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How Many Of These 93 Things Do You Know About India’s LGBTQ Movement?

More from Shambhavi Saxena

Tracing the history of LGBTQ lives in India is a difficult task.

For one thing, most people don’t feel safe enough to come out of the closet, and disclose their experiences. For another, so much has been lost to time, erased by a strict code of sexual morality. Thanks colonialism! And then there’s also precious few places where you can actually have discussions about sexuality.

Historical reference points are important for any community’s sense of self, and queer Indians are no different. In a world that favours cisgender and heterosexual (cishet) ways of living, two things happen. First, people who are queer are put through various phases of self-doubt and discrimination. Second, cishet people are unable to examine the role they play in structurally oppressing LGBTQ folks.

So, in the interest of our collective knowledge, and working towards a more aware and sensitive world, let’s take a look at 93 things that we should remember about the LGBTQ movement in India:

1: Homosexuality Is As Old As The Vedas

According to research by the Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association (GALVA), it was around 3102 B.C. (during the Vedic Age) that homosexuality or non-normative sexual identity was recognised as “tritiya prakriti”, or the third nature.

2: And The Trans Community Is As Old As Madurai’s Temples

Back in the good ol’ days of third century BC, the Koovagam festival was born. It celebrated the story of Krishna taking the form of a woman to marry Aravan before the battle of Mahabharata. The festival continues even today, and is the largest annual gathering of trans people in India.

At the Lakshmana temple in Khajuraho (954 CE), a man receives fellatio from a seated male as part of an orgiastic scene.

3: Queerness As Plain As Temple Walls

Temples constructed in Puri and Tanjore between the 6th and 14th centuries had some pretty explicit depictions of queer couples. As mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik writes, “One invariably finds erotic images including those that modern law deems unnatural and society considers obscene.”

4: Our First Mughal Emperor Was Not Straight

Babur’s infatuation with a teenage boy named Baburi has even been documented in his memoirs, “Babur Nama”, and we have records of several couplets composed in Persian, by the lovelorn emperor for Baburi.

5: Sec 377 Comes Ashore

It’s 1862 when Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code came into force. Drafted by Thomas Babington Macaulay, then head of the Law Commission, it is based on Britain’s own former anti-sodomy laws, and archaic 19th century Victorian morality. This section criminalises any form of sexual activity “against the order of nature”, and can be used at any time to harass and incarcerate same-sex couples.

6: Gandhi Was Not Down For Gay Sex

Flash forward to mid-20th century, when Mahatma Gandhi – revered father of the nation – wrote against homosexuality. He was worried it would “[gain] the stamp of respectability”, saying it was “a most dangerous doctrine to preach anywhere.”

7: First Study On Homosexuality

There was kind of a lull, post-Independence, but then in 1977, writer and math wizard Shakuntla Devi published “The World of Homosexuals”. Arguably the first of its kind in India, the book contained interviews with homosexual men, set against the backdrop of the Emergency years. In it, she wrote that “rather than pretending that homosexuals don’t exist” it was time “we face the facts squarely in the eye and find room for [homosexual people].”

8: The Trans Community Gets Organised

The All-India Hijra Conference was called in 1981. Around 50,000 members of the community travelled to Agra to attend it.

9: The First Closet Door Swings Open

In 1986, journalist Ashok Row Kavi penned an article about himself for Savvy Magazine, which became the first ‘coming out’ story from India.

10: Screw The Law, Let’s Get Married

In 1987, Leela and Urmila, two policewomen from Madhya Pradesh, married each other in the first ever documented case of its kind. Sadly, after the ceremony, both women were discharged from duty.

11: India Gets Its First Gay Mag

Remember Ashok Row Kavi? In 1990, a few short years after coming out, he founded India’s first magazine for queer men – BombayDost. And it’s still in circulation, with actor Manoj Bajpayee on the cover of its latest issue!

12: Exposing Myths About Gay People

AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan – a group working to fight discrimination against HIV/AIDS positive persons – took a bold step in 1991, publishing the first citizen’s report on the status of at-risk homosexual men. Called “Less Than Gay”, it “expose[d] the silly lie that homosexuality does not exist in India” and “that gay people are a species from a different planet.

13: Long Before 377, The First Gay Rights Protest

In 1992, a conference on AIDS and health care was hosted in New Delhi, but it didn’t engage with the health of men who have sex with men. And that’s when it became the site of the first protest for the rights of gay men.

