Sunday, December 4, 2011

Slutwalk police permission revoked.



https://www.facebook.com/notes/slutwalk-bangalore-the-official-portal/a-note-of-victory/303434233020408

I'm copy-pasting the most important bitsfrom Dhillan Mowli's note below, but you should click the link above to read the whole thing.

I’m home today after a very long and very hard day. Amongst the many emotions that the events of today rile up, a sense of victory stands tall. Today was a day of victory. I met with the Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order), Mr. Suneel Kumar, at 3:00 P.M. in the afternoon; he was warm and receptive to the cause and only asked me to ensure that no “untowardly incidents” happen at the march. I gave him my guarantee (obviously enough) and walked out with a sense of nervous anticipation. 

 At 8:15 P.M. we get a call from the Police Commissioner’s office saying that our permission has been revoked. Why? Because of “security concerns” they said. Mr. Suneel Kumar, informed my mum (who has also been helping with organizing) that the BJP, RSS, Ram Sene and other organizations had aggressively protested against the march happening. Many of them had apparently even communicated in the tone of threatening violence if the march went on. And hence, just as we were at the printers getting the last of the banners printed out, SlutWalk Bengaluru was brought to a crude halt.
 ...


 Now let’s visit the issue that SlutWalk actually tackles – Victim Blaming. We were made an example of the very issue we sought to fight. Instead of providing us with the security we needed, the police decided to put the onus on us as the “ones who are attracting trouble”. True there may be “undesirable” elements, true there may be people wanting to cause trouble and true the risks may be many more. But the solution is not to shut down a perfectly legitimate movement that addresses an issue that has landed our country’s reputation at the bottom of the global barrel. The solution is to beef up measures and ensure that such “undesirable elements” do not obstruct a peaceful protest. Don’t punish the victim, punish the criminal. Don’t brand those protesting against Victim Blaming as a “Law & Order threat”. Blame those who think it’s NOT ok to protest against victim blaming.

And for an upcoming superpower” such as ourselves, it is truly pathetic that all we look for is the smuggled tantalism of skimpy clothing in a movement whose true aim is to protest the act of blaming a victim of sexual assault. Burqa, salwar, sari, jeans, shorts, hot pants or a skirt; it doesn’t matter. It never did. The word “Slut” was simply a play on irony, something that is clearly lost on many of our extremists. We had 22,172 reported cases of rape in 2010. That amounts roughly to 1 rape every 34 minutes and 1 case of molestation every 26 minutes. 571 reported rapes of children under the age of 10. The conviction rate is 26.6 %. And this is just for rape, not any other form of sexual abuse. In the face of figures like that, it’s appalling that these “upholders of Indian culture” think they can tell me how to dress and how to behave, when i choose to protest for my right not to be blamed for a sexual crime committed against me. What they have done is not sent us back with our tails between our legs, but instead taken on an underdog that will chew their rancid mentality and spit it out for good.

You know, I went to the first Slutwalk meeting and then decided that I wasn't going to be able to work with them - the people in charge had styles that put my back up. SR went along a little longer, but stopped for much the same reasons - well, worse, because they'd had time to pile up.


Some of us dislike the Slutwalk campaigns because it's sensationalising, because reclamation is never an entirely successful project, and often not at all, because being sex positive needn't mean being publicity positive, because the Slutwalk campaign as it is a structured does not lend itself with ease to class/caste/race solidarity,


But one of the essential principles from the outside remains worth while - we can wear what we like on the streets and still have the right to not be raped. Our clothing is not someone's excuse to hurt us. We don't rape ourselves. Someone else does that, and then pretends that we deserved it, the way someone is sent to jail after being convicted in court for murder/robbery - and yes, rape.

People looked at the methodology of the march, and proved the Slutwalk point - they will blame us, shut us down, pull out the time-exploited phrase "Indian culture", threaten us with physical harm - all to stop us from openly, collectively, powerfully taking responsibility for ourselves, and denying responsibility for the actions of others.


We've just come out of Pride Week - which went off very nearly without a hitch. The police walked with us, talked with us, did crowd and traffic control with us. We spoke to reporters and were on tv, and in the print media. I was speaking to AC about this and she said"it's safer to be gay in this city than a slut" - which basically means it's not safe to be a woman, at all.


Well fuck them. Fuck them all. I'm out tomorrow in high heels and low necklines, 'cos I wanna, and they can't stop me. And if they try, it's on them, and not on me.

<looks for pepper spray and camera>

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Poster/Accessories making, Bangalore Pride 2011


Assemble at the Swabhava office on the 17th of November, 6:30 pm onwards. We're making posters, hats, bands, you name it! All the things we make will be worn on the 27th, during the Pride March. If you're not sure you're up to volunteering for entire events, but want to pitch in anyway, this is a great place for to help out and express yourself at the same time. (This is also a safe zone for people who're not sure about being out in public - you don't have to feel left out!)

If you miss it, don't worry! There will be a second workshop on the 23rd of November, at ALF, from 2 pm to 6 pm. :)

Be there and be queer, people!




Saturday, November 5, 2011

In memory of Famila.


So, the Programme in Memory of Famila is happening on the 6th, this Sunday, at 5 pm. Famila was a woman who did crucial work for queer women - trans, lesbian, bi - in Bangalore. I'm making it a part of the WHaQ! Sunday meeting agenda.

