The LGBTQ community has a long recorded history in Ancient India due to the prevalence of the accepting Hindu spiritual traditions and cultures across the subcontinent, with a turbulent period following Islamic and European colonialism that introduced homophobic and transphobic laws, thus criminalizing homosexuality and transsexuality. In the 21st century following independence, there has been a significant amount of progress made on liberalizing LGBTQ laws and reversing the homophobia and transphobia of the previous colonial era.
Hinduism provides a wide breadth of literary and artistic sources showing LGBTQ life in Ancient India. Hinduism does not have explicit morals condemning homosexuality nor transsexuality, and has taken various positions on the topic, ranging from containing positive descriptions of homosexual characters, acts and themes in its texts to being neutral or antagonistic towards it. The concept of sexual minorities was widely known in the prevailing Hindu culture by the time Gautama Buddha founded his philosophies, and homosexuality was also thought to be viewed positively in Buddhism
The Kama Sutra is an ancient text dealing with kama or desire (of all kinds), which in Hindu thought is one of the four normative and spiritual goals of life. The Kama Sutra is the earliest extant and most important work in the Kama Shastra tradition of Sanskrit literature. It was compiled by the philosopher Vatsyayana around the 4th century, from earlier texts, and describes homosexual practices in several places, as well as a range of sex/gender 'types'. The author acknowledges that these relations also involve love and a bond of trust.
The author describes techniques by which masculine and feminine types of the third sex (tritiya-prakriti), as well as women, perform fellatio. The Second Part, Ninth Chapter of Kama Sutra specifically describes two kinds of men that we would recognize today as masculine- and feminine-type homosexuals but which are mentioned in older, Victorian British translations as simply "eunuchs." The chapter describes their appearances – feminine types dressed up as women whereas masculine types maintained muscular physiques and grew small beards, mustaches, etc. – and their various professions as masseurs, barbers and prostitutes are all described. Such homosexual men were also known to marry, according to the Kama Sutra: "There are also third-sex citizens, sometimes greatly attached to one another and with complete faith in one another, who get married together." (KS 2.9.36). In the "Jayamangala" of Yashodhara, an important twelfth-century commentary on the Kama Sutra, it is also stated: "Citizens with this kind of homosexual inclination, who renounce women and can do without them willingly because they love one another, get married together, bound by a deep and trusting friendship."
After describing fellatio as performed between men of the third sex, the Sutra then mentions the practice as an act between men and women, wherein the homosexuals' acts are scorned, especially for Brahmanas. (KS 2.9.37)
The Kama Sutra also refers to svairini, who are "independent women who frequent their own kind or others" (2.8.26) — or, in another passage: "the liberated woman, or svairini, is one who refuses a husband and has relations in her own home or in other houses" (6.6.50). In a famous commentary on the Kama Sutra from the 12th century, Jayamangala, explains: "A woman known for her independence, with no sexual bars, and acting as she wishes, is called svairini. She makes love with her own kind. She strokes her partner at the point of union, which she kisses." (Jayamangala on Kama Sutra 2.8.13). The various practices of lesbians are described in detail within the Second Part, Eighth Chapter of the Kama Sutra.
The Arthashastra, a 2nd century BCE Indian treatise on statecraft, mentions a wide variety of sexual practices which, whether performed with a man or a woman, were sought to be punished with the lowest grade of fine. While homosexual intercourse was not sanctioned, it was treated as a very minor offence, and several kinds of heterosexual intercourse were punished more severely.
Sex between non-virgin women incurred a small fine, while homosexual intercourse between men could be made up for merely with a bath with one's clothes on, and a penance of "eating the five products of the cow and keeping a one-night fast" – the penance being a replacement of the traditional concept of homosexual intercourse resulting in a loss of caste.
A large number of erotic artwork dipicting homosexuality can be found on numerous temples throughout India, including Khajuraho temple sculptures built in the 700s, and the Sun temple in Konark built in 1200s.
See also: Hijra (South Asia) and Kothi (gender)
In the opening passages, a lovesick Dinkar Prasad is likened to Majnun by the narrator as he flops into a chair reciting a sher to articulate, yet encode, his grief. Manohar Chandra, another friend, attempts decoding with chher chhaar, teasing him in Banarasi Hindi. When Dinkar commends his verse, Manohar exclaims: "Has your fine lady, Urdu, been defeated[…]?" Later, an adolescent boy, Ramesh, appears at the door, and Dinkar darts off. Manohar duly informs the narrator that Ramesh is Dinkar’s chocolate – the object of his romantic-erotic affections – before launching on a tirade to deride his same-sex desire: "He’ll sift through history, finish off the Puranas, and prove to you that love of boys is not unnatural but natural." In this brief overture, Ugra condensed competing linguistic, ethnic, and cultural assessors of homosexuality.