14: The First Queer Anthology

Queer psychologist and arts administrator Rakesh Ratti put together the first ever anthology of South Asian gay and lesbian experiences. It was published as “Lotus of Another Colour” in 1993. Says Ratti of the book: “If this book were on the shelf, it would have shown me that being gay was not at conflict with being Indian, that the two could coexist.

15: Finally, Room For Queer Women

The ‘90s also saw the emergence ‘women-loving-women’ in India. This was when activist and academic Gita Thadani set up Sakhi, a women’s helpline and lesbian resource centre which facilitated cross-country networking between queer women.

16: A Conflict Of Politics

While LGBTQ people had managed to stay under the radar for the most part, it was in 1994 that someone with political clout actually expressed their contempt. A communist activist named Vimla Farooqi wrote to the then Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao to stop a gay men’s conference in Bombay.

17: More Organising!

In the same year as Farooqi’s letter, the Humsafar Trust was founded in Bombay, by none other than Ashok Row Kavi. One of the oldest LGBTQ organisations, it started out doing HIV/AIDS prevention advocacy, and today does various outreach programmes for the entire LGBTQ spectrum in several Indian cities.

18: India’s First Gay Film

“BOMGaY”, a 12 minute long film starring Rahul Bose and author R. Raj Rao, among others, was made in 1996. It follows several storylines of queer Indians living in ‘Maximum City’, and even though it was never released commercially, it remains an important part of queer cinema in India.

19: Writing Lesbian Desire

In 1996, Gita Thadani published “Sakhiyani: Lesbian Desire in Ancient and Modern India“. In it, she explores the “erotic bonding between women in ancient India“, also looking at what has become of female sexuality in contemporary times.

20: Bringing Queerness Into Campuses

In 1997, while lawyer and activist Arvind Narrain was still a student, he spearheaded the first LGBTQ rights seminar in National Law School of Bangalore, opening up the discussion on queerness in a new and public setting for the first time.

21: Dial Q For Help

In 1997 two separate helplines and support networks were set up for LGBTQ Indians in crisis – Sangini, based in New Delhi, for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, and, similarly, Humraz for queer men.

22: Lesbian Love Sparks Hindutva Violence

In 1998, the Shiv Sena vandalised theatres that were screening Deepa Mehta’s “Fire” in Goregaon, Mumbai and Regal Cinemas, New Delhi. Instead of intervening and restoring order, Maharashtra’s then Chief Minister Manohar Joshi responded with: “I congratulate them for what they have done. The film’s theme is alien to our culture.” But this violent outburst only prompted queer women to come together and advocate for their rights.

"Fire" film poster

23: Housing Woes

Just as religious and ethnic minorities or people from certain economic classes are routinely denied accommodation by prejudiced landlords and homeowners, so too were trans and gay Indians. That’s why between 1998 and 1999, G.H.A.R (that’s Gay Housing Assistance Resource) was founded in Bombay by Sachin Jain. It set out to help LGBTQ Indians find safe living spaces, without having to worry about constant discrimination, from landlords and other tenants. Operations moved onto Facebook in 2012 and are still in full swing!

24: At Long Last, It’s Time For Pride!

Calcutta holds India’s first ever ‘Gay Pride Parade’ in 1999. Called the Calcutta Rainbow Pride, it had only 15 people marching, but still sent a big message to the country – we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re proud of it!

25: A Lesbian Manifesto

Queer women in India have always been far more invisibilised than queer men. And in 1999, a Delhi-based organisation called CALERI (Campaign for Lesbian Rights) decided to address that issue. They released a manifesto titled “Lesbian Emergence” which pretty much broke the silence around the lives of queer women.

26: Queer On The Dance Floor

In the late nineties, dance culture slowly began to evolve as a community building and networking activity among LGBTQ people in India’s metropolitans. In 1999, a discotheque named Soul Kitchen in Delhi hosted the first “gay night”, giving members of the community the chance to meet each other in a safe space where they can be themselves.

27: More Power To Queer Women

Efforts to grow the community of queer and ‘women-loving-women’ in India continued through the ‘90s. It was at the turn of the century that Sappho for Equality was founded in Kolkata, as a space for queer people assigned female at birth. The organisation runs a range of programmes from study circles, to crisis intervention, to sensitivity training in medical colleges and much more.

