dreams are necessary, like Aniruddh's dream of bringing to Chennai the Delhi High Court's ruling to decriminalize homosexuality. Without feminist activism, all of this would still be wishful thinking!
Nirangal Highlights, The Indian Express, July 7
Rainbow of Hope: The Hindu, Jun. 28
Numbers Dwindle, But Families, New Faces Make it to Pride: Times of India, Jun.28
Gay Pride Parade Along Marina Beach in Chennai, Daily News and Analysis (DNA), Jun.28
Preeti Mangala Shekar is part of the Communications Team of the Global Fund for Women.