‘Listen,’ Firaq told "the respected Critic" in the article, ‘are you aware of Socrates’ autobiography, and his relationship with Alkibiades? Are you aware of Caesar’s love affairs? Do you know what Walter Pater has written about Winckelmann in his book The Renaissance or what Edward Carpenter has written in his books Friendship’s Garland, The Intermediate Sex and Civilization. Its Cause and Cure? What about the life of this esteemed author? Sir, are you aware of Shakespeare’s Sonnets and their motives? Do you know of Walt Whitman and his poem ‘To a Boy’? Have you heard Sappho’s name? Do you know the meaning of lesbianism? Do you know of the refined and pure book called The Well of Loneliness? Do you know of D.H. Lawrence and his works? And of Middleton Murry’s Son of Woman? Do you condemn all these to fourteen years in jail? What punishment would you give Tennyson for writing ‘In Memoriam’ because recently some researchers have brought to light his homosexual feelings and statements?’
You shall not love or make love with the person you love, not because of excessive youth or because of unwillingness, but because he or she comes from a different religion, a different caste, the same village, the same gender. You may say you love each other, that you are happy with each other, that you give each other solace and courage and delight, but your love disgusts me. It runs counter to custom, it is an offence in law, it is against the order of nature, it brings dishonour to our family, it will dilute our blood, it will bring about kali-yuga, it will corrupt everyone around you, it is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. It must be forbidden. You may say you love each other, but I do not care. No, I cannot turn away and simply let you live your life in peace and happiness. I must do something about it. I will indeed do something about it. No, you have not harmed me, but I will harm you. I will disown you, I will treat you with contempt, I will make you an outcaste or a criminal, I will lock you up. I will break your legs, I will fling acid in your face, I will hang you from a crane, I will stone you to death. If the mob helps me, so much the better. If the law helps me, so much the better. If I can wrap myself in a flag, so much the better. If I can drape religion around myself, so much the better. But by one means or another, I will tear the two of you apart. It is fit and proper that I should do this. I will do this because my Clan tells me to, my Panchayat tells me to, this Book tells me to, this Section of this Act tells me to, Civilisation itself tells me to, God himself tells me to. No appeal to reason will touch me. No appeal to humanity will touch me. No appeal to Indian history or modern science will touch me. My brain is a science-free zone. My brain is a history-free zone. My brain is a fact-free zone. This, at its core, is a simple matter. My love is right. Your love is wrong.
It was in this warped atmosphere of endless hierarchies and domination that I first became the target of male desire manifested as sexual abuse. In my second year at Doon School, a huge prefect called Nutty began tormenting me. Nutty was notoriously crazy, hence his nickname. Though I did my utmost to avoid Nutty, there was no escaping him in the second half of the day, after classes ended and we returned to our common residential house. Unfailingly, several nights a week, instead of studying after dinner like my other classmates, I would do an unending series of somersaults on Nutty’s orders. "Oaay, do you know what a pansy is?" Nutty once asked in his rough voice. I kept my eyes down. "Yes." "Are you a pansy?" Everyone laughed. I said softly but defiantly, "No, I’m not a pansy." "You’re a pansy, you madarchod (motherfuc*er), and you want me to chodo (fuc*) you," Nutty yelled. "You want to give me a blowjob, you pansy! Here, come here, suck it!" This time there were guffaws from his admiring audience. I felt utter hatred for him. I wanted to kill him.
Pawar and Patil met each other on a local train six months ago and became friends; soon Patil, who was unmarried, started visiting Pawar at the latter's house in Dombivali and they had a homosexual relationship. When Pawar got married, he started avoiding Patil, he said, leading to the souring of their relations. On February 4, Patil visited Pawar when his wife was not at home, and they had a quarrel. Pawar allegedly strangulated Patil and stuffed his body in a bag and dumped it in the bushes by the side of the railway tracks, the police officer said.