28: Lesbian Lit

Facing the Mirror: Lesbian Writing from India” published in 1999 became an important bit of literature that increased visibility for queer women in the country.

29: The Fight Against 377 Begins

It was 2001 when Naz Foundation and The Lawyer’s Collective filed the first petition against Section 377, asking for it to be read down, on the grounds that it was discriminatory to queer people, and also hampered HIV/AIDS intervention programmes.

30: And Continues

It was still 2001 when LGBTQ people in Mumbai staged a silent protest against Section 377, outside the city’s iconic Flora Fountain, indicating a new phase in public demonstrations for LGBTQ rights.

31: Transgender Woman Becomes A Mom

In 2001, going up against all odds, Mumbai-based trans activist Gauri Sawant adopted Gayatri, the orphaned daughter of a sex worker, and puts her through school and college. A recent ad by Vicks tells her story, and how she destroyed the idea that trans people can’t be parents.

32: Political Representation

In 2002, Kali became the first hijra person to stand for elections in Bihar. She was elected as ward councillor to the Patna Municipal Corporation.

33: The Second Public ‘Coming Out’

Despite family pressure, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of Rajpipla came out of the closet in 2002, and became the first openly gay prince in India. Soon after this, he made appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and set up the Lakshya Trust, which is dedicated to HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention.

34: Coalition For Queer Rights

In 2003, the multi-organisation group called Voices Against 377 was formed. One of the first things they did was publish the report “Rights for All: Ending Discrimination Under Section 377”. The 60-page document extensively covers issues like sexuality and mental health, human rights violations, sex reassignment and more.

35: The ‘Gay Novel’

In 2003, author R. Raj Rao (remember him from BOMGaY?) penned India’s first gay romance novel. It was called “The Boyfriend”.

36: Growing The Community

Orinam (meaning “one kind” in Tamil) was founded in Chennai in 2003 as “a support, cultural and activist space”, and is still the most prominent LGBTQ collective in Tamil Nadu. From organising film festivals to reading groups to the city’s Pride march, Orinam has worked hard to boost queer visibility in the state.

37: LGBTQ Activism In Full Swing

By 2004, the community became increasingly organised and was ready to take the fight for equal rights out in public. Voices Against 377 launched the Million Voices Campaign to collect one million messages on sexual rights in India.

38: The Murder Of Pushkin Chandra

In 2004, 38-year-old Pushkin Chandra, the son of a retired IAS officers, along with his partner Kuldeep Singh, were murdered in cold blood. Chandra himself was found with 11 stab wounds. The incident not only brought homophobic violence to the public’s attention, it also brought members of the LGBTQ community together to fight it. It took until 2010 for Chandra’s murderers to be given life sentences.

39: Public Opposition To 377

Back in 2006, India’s influential elite sent an open letter demanding that Section 377 be scrapped. Among these were people like author Arundhati Roy, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, poet Vikram Seth, and journalist Rajdeep Sardesai.

40: Gay Marriage

In the absence of marriage equality, the Humsafar Trust’s Goa wing began organising same-sex marriage ceremonies for people in the coastal state. While not legally recognised, these unions (which took place in 2006) were symbolic and also very affirming for many same-sex couples in India.

41: The Roots Of 377

In 2008, LGBTQ-rights campaigners in India released a statement on how colonialism and the oppression of queer Indians worked hand in hand. They said: “We call on the British Government to apologise for the immense suffering that has resulted from their imposition of Section 377.

42: Learning To Be Proud

The first ever Pride Marches in New Delhi and Mumbai were organised simultaneously in 2008. The two metropolitan cities saw a large and encouraging turn out, and it set the pace for the years to come, as Pride only grew bigger and brighter.

43: Pride Goes South

Organised by the Chennai Rainbow Coalition, a network of local LGBT+ and ally groups, holds its first Rainbow Pride Walk on June 28, 2009. With members of various LGBTQ groups in attendance.

44: A New Hope

The result of efforts by the Naz Foundation in 2001, the Delhi High Court passes a landmark judgement on July 2, 2010, by reading down Section 377 of the IPC. In effect, it granted equal rights to those seen as ‘sexual minorities’, and was one of the most affirming moments for LGBTQ Indians.

