From Poetry To Politics, This College Campus Queer Event Was A Smash Hit!

Posted by Ruth Chawngthu in Campus Watch, Gender & Sexuality, LGBTQ
February 7, 2018

Nazariya, Project Voice+, and Karma Center for Counselling & Wellbeing kicked off the year “twenty-gayteen” on the 27th of January with the aptly named event ‘Rainbow State of Mind’, which aimed to provide a safe space for the Indian queer youth and allies to interact and discuss how sexuality affects all aspects of our lives including our mental health. Needless to say, the event involved a lot of planning, organizing, some minor squabbles, and a LOT of stress.

Ideation for the event started in December, 2017 when Siddhi Pal the founder of Project Voice+ asked us if we’d like to collaborate with them for an event. We were really excited about the concept because considering the fact that mental health and queerness are taboo topics in India, we believed an event that seeks to challenge societal attitude towards both would tie up perfectly with Nazariya’s goals. We also collectively decided to invite Karma Center for Counselling & Wellbeing to conduct a workshop so that queer people who otherwise don’t have access to mental health care would get a chance to familiarize themselves with the kind of help that is available and the rights that they have.

After two months of planning, we finally executed the event with the help of South Asian University coming through by not only providing their hall but also refreshments for the attendees. The aim of the event was to bring together people from diverse backgrounds and make them engage in conversations that would continue even after the event concluded. For this, Siddhi put together a colourful panel consisting of me, Rudrani Chettri from Mitr Trust, Shambhavi Saxena from Youth Ki Awaaz, and Ipsa James and Ruchika Kanwal from Karma. Queer slam poets Uppa Tsuyo and Angana Sinha Ray also graced us with their beautiful poetry and so did the various participants at the open mic. Diversity and representation, we believe are vital components in events like ours because it’s the voice of the marginalized that needs amplifying the most.

“Rainbow State of Mind was personally a much awaited event,” says Zohya Bakshi, a Nazariya LGBT volunteer. “It allowed me to interact with diverse people from the community and share personal stories. I connected with the poetry on an emotional level and smiled all through the day. It has become one of the most memorable experiences for me.”

One of our other members, Devyani Mahajan, says, “I think events like Rainbow State of Mind have the power to create ripples in status quo. The three hours weren’t time bound, the audience learned more about the community as a whole. Along with having a variation in the age groups of panelists and performers we also had members from the different orientations and identities which is what made this event special.”

This was Nazariya’s first major event and part of the reason we agreed to the collaboration was to prove to everyone (and to our followers especially) that we’re not just a bunch of kids who goof off online. We wanted people to be aware of our seriousness when it comes to the cause and to let them know that despite being only a five-month-old alliance, we are capable of executing more events like RSoM.

Our main objective has always been to provide a safe space for the queer youth and women which the current Indian LGBT+ scene lacks. In Nazariya, we also believe that advocating for LGBT+ rights should essentially involve action which is why we’ve always been vocal about our political stance and participate in petitions as well as protests.

“As our first event, the sheer love that we received, the warmth, the unhindered acceptance of every single individual- just really made a truly safe space,” says co-founder Shruti Appalla. 

With Rainbow State of Mind, we were able to materialise our ideology into action. We had a lot of fun making the ‘bold’ (we think?) promos and interacting with so many new faces at the event. The event also helped burst our bubble and exposed us to a stark reality- from an established international organization flaking out on us last minute to a misogynistic conduct from some fellow activists. It made us realize that as a youth alliance with an all-women core team, and as newcomers to the queer scene we definitely have to work harder to be taken seriously. The queer community and even the gender equality initiatives are not all as they claim to be but are burdened with prejudice and partiality and this needs to be effectively dismantled.

“More than an official event, it felt like a place where people could be who they are and speak their heart out,” says Saamiksha Tangri from our alliance.

We noticed that our event had a lot of ‘outsiders’ stepping in alone and leaving with new formed friendships which is what all queer events should be rather than being about our own little cliques.

Through the event, we’ve realized that the youth are open, willing to accept change and that allies are just as willing to fight for our rights. It is therefore extremely vital to make our events more youth-friendly and organise our Prides keeping the youth in mind too because we are as much if not more willing to turn our words into action.

All photos courtesy of the author.