One of the first things most people ask when someone comes out to them is "When did you first know?" Through my teenage years in high school, I just knew I was a little different. When I was about 15, I was drawn to this rather cute-looking boy in class. He probably noticed me looking at him and decided to 'teach me a lesson' in the only manner young boys know. He surrounded me with some of his close friends and pushed me to the ground, holding me by the neck, while uttering some expletives and probably, that was the end of it. The physical violence was not brutal - far from it - but it most likely drove home a message - a wrong message - but one that gay kids the world over learn from such incidents of bullying: that what I was feeling was 'wrong', 'bad' or 'sick', and if I continued to heed those feelings, it could provoke much worse violence - and so it was best to 'conform'. That is probably why I went through my late teens and early 20s without feeling anything close to what can be called romantic attraction or love during my years at the National Defence Academy (NDA) and Indian Military Academy (IMA). By my mid-20s, when those feelings started slowly resurfacing, I started understanding that I was gay. I struggled really badly to accept myself - and the hyper-straight world of the army only made it that much more difficult for me. However, by my late 20s, after months of drinking and wondering and questioning why I was different and crying myself to sleep over it, I finally came to terms with myself and accepted myself for who I was.
Dosanjh told HT that he and Puttichanda bonded over their Indian culture, shared values, and how both overcame day-to-day challenges. They even helped each other through some intensely emotional days along the way. It also provided them with a fresh perspective on their relationship, which made them realise that they’re meant to be. So, finally, they made the promise to be with each other forever and tied the knot in two types of traditional Indian ceremonies on September 25–26, 2020.
The prevalent stigma around LGBT people often promotes Rape culture or non-consensual sexual violence. The LGBT people who have been abused as a child and adult years restain to report complaint in the police station because of phobia and lack of proper law facility. The rape culture also leads confusion regarding ones sexual orientation in their teenage and adult years. For, example male child raped by male, female child rape by female, or vice-versa, may suffer from the prejudice of thinking they are gay, bisexual, or heterosexual. Some may be homosexual but choose heterosexual life, some may be bisexual but choose gay life, or some may be heterosexual but choose homosexual life. Hence, they end up in a life-long cycle of stress, trauma, hatred, and vengeance. Even though, Indian Psychiatric Society and World Health Organisation have repeatedly warned that sexual orientations are natural and normal, corrective rape culture is promoted in India.
A 21-year-old bisexual student from Kerala Anjana Hareesh decided to end her life on May 12, 2020, in Goa. She stated in a Facebook video posted in March that her parents forced her into physical abuse, medication, and 'Conversion therapy'. Equal Rights activist Harish Iyer, calls the death of Anjana is a "nasty reminder" of the phobias that exist in society. Speaking to The Quint, Iyer calls Anjana a "victim of bi-phobia."
Sexuality is just a variation and is not an aberration. So what are you trying to convert? It is important that you convert yourself – which being unknowledgeable about sexuality to come to a path of knowledge and wisdom where you understand that two people who love differently are not people who are variants or deviants or anything of that sort. They just love differently.
A sixteen-year-old teenager Arvey Malhotra from Delhi Public School, Greater Faridabad jumped off the fifteenth-floor building on February 24, 2022, leaving a suicide note, "This school has killed me. Specially higher authorities... tell ninna and bade papa about my sexuality and whatever happened with me. And please try to handle them… You are wonderful, strong, beautiful and amazing." Arvey mother Aarti Malhotra said, "By 9th grade, things worsened. He came home panicking & breathing heavilyhe’d read a chapter about bullying which triggered him. He confessed, ‘The boys in my class blindfolded me and made me strip. I can’t take it anymore’; I was shocked; my son’s bullies became sexual assaulters. The school refused to take action; they failed us. It broke my heart. We visited multiple therapists. He was diagnosed with depression & lost his interest in art. In 10th grade, he got diagnosed with dyslexia, studying got difficult for him; his boards were round the corner." On July 6, 2022, Aarti Malhotra shared a post on Instagram quote, "I lost my son, I need justice I really need your help to spread the word, there are no sensitisation training in schools for gender expressions, I lost my son to bullying. I need justice for Arvey." The post crossed 1 million likes and people offered support to her from everywhere.
Adam Harry became India's first transman trainee pilot assisted by the Kerala government was forced to deliver orders for Zamato citing hormonal therapy and gender dysphoria makes Adam "Unfit" to fly. Adam who wanted to pursue a career in aviation enrolled himself in the Lanseria International Airport in Johannesburg and secured a private pilot license. Later, in 2020, the Kerala Government sanctioned an amount of 23.34 lakhs to Adam to support his dream of flying by getting him enrolled in the Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology in Thiruvananthapuram. Adam filed a petition to which the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment calls to the DGCA that its decision to deny a transgender person a commercial pilot licence was discriminatory. Further, the Ministry concludes that it is violative of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.