Aligarh (Hindi-2016)

45: The Death Of Prof. Siras

In 2010, Ramchandra Siras, a professor of Marathi in Aligarh Muslim University, is suspended from his job, after the college authorities find him guilty of ‘gross misconduct’. While with his male partner, Prof. Siras’s home was invaded by unknown assailants who filmed him and threatened him with blackmail. Though he fought this injustice in court, Prof. Siras died an unexplained death, and six persons suspected of murder were arrested.

46: Queer On Film

The year after the High Court decision proved to be a productive one for the community. The Kashish Mumbai Queer Film Festival – which is today one of India’s largest LGBTQ film fests – was first launched in 2010, with the support of Bollywood actor Celina Jaitley

47: Queer Literature

It was also in 2010 that the Queer-Ink publishing house was launched by entrepreneur Shobhna S. Kumar. Apart from publishing queer fiction, it also provides educational resources and crisis intervention services for LGBTQ Indians.

48: Stigma Reinforced

While he was the Health Minister in 2011, Ghulam Nabi Azad publicly decried homosexuality as a disease, only furthering negative stereotypes about queer people, and pathologising non-heterosexual sexual identities.

49: Rainbows On The Airwaves

The country’s first queer-oriented radio project was launched in September 2013. Called QRadio, and based out of Bangalore, it “voices the advocacy, activism and lifestyle dialogue of the LGBT community.”

50: Recriminalising Homosexuality

In 2013, LGBTQ Indians looked on in anguish as the Supreme Court overturned the Delhi High Court’s progressive judgement on Section 377, in effect reinstating the colonial law all over India. It was a massive blow to the community – especially for those who came out of the closet after 2009, and found themselves vulnerable in a largely homophobic nation once more.

51: Right To Love

In protest against the Supreme Court’s decision, out-and-proud author Vikram Seth posed for India Today’s cover, with this important message:

52: Pride Goes East

Even as the community reeled from the Supreme Court’s decision, Guwahati held its first Pride walk in 2013, and we saw the LGBTQ community in the North East states move to make its presence felt.

53: The Fight For Trans Rights

2014 became a defining moment for positive legislations for the transgender community. It started in April, with the National Legal Services Authority judgement to formally recognise trans people as the ‘third gender’ on official government-issued documents. It was in December that same year that the DMK’s Tiruchi Siva presented the private member’s bill in the Rajya Sabha, called Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014.

54: Sorry, Mr. Nabi, You Were Wrong AF!

In February 2014, the Indian Psychiatric Society released a statement saying homosexuality is not a disease, and that it did not recognise it as one.

55: Surprise From The New Health Minister

In April 2014, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan made an unexpected comment about equality, saying: “Everybody, including gays, has human rights. It is the job of the government to protect their rights.” This was one of the first ever statements on the subject from a BJP minister.

56: Towards Inclusive Campuses

From August 2014 onwards, Delhi University began releasing admission forms which included the “third gender” category to improve education access for trans students.

57: LGBTQ Lives On TV

Satyamev Jayate aired an episode on “Accepting Alternate Sexualities”. Hosted by Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, the episode is broadcast nationally and delivered an important message to all. After it was aired, the show’s team also released a booklet containing personal narratives by trans and queer Indians.

Image source: Amit Pant/ILF Samanvay 2015

58: The First Transgender Principal

Manabi Bandhyapadhyay became them first openly trans college principal in 2015. She held the post at Krishnanagar Women’s College for a year and a half until she decided to resign, citing mental pressure when, as she said, “All my colleagues went against me, as did some students.

59: Trans Representation In Politics

The same year that Bandhyopadhyay made history, over in Chhattisgarh, Madhu Bai Kinnar made history too, after being elected as the first trans mayor of Raigarh.

60: Third High Profile Coming Out

Radhika Piramal, the managing director of VIP Industries (Asia’s second largest luggage makers) came out of the closet, also talking about her marriage to her female partner in the USA.

61: Queer Pujo

For the very first time, transgender artists in Kolkata get together to create Durga Puja idols, include figure of Ardhanarishwara, an important emblem for the trans community in India.

62: An Illustrated Queer Anthology

Late in 2015, Gaysi Magazine published a first-of-its-kind illustrated anthology about queerness, featuring colourful, moving, powerful artworks from over 30 artists.

63: Still Fighting 377

In December 2015, parliamentarian and opposition party politician Shashi Tharoor prepared a private member’s bill to amend 377, but it was shot down even before it could be presented in the Lok Sabha.