During the 80s when there was less awareness regarding HIV/AIDS the Yale University student Siddhartha Gautam returned to India after completion of his education and Founded ABVA (AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan) including members like Arun Bhandari, Dr JP Jain, Jagdish Bhardwaje, Lalitha SA, Dr PS Sahni, and Shalini SCN. In 1991, the seven members of the ABVA published a 93-page report titled, Less Than A Gay: A Citzens' Report on the Status of Homosexuality in India.
Many people deny that homosexuality exists in India, dismissing it as a phenomenon of the industrialised world. Others acknowledge its presence but condemn it as a capitalist aberration, a concern too individualistic to warrant attention in a poor country like ours. Still others label it a disease to be cured, an abnormality to be set right, a crime to be punished.
Gautam who was an active member gave a new shape to AIDs activism and LGBT rights passed away after a long battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, at the age of 28. In 1994, the ABVA filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Delhi High Court challenging Section 377. On 4 November 2019, Yale University honoured Gautam with Brudner Prize.
On June 2020, Nazariya QFRG organised Our Lives Our Tales (OLOT), a series of talks by queer people who fought battles for the queer movement. In conversation, Shals Mahajan, the founder of LABIA: A Queer Feminist LBT Collective, talked about how they had once came across an article in the newspaper about a gay conference at SNDT Women’s University and connected with the then director to put her in touch with ‘other dykes’. A young and brash Shals, as they recall themselves to be, would not take no for an answer and eventually got Aarti’s number. Aarti and Sakina were the known lesbian women in 1995’s Bombay, through which others connected. After organising a small meetup at Aksa beach, the group soon began ‘Stree Sangam’. Networking with Forum, India Centre for Human Rights and Law, and others that were not seen as queer, helped relax their anxiety of being outed. Stree Sangam also organised the first national retreat in Bombay, in 1996, followed by a second in 1998. Friends from Delhi and Kolkata joined in. A 1999 Anandabazar Patrika article on Malobika and Akanksha resulted in more than three hundred and fifty letters from women to the postal code shared. Soon enough it was a team of 30 people responding to these letters and on June 20, 1999, Sappho was formed in Malobika and Akanksha’s ten by eleven square feet of a room. Simultaneously, Fire was re-released.
Saleem Kidwai and Ruth Vanita co-edited and published Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History which became a landmark for the historical judgement of 2009 and 2018 de-criminalisation of penal code 377. Ruth was a fellow researcher at Delhi University and met Saleem during the 90s movement decided to recollect the old lost history of queer people. Kidwai himself was a fellow student and later a professor of history at Ramjas College, University of Delhi until 1993. On Monday, August 30, 2021, at the age of 70 Kidwai died of cardiac arrest. In, To Saleem Kidwai: A letter to a friendship, Sunil Gupta pens down,
We talked a lot about where one could live as a gay man at that time, and you opted to live in India and make a difference while I found it impossible to go back and live in the closet. I never thought I’d be writing this to you. I didn’t think our friendship would get cut off so brutally and without any warning. From so far away all I can do is write this letter to you. When you came down to New York to meet me in 1975 from your time at the Islamic Institute at McGill University, Montréal, we instantly recognised that we were gay but of quite different flavours. You are very shy and reticent about joining the gay scene whereas I was already out and loud and proud. I was determined that you should join me in our liberating quest. It seemed at the time that we were the only two out gay men of Indian origin that we knew. You went back to teach history at Delhi University, and I didn’t manage to visit you till 1980. We became very close as you helped me in my quest to visualise Indian gay men. After five years of British art schooling, I had not been able to find any mention of them and it had become my overarching goal to locate them in the canons of art history. You were my informant and also my muse and appeared in my earliest pictures at a time when nobody else would. Together we cruised the parks and parties of gay Delhi hoping to meet like-minded men in search of gay liberation. We talked a lot about where one could live as a gay man at that time, and you opted to live in India and make a difference while I found it impossible to go back and live in the closet. We exchanged letters and postcards and occasional phone calls and sometimes even managed to meet in person in London or in Delhi. Then in the 1990s you began to research the work of excavating the hidden history of same-sex love in India along with Ruth Vanita, a fellow scholar at Delhi University at the time. The resulting book, Same Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History, became a vanguard for South Asian queer studies in academia around the world. It also became the historical backbone of the movement to overturn Section 377, the law that criminalized homosexuality in India. I returned to Delhi in the early 2000s when you helped me make a video on AIDS for the University of Southampton in the UK, about the local situation. You put me in touch with the Lawyers Collective, and the local queer community in Delhi, and helped make what eventually became "A World Without Pity". The scene was changing rapidly, and you encouraged me to return to live in Delhi and [you would stay with me when you visited the city where you taught for over 20 years]. By now, you had established yourself back in Lucknow, where you had gone to make a base for your academic research work away from the social hubbub of Delhi. There, you translated several books from Urdu to English. I made a book too, "Pictures. From Here" and we exchanged them. Making books became another thing that brought us together. In 2009 we were proved wrong that we would never see the anti-gay law changed in India in our lifetime. We celebrated and we partied, and we had a great flat to do that in. We were both single and you revelled in that: you were quite happy to be single and gay. I had a number of disastrous but entertaining internet dates that you were witness to. But then you were also witness to my meeting the man who would become my husband eventually. This led to more conversations about whether queer people should get married or not, whether I had sold out the old gay liberation politics. It became difficult to live as a married and gay man in Delhi, so I returned to London, and you returned to your books in Lucknow. You, of course, remained a champion of our original gay politics that critiqued the accumulation of capital and hetero-normative family life as the source of patriarchal oppression in India. We had to make do with fleeting annual visits to see each other. I would keep turning up with the latest photo book I had made, and you had proudly given me a whole shelf to fill. Just the other day, we spoke about how I would soon be on my way to meet you clutching my latest book to add to your shelf. But now that will never be as I woke up this morning to the sound of my phone pinging endlessly to the messages from India announcing the news of your passing. You broke my heart my friend by leaving me so soon, but I will love you forever.
Vanita, a professor at the University of Montana, shared that her dedication to Kidwai in a book, Gandhi’s Tiger and Sita’s Smile (2005) best encapsulated how she remembered him: "They have seemed to be together, though absent; shook hands, as over a void; and embraced, as it were from the ends of opposed winds." In his 2019 book Gay Icons of India, the poet Hoshang Merchant rightly calls Saleem Kidwai "indisputably the intellectual voice of India’s gay history, especially its Urdu literature and Muslim life," and refers to his "courtly manners". He also says that Kidwai is "still very attractive to young men."
The world is full of paper. Write to me.
Agha Shahid Ali, Stationery
Agha Shahid Ali and Saleem Kidwai were one of two friends back in the 1990s both were deeply moved by Begum Akhtar. They used to attend her concerts (Mehfils) and collected memories. Essayist Shohini Ghosh write in The Wire
Saleem loved Hindustani Classical music and his most cherished collection was devoted to Begum Akhtar, who had left a profound impact on him. Saleem and his close friend, the poet Agha Shahid Ali, had formed a close friendship with Akhtar. They were mesmerised by her singing and would make it a point to attend as many of her concerts as possible. She too developed a great affection for them and looked forward to having them in her mehfils. When the mehfil was over and the guests had left, she regaled them with stories about her life. The famous singer with her tawaif lineage and the two queer men, who like her had to live many lives, forged a deep bond. Saleem not only possessed every audio-cassette of Akhtar’s that had been released but had a large collection of his own recordings of her private concerts. After Akhtar died in 1974, he photocopied photographs of her from newspapers and magazines and made them into jackets for the audio tapes. It was a loving and painstaking curatorial feat. ...Similarly, I could never persuade him to write about his days with Agha Shahid Ali in Delhi. Shahid’s family had a longstanding relationship with Jamia Millia Islamia and Saleem’s family. He was also a frequent visitor to the MCRC, where two extensive interviews had been recorded with him. It was therefore fitting that when Shahid passed in 2001, his memorial was held at the MCRC with Saleem as one of the organisers.
Agha taught at University Of Utah. To commemorate his contribution the University of Utah awards the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry every year.
Bhupen Khakhar painting You Can't Please All was called the "Coming Out" art collection painted in 1981 by his contemporary Timothy Hyman. At a time when sensual and same-sex relationships were taboo, his painting reflected pride, colour, and liberation. The British painter Dexter Dalwood, who lived in Baroda between 1985 ad 1986 and knew Khakhar, has written of You Can’t Please All:
The naked figure on the balcony is internally separate from the society depicted, and yet at the same time, absolutely a part of the complex life which makes up the contradiction that is modern India. This way of combining complex emotional feelings, within an image which attempts to present a whole nervous-system, I find to be incredibly inspiring – and liberating. (Hyman 1998, p.67)
In 2000, he was Awarded Prince Claus Award at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. In 2018, at Sotheby's auction in London, his painting became the highest selling at 22.5 crores.
Through love’s great power to be made whole
In mind and body, heart and soul—
Through freedom to find joy, or be
By dint of joy itself set free
In love and in companionhood:
This is the true and natural good.
To undo justice, and to seek
To quash the rights that serve the weak—
To sneer at love, and wrench apart
The bonds of body, mind and heart
With specious reason and no rhyme:
This is the true unnatural crime.