64: Trans Visibility

In February 2016, Trans activist and Mitr Trust founder Rudrani Chettri began crowdfunding for a special project – India’s first trans modelling agency. The idea was to change the way the world perceives trans and hijra people, how they perceive themselves, and create the opportunity to pursue a career, instead of being pulled into sex work or begging in order to survive.

65: Pride Continues To Spread

The first Gurgaon Pride March was held in July 2016, bringing queer politics and visibility to Millennium City.

66: Making Allies Out Of Parents

One month later in August, the Humsafar Trust, in collaboration with the online platform LoveMatters, launched “Strengthening Bridges”. Having identified how deeply families affect the development of LGBTQ individuals, this special manual was meant to sensitise parents and counsellors.

67: Forks, Knives, Queer

By October 2016, the Chez Jerome-Q Café opened in New Delhi as the city’s first LGBTQ cafe, “where people come, converse, laugh, let their hair down — knowing this is a safe place for all.

68: Dating In The Time Of 377

Amour, a queer dating app, was launched in 2016 to address some of the issues that other dating apps for queer people left unanswered. The service promised to personalise its matchmaking to suit the personal needs of each user, and keep in mind intersecting identities like disability, spoken languages, gender and sexuality orientation.

69: An Ambitious But Diluted Bill For Trans Indians

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill (first presented by Tiruchi Siva in 2014), set out to institute several important provisions on non-discrimination, access to education, healthcare and also the right to self-determination. However, by the time it was passed in 2016, the bill kept getting diluted, provoking deep criticism from trans activists.

70: Here Comes The Church

In November 2016, Caritas India – the social service wing of the Catholic Church – stated its willingness to help the transgender community, including employing them within their own organisation.

71: Transphobia Continues

Despite efforts to sensitise the public about the trans community, various incidents of violence against trans and hijra people keep getting reported. In November 2016, a trans social worker named Tara was murdered in Chennai. This was sparked an outbreak of protests in various cities.

72: A Show With A Gay Protagonist?

In a significant first, “All About Section 377”, an LGBTQ-centric web series, was granted permission to air on national television. By the end of 2016, it was given a primetime spot on Good Times, the lifestyle channel by NDTV.

73: Trans Led Empowerment Projects

In December 2016, West Bengal-based activist Sree Ghatak Muhurry launched a talent platform for the LGBTQ community in Kolkata, to encourage folks to get into the arts and other creative careers.

74: Access To Education

Kerala-based Trans activist Vijayaraja Mallika set up India’s first ever school for transgender people. Called the Sahaj International, it was inaugurated in Kochi on December 30, 2016. It enrolled a class of 10 older trans people who were kept out of school, either due to bullying, lack of economic resources, or other pressing circumstances.

75: Trans Radio Jockey Wins Big

In 2016, RJ Shilok received the National Community Radio Award for her show “Colourful Kamanabillu”. At just 21 years old, she is the only active trans radio jockey in India, using her platform to raise awareness about LGBTQ issues, racism and more.

76: Camera Love

As 2016 began winding down, photographers Sunil Gupta and Charan Singh released “Delhi: Communities of Belonging” featuring over 150 photographs of LGBTQ Indians. The project was a showcase of queer love, of LGBTQ activists, of what it means to be on either side of the closet doors, and more.

Harish Iyer

77: Getting Creative With Protests

In December last year, a few bars in New Delhi and Mumbai imposed a random ban on queer male-male couples on the occasion of New Year’s Eve. Mumbai-based activist Harish Iyer launched the #GayWellSoon campaign, against these homophobic decisions. Inspired by the film “Lagey Raho Munna Bhai” he and others sent roses to these bars, asking them to change their mindsets.

78: More Queer Cafes!

At the start of 2017, Amra Odbhuta opened as Kolkata’s first LGBTQ cafe, where “queer and trans voices get together, laugh, perform and celebrate identities.”

79: Censorship Strikes

In February 2017, Delhi-based musician and Friends of Linger frontman Sharif Rangnekar went head to head with the CBFC after it gave his music video an “A” rating, simply because it featured a same-sex couple. The good news is that Rangnekar eventually won the fight!

80: The Government Says Gay Is Okay?

In February 2017, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare unveils a kit to promote good health and wellbeing, and – to everyone’s surprise – says that homosexuality is natural.