Vikram Seth, 2013
During the gay liberation movement in the 2000s poet and novelist Vikram Seth became a prominent voice of LGBT people. In 2013 when Supreme Court re-criminalised section 377, Seth appeared on India Today's magazine cover protesting, "Not A Criminal: To not be able To love the One you love is to have your life wrenched away."
On 2 July 1999, when Delhi was headed by AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan (ABVA) Kolkata saw a new pride when 15 friends including, like, Ashok Row Kavi, Nitin Karani, Pawan Dhall, Owais Khan and Rafique-Ul-Haque-Dowjah-Ranjan walk the streets of Kolkata to its final destination George Bhavan meeting NGOs members and raising their issues and concerns. But that day no one was so proud to walk and even give pictures to newspapers. Few members who were comfortable came forward and the news became the headline. Until the quiet case of beaming pride of 1999 and 2014 Kiss of Love protest, 2018 became life for people living in uncertainties of life, love, and death. The Delhi Queer Parade 2018 showed more love and support. Indeed the two-decade movement was never an easy road:
Twenty years later, the walk which was started by 15 people, has expanded dramatically with 1000 to 3000 people participating in the Pride walk from different parts of the country. What happened after thirty years of the ‘Stonewall Riots’ in India, and specifically in Kolkata which led the way for the first Pride March in the city? The other question that arises is the mobilisation of 15 people at a time when there was no social media or mobile technology. Today creating a Facebook event and sharing messages in WhatsApp groups and among community friends have become easy to bring people into one safe public space. But the same was not feasible twenty years back. It was in February 1999 that the idea of queer pride walk was first pitched at the "Yaariyan" conference that took place in Hyderabad by the queer activist Owais Khan. The primary motivation was to create visibility for the queer community, for which it was named ‘Friendship Walk, 99’ to make it sound more inclusive and welcoming. Pawan Dhall, a long-time Queer organiser in Kolkata, thinks that calling the march as LGBT Pride March "might seem to be too overt". Again, calling it as a "Human Rights March might be too diffuse". Thus, the term ‘Friendship Walk’ sounds "innocuous, un-militant and welcoming." In those days, due to the lack of mobile phones and social media apps, Queer meetings happened via telephone and Yahoo group messengers, where the planning and discussions for a Pride Walk amid the city were conducted with loads of anticipation and anxiousness. Further, the walk took place in the same tenure soon after the controversy around the film ‘Fire’ in 1998-99, which also spur the Queer movement in India. Deepa Mehta’s film stormed theatres with many angry protesters agitating against the movie and demanding its ban on its release and shows. At that time, Kolkata was few of the last cities which was left alone and where such troubles were not taking place. The year 1999 also witnessed the establishment of Sappho, a support group for lesbians, bisexual women and trans men in Kolkata, the first in Eastern parts of India. All these steps were taking place simultaneously, which therefore paved the way for the first organisers to take on the Friendship Walk in the city.
|Agha Shahid Ali||1949-2001||Indian Poet||G|
|Abhina Aher||b.1977||Transgender Activist||T|
|Manish Arora||b. 1973||Fashion Designer||G|
|Anjali Ajmeer||b. 1995||Actress||T|
|Apurva Asrani||b. 1978||Filmmaker and Screenplay writer||G|
|Pulapre Balakrishnan||b. 1955||Economist||G|
|Gautam Bhan||b. ?||Writer, Researcher, and Queer Rights Activist||G|
|Dutee Chand||b. 1996||Indian Athlete||L|
|Bobby Darling||b. 1974||Actress and Television Personality||T|
|Dr Prasad Raj Dandekar||b.?||Radio Oncologist||G|
|Tista Das||b. 1978||Actress and Trans Rights Activist||T|
|Gazal Dhaliwal||b. 1982||Screenwriter||T|
|Pawan Dhall||b. ?||Queer activist, archivist, researcher and writer||G|
|Sidharth Dube||b. 1961||Memorist||G|
|Pablo Ganguli||b. 1983||Director||G|
|Sonal Giani||b. 1987||Movie Actress and Senior Technical Advisor Diversity & Inclusion at IPPF South Asia Region||B|
|Menaka Guruswamy||b. 1974||Senior Advocate||L|
|Siddhartha Gautam||1964-1992||lawyer, AIDs Activist||G|
|Manvendra Singh Gohil||b. 1965||LGBT and AIDS Activist||G|
|Harish Iyer||b. 1979||Columnist,activist,blogger||G|
|Navtej Johar||b. 1959||an Indian Sangeet Natak Akademi award-winning Bharatnatyam exponent and choreographer.||G|
|Anurag Kalia||b. ?||IIT Graduate and Software Engineer||G|