81: The First LGBTQ Silent Film

Throwing it back to the romance of silent films, Faraz Arif Ansari directed “Sisak”, a film about two men who fall in love with each other while on the Mumbai local. The 20-minute long film, which was completed in February 2017, has also made its way to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, and is currently being screened in various Indian cities.

82: Censorship Strikes (Yes, Again!)

In March 2017, the Central Board of Film Certification issued a notice banning Jayan Cherian’s “Ka Bodyscapes”, because of its LGBTQ-oriented characters and content. But despite this, the director has decided to fight back.

Jayan K. Cherian's film Ka Bodyscapes
Jayan K. Cherian’s film Ka Bodyscapes

83: Queer Women Represent!

It’s March when Asmita Sarkar became the first openly lesbian woman contesting elections at Jadavpur University. This was a major step for queer visibility on campuses, which still have to do a lot to be inclusive of various identities.

84: Getting Parents Involved

Again in March, a special programme in Mumbai encouraged parents to take up the rainbow flag and learn how to become allies of LGBTQ youth, forming a first-of-its-kind support group.

85: Gay Marriage 2.0

In April 2017, Manjit Kaur Sandhu, a government employee from Punjab, married her same-sex partner in a traditional Indian wedding, with supportive friends and family in attendance. This, despite the fact that marriage between two people of the same sex is not legal.

86: Pride In The North

It’s rainbow flags, dancing and singing – the whole shebang – in the city of Lucknow, as the LGBTQ community holds the city’s first ever Pride march in April.

87: Trans Recognition In Manipur

In a big step that same month, the Election Commission of the North East state recognised Sandra Serto Nandeibam, a trans woman, as a woman on her voter documents. Because trans women are women, and they should be able to identify as such!

88: Bathroom Access

Many trans people in India have reported that they were afraid to use public washrooms in case they were harassed. Some even made it a point not to drink water during the day so they didn’t have to relieve themselves. So, in a decision that is distinctly opposite to the bathroom bill debates in the USA, the Ministry of Water released a circular in April on ensuring equal bathroom access for trans people. This was a bid promote a non-discriminatory environment, and ensure good health and sanitation for trans people.

89: Employment For Transgender Women

In May 2017, the Kochi Metro made the bold decision to hire 23 transgender women. They even released a moving ad campaign featuring these employees. Unfortunately, as DailyO reported, eight of the hired employees had to resign. Says Sheetal Shyam, who was hired as a ticket officer: “Though there are many vacant houses for rent, the owners refuse to hire it out to us. We’re forced to stay in lodges coughing up over ₹600 per day.”

90: Pride Is Infectious!

The first Bhopal Pride was held in May 2017, and attended by trans activist Kalki Subramaniam and #GayWellSoon ideator Harish Iyer.

91: Improving Literacy For Trans People

Systematically kept away from educational opportunities, there is a new programme for disadvantaged members of the trans community in Kerala. The Kerala State Literacy Mission, launched at the start of June 2017, said it will hold classes for transgender school drop-outs in Kollam, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Thrissur, Kollam, Kozhikode, Kottayam and Thiruvananthapuram.

92: Trans Is Beautiful (India Edition!)

Queen of Dhwayah’ was inaugurated as the first beauty pageant for trans women in Kerala. Like Chhettri’s modelling agency, the idea is to change the negative perceptions people have of trans Indians. It was held in June 2017 in Ernakulam. In attendance was K. K. Shailaja, the state’s Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment.

93: Trans Representation In Law

In July 2017, trans activist Joyita Mondal was appointed to bench of the National Lok Adalat (an alternate legal redressal mechanism) in the Uttar Dinajpur district of West bengal. And it’s major step for the community to have a representative in a state body like this.

Each of these 91 developments perhaps only scrape the surface of LGBTQ history in India. That history is always in motion, still largely in unwritten, but looking back at the struggles and the positive developments definitely gives us the push we need to keep going forward. And, perhaps most significantly, knowing it all roots us to each other and the fight for justice and equality.