|Ashok Row Kavi||b. 1947||Indian journalist and LGBT rights activist||G|
|Bhupen Khakhar||1934-2003||Indian Painter||G|
|Saleem Kidwai||1951-2021||Medieval historian, Professor||G|
|Bindumadhav Khire||b. ?||Social Worker, Short Fiction Writer||G|
|Shobhna S. Kumar||b. ?||Publisher Queer Ink.com, the first online bookstore||L|
|Agniva Lahiri||1979-2016||Indian LGBT social activist|
|Gopi Shankar Madurai||b. 1991||Indian equal rights and Indigenous rights activis||I|
|Leena Manimekalai||b. 1980||Indian filmmaker, poet and an actor.||B|
|Shabnam Mausi||b. 1955||Member of the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly||Born (I), T|
|Joyita Mondal||b. ?||Member of a judicial panel of a civil court and a social worker||T|
|Onir||b. 1969||Indian film and TV director, editor, screenwriter and producer||G|
|Akkai Padmashali||b. ?||Transgender Activist and motivational speaker.||T|
|Devdutt Pattanaik||b. 1970||Mythologist, Historian||G|
|Radhika Piramal||b. 1994||Executive vice chairperson, VIP Industries||L|
|Aishwarya Rutuparna Pradhan||b. 1983||Civil Servant||T|
|Padmini Prakash||b.?||News Anchor||T|
|Vasu Primlani||b.?||Comic Artist||L|
|R. Raj Rao||b. 1955||Novelist||G|
|Sridhar Rangayan||b. 1962||Gay rights Activist and Filmmaker||G|
|Sharif D Rangnekar||b. ?||Author, Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI).||G|
|Wendell Rodricks||1960-2020||Fashion Desinger and Author||G|
|Parmesh Shahani||b. ?||Head, Godrej India Culture Lab||G|
|Anwesh Sahoo||b. 1995||Indian artist, blogger, writer, model, actor and a TEDx speaker. He won Mr Gay World 2016.||G|
|Gauri Sawant||b.?||Social Worker||T|
|Vikram Seth||b. 1952||Novelist||B|
|Keshav Suri||b. 1985||Executive director of The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, Businessman||G|
|Rose Venkatesan||b. 1980||Talk Show Host||T|
|Gautam Yadav||b.?||Queer Activist||G|
In every historical event, the shape of written letters plays a major role to bring the highlighted issues to the front page. In the wake of the gay liberation movement literary magazines, clubs and coffeehouses, books and articles became the only source of hope and expression for members.
The purpose of protecting oneself continued even after independence. It was during the rise of the Communist party ideology that the language was revived again. As the contemporary political scenario was totally different, people were more open to new ideologies. This gave birth to a phenomenon called the "Red Rose Table". In the early 1970s, a table in the Indian Coffee House situated in Mohan Singh Place, Baba Kharak Singh Marg of Connaught Place, was chosen as a mode of identity. But it was no longer a domain for hijras alone, the whole LGBT came together to discuss about identifying themselves in seclusion with the usage of Farsi. It was then the modern form of Farsi became the mode of communication. Very interestingly, as "Red" represented the colour of Communists, onlookers usually considered that probably they were discussing something political. Most of their discussion forums were socio-cultural and psychoanalytical. This developed in a very fast pace but soon disappeared with the emergence of the new term AIDS during the 80s. Soon this "Red Rose Table" became a historical past. But with the impact of globalisation, the socio-political scenario in India changed drastically and Delhi being the capital city of the country, the consequences were so vividly rapid. One such consequence was the emergence of cyberspace. People who were first or second language speakers but considered to be educated and learned, gradually stopped venturing into cruising areas. So the usage of Farsi saw a big blow from the educated LGBT people.— Dr. Himadri Roy is an Associate Professor in the School of Gender and Development Studies, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi.
The writer and researcher on gender and sexuality issues, Pawan Dhall, who is the guiding spirit of Varta, and his friends had started Counsel Club in 1993. It wound up in 2002 after nine years. Counsel Club had revived the queer journal, Pravartak, in 1993 (it was first brought out in 1991-92), and it ran till 2000. It carried analytical articles, short stories, poetry, first person stories and interviews - whatever was happening in the LGBT world. Its content was in English and Bengali (occasionally in Hindi as well). Sexual health work and gender, as well as sexuality and diversity were its primary concerns. Counsel Club managed to bring together hundreds of people. One important discussion in Pravartak was on how Bengali literature reflected the LGBT world. In the pre-Internet era, Pravartak was like a connecting link for queer people spread across India and abroad.
During the 90s, Ratti moved to Atlanta to begin graduate studies in psychology at Georgia State University. After three years in 1993, Ratti collected and transcribed interviews of 50 South Asians and published them in an anthology named Lotus Of Another Color. Though Ratti wanted someone to contribute and write about LGBTQ South Asian experiences; no one was willing to. Later, Ratti describes, "If this book was on the shelf, it would have been shown me that being gay was not at conflict with being gay, that the two could coexist". During his early years in Atlanta that Ratti helped cofound the Atlanta Trikone group.
An early — and funny — contemporary memoir was Firdaus Kanga’s "Trying to Grow," written in 1990. Based on his own life, Mr. Kanga’s book told the story of a Parsi boy called Darius, nicknamed Brit because his bones are so fragile. (Kanga has osteogenesis imperfecta.) Darius finds love much later in his life. As Mr. Kanga wrote: "In all the time I was growing up I had never heard anybody talk about homosexuality. I certainly knew no gay men, except in the sublime stories I found and read — those by James Baldwin, E M Forster and Iris Murdoch."
His work was adopted in a movie Sixth Happiness.
Arvind Kala one of the authors in the 90s brought himself onto the literary scene by interviewing 112 gays, Invisible Minority who bares the world of the Indian homosexual. Though the book explicitly makes the path of the gay liberation movement, it was lost and forgotten. Much is unknown about author Arvind Kala, except the book he brought to the public.
Lawyer and Author Arvind Narrain was the prime member of the representing lawyers who challenged Section 377 of the IPC right from the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court in 2009. When 2018 the judgement was approached again in Supreme Court, Arvind didn't hesitate to become part of a liberation movement. Arvind has authored books Queer: Despised sexualities, law and social change, 2004 and co-edited Because I have a Voice: Queer Politics in India, Yoda Press, with Gautam Bhan, Yoda Press, 2005 and Law like love: Queer perspectives on law, Yoda Press, Co-edited with Alok Gupta et.al., Yoda Press, 2011. and Nothing to Fix: Medicalisation of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity with Vinay Chandran, counsellor and Executive Director of Swabhava Trust, Bangalore, a non-governmental organisation working with issues related to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and similar (LGBT) populations.
Mahesh Dattani is one of the playwrights during the 90s who talked about the theme of homosexuality, betrayal, violence and shame in his plays, Bravely Fought the Queen (1991), On a muggy night in Mumbai (1998), and Do the Needful (2013) . In an interview, Dattani said,
You can talk about Feminism because in a way that is accepted. But you can't talk about gay issues because that's not Indian, that doesn't happen here.
|500 BC||The Hindu epic of Ramayana describes Hanuman witnessing two homosexuals engaged in intimacy on the island of Lanka.|||
|[600 BC to] 100 BC||The Pali canon is written, inscribing the words of Gautama Buddha stating that sexual relations, whether of homosexual or of heterosexual nature, is forbidden in the monastic code, and states that any acts of soft homosexual sex (such as masturbation and interfumeral sex) does not entail a punishment but must be confessed to the monastery. These codes apply to monks only and not to the general population. The Pali Canon was largely written in Sri Lanka but based on the words of Buddha in India.|||
|200s||The Kama Sutra is written describing various homosexual acts positively.|||
|300s||Tamil Sangam literature refers to relationships between two men and explores the lives of trans women in the Aravan cult in Koovagam village in Tamil Nadu.|||
|1500s||During the Mughal Empire, a number of the pre-existing Delhi Sultanate laws were combined into the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri, mandating several types of punishments for homosexuality, up to stoning to death for a Muslim.|||
|1500s||The Goa Inquisition by the Portuguese criminalizes male homosexual sex throughout Portuguese India.|||
|1791||Homosexuality was decriminalised in the French Indian territories of Pondicherry|||||
|1861||The colonial government of British India impose Section 377 criminalizing all homosexual sex throughout British India.|||
|1871||The British labeled the hijra population as a "criminal tribe"|||
|09/2018||The Supreme Court of India repeals colonial-era law criminalizing homosexual sex|||
|08/2022||The Supreme Court of India provides LGBTQ with family rights and live-in couple rights equal to that of married couples|||
|01/2023||The leader of the far-right Hindu Nationalist RSS advocates in favor of LGBTQ rights|||
Walderman Hansen doubts whether sensual passions played any part in their love [sic]; puri doubts about their homosexual relationship
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