This article has been updated on July 14 2017 with inputs from Deepan Kannan and L. Ramakrishnan of Orinam. Did we miss something? Tell us in the comments!
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  1. Mimo Koushik

    Firstly I want to thank and congratulate the author of this article for doing this amazing job to document the history of queer movement in India. I just want to bring your attention to Sathrangi, an initiative that we have taken in 2016 and I’m writing on behalf of Sathrangi team. Sathrangi is the considered to be the first ever Trans-Feminine Indian livelihood venture to create livelihood options for trans and women from marginalised section of society. Sath-rangi means both rainbow of life and colouring life together. Through this initiative, led by Transgender women and supported by women from different cross section of excluded communities like from red light area, trafficked survivors, women farmers from Sunderban are creating products that will empower their lives by creatively engaging the and economically empowering them. The most tragic aspect of their life is that the mainstream society is reluctant to accept them as human beings. They are deprived of the right to education, employment and decent livelihood.
    The team Sathrangi also knocking the doors of corporate, industrialists, businessman and making them trans /queer friendly. The whole initiative was started on june, 2016 and it’s first exhibition was held on 16th of August, 2016.
    Currently 7 transwomen and 15 women from marginalised section from different districts of West Bengal are making handicrafts products for Sathrangi.

    on 26th April, 2017, we had a coming together of important personalities and most importantly cross section of youth to discuss “How to break Livelihood Discrimination against Transgenders and Excluded women” and also to celebrate second public showcasing of “Sathrangi”!

    On that day, Honourable Chairperson of West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights Ms Ananya Chakraborti, Honorable Vice Charperson of West Bengal Minority Commission Maria Fernandes, Consulate General of American Centre, Kolkata, Mr. Criag Hall, other diplomats of American Centre, Honourable Chairperson of Kuthchina Foundation Mr. Namit Bajoria, Celebrated Designer Ms. Agnimitra Paul , Reputed Surgeon and Health Entrepreneur Dr Satadal Saha, Respected Members of Transgender Development Board , Govt of West Bengal Aparna Banerjee and Ranjita Sinha were present in a panel discussion at Lincoln Room, American Centre, Kolkata.

    Dr Satadal Saha, co-founder and CEO of Sirona Hospital group and CO-founder and director of JSV Innovations were present at the event on 26th April. During panel discussion he promised that he will take at least two transgender person as paramedical staffs in his hospital and they will get a training before joining.

    Industrialist Namit Bajoria, Director at Bajoria Appliances Pvt Ltd – ‎Bajoria Appliances Pvt Ltd (Kutchina) and director of Kutchina Foundation confirmed that he will also support this community for their uplifting in various means. Kutchina Foundation is working for women empowerment in 5states of eastern India and now they take trans women issue into their consideration. And also give them job in his company. He made remarkable comment during panel discussion, “do we as Kutchina discriminate against lgbtq customers ? to me whoever buys my product is my client . Thus to me disc renaming transgenders based on their identities doesn’t even appear . If you have skills you are my workforce.”

    On 14th June, Sathrangi achieved another milestone. For the first time probably in India, School for skills Allied Health Science, Unit of JSV Innovations Pvt. Ltd provided admission to two transgender beauties Jiya Das (+919153187451) and Debdutta (Debdan) Biswas (+917685962908) their School for Allied Heath Sciences , completely free of cost (course fees 62,000 INR), to skill them up and employ in their series of Hospitals across Bengal as Nursing Staff! this historic day would have never been possible without tireless efforts and follow up by Sathrangi.

    We are really thankful to Dr Satadal Saha, co-founder and CEO of Sirona Hospital Group, who kept his promise he shared on the dias at Lincoln Room at American Center a month back at the Sathrangi event and opening their door to transgenders. Sathrangi’s attempt to break the livelihood discrimination on Transgenders for mainstream work and also the notion that Transgenders are not interested to work in mainstream is successful achieved today !

    Sathrangi feels that these beginning will snowball into more employers, both private and public, opening their doors for transgenders. We hope what started in August last year in our freedom month and reached its peak on the NALSA Judgement month, soon will take a historic shape with each and your support and our humbled effort.

    I will be interested to share more if you need.

    Rainbow love
    Founder of Sathrangi
    +91 9874270546

  2. Swati Moitra

    This is a great list, but I wish you had included the first out candidate contesting in any university election in the country. His name is Gourab Ghosh, and he was a candidate for the SFI in the JNUSU elections. At the time, this caused quite a stir, and some vicious homophobic slander campaigns as well. He did not win the election, but it is a moment well worth speaking about.

  3. Abhishek Jha

    Hey, great content there.
    Keep up the good work.
    Good luck.

    Have a look at my article :

  4. URL

    … [Trackback]

    […] There you will find 97007 more Infos: […]

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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