The programme is the official agenda of the WHaQ! meeting. I'll open the office at 4, and stay there till 4:45 - anyone who wants to come but doesn't know the way to 1 Shanti road can come to the office and we'll go together. Others can meet us directly there.

We can do dinner after, for those who don't want to come to Famila's programme but want to meet the WHaQ! group in any case.

Here's the original invite, from the CSMR list:


Dear Friends,

We invite you for this program.

Organised by
Friends of Famila

A PROGRAM IN MEMORY OF FAMILA
Organized by friends of Famila
Famila, a radical feminist, very active in queer politics, a Hijra who questioned all forms of hierarchy and feudalist patriarchal systems within and outside the community, a beautiful person who brought in new visions and aspects to queer politics died in the year 2004 when she was 24 years.
Famila identified herself as a Hijra, sex worker, bisexual and a feminist. She was a board member of Sangama, an organization working for the human rights of sexual minorities, an active member in Vividha, an autonomous collective of marginalized sexualities and genders. She was also working in Sangama as a project coordinator for Hijras and transgenders.  Her everyday life itself was a challenge to the hetero-normative patriarchal society. Many people during her time boasted about communal living but never succeeded. She was a real example for communal living, as there were many people who lived in her house. It was a house of marginalized sexualities and genders. This shows that she not only identified herself as Hijra but also respected and accepted different sexual and gender identities in its real meaning.
Famila was born on 6th November 1980. She was the first person to go against her own community to accommodate all queer identities, especially the female born sexual minorities, in her house providing shelter.
Famila was well known for her clear, straightforward and radical articulation of the struggle of marginalized sexualities and genders in many conferences and programs. She took a lead role in organizing the 2nd Hijra Habba in Bangalore through the autonomous collective Vividha, mobilizing more than 2000 people for the program and collecting funds from public to fight for the rights of marginalized sexualities and genders.
Unfortunately, she passed away in 2004 July, at the age of 24. There has been a huge loss to the work that she planned to do and also that kind of radical politics. For friends of Famila she is not dead and is very much alive for many of us in our memories. A few friends of Famila from last year have started celebrating her birthday in her memory to keep her radical politics alive.
We are organizing a program in memory of Famila on 6th November 2011 at the 1, Shanti Road, Shantinagar, where her friends will share their experiences with her and some footage will be shown about her. People who would like to share their experiences about the interactions with her are most welcome to do so.  
Speakers – A.Revathi, Shakun Mohini and Chandini
Venue – 1, Shanti Road, Shanti Nagar, Bangalore - 560027
Date and Timings – Sunday, 6th November 2011, from 5 PM to 7 PM

Monday, October 24, 2011

WHaQ! Sunday meeting, 24th October, 20011

No cookies for me today, I had assistance with the door.

Six people showed up, including the newbie who could only stay for five minutes. 

A brief summary of what we talked about:

  • The Pride Mela. As always, contact me if you want to volunteer or contribute, or any of the others mentioned in the initial call-out. (Here's the larger Queer Pride list, if you want to do something not-mela related for the Pride.)
  • Famila. Famila was a "a radical feminist, very active in queer politics, a Hijra who questioned all forms of hierarchy and feudalist patriarchal systems within and outside the community, a beautiful person who brought in new visions and aspects to queer politics died in the year 2004 when she was 24 years." The Friends of Famila are organising a program in her memory on the 6th of November at 5 pm. The venue is 1 Shanthi road. The speakers will be A. Revathi, Shakun Mohini and Chandini.(As an aside, read A. Revathi's The Truth About Me. You won't regret it., I promise you.)
  • Dear Bangalorean Queer Woman: Yesterday's meeting makes me wonder if you do in fact need to be told that spankings can be in an incredibly erotic experience. FYI.
  • The media, and how it is weird.
  • Child adoption in India, what we can do, what we can't.
  • why more WHaQ members hadn't shown up to the meeting. :(
  • All the fun that was had at yesterday's sleepover. (If you were there, you know what I'm talking about.)
  • Money for Pride! We should get Siddharth a huge piggy bank to keep on donation tables. We can put Pride stickers on it, or something. Seriously, look at this pig: how could you let him down?


Sangini (India) Trust calls for volunteer counsellors.


Pasting this from the original Facebook post:
"Have you heard of women who love women, biological women who feel that they are actually men, sometimes more sometimes less, lesbian, bisexual, transgender individuals?

Did you know they exist in every culture, occupation, religion, state, socio-economic class, country, marital status, and race?
In fact, wherever you go, you actually meet women who are attracted to women and/or feel they are trapped in the wrong body.

But why can’t you see them? The reason is that we are often silent about ourselves and our feelings and that makes us invisible. So, we become in a way unseen/unheard of. You will think now, fine, I don’t need to tell everyone about my feelings. Perfectly alright!
But there are times when each one of us needs someone to talk: heart-pain, parents want you to get married, you struggle with your family to be allowed to have short hair, you feel lonely, just need to talk to someone in confidence, or simply want to be linked to a larger community.

For times like these, when you have really no one to talk to there have been counselors around. Sangini Counselors have been talking to women attracted to women and transgender individuals since 1997 over phone, face-to-face, email, etc.

Currently Sangini (India) Trust is looking for volunteers who want to become counselors. Sangini was established in 1997 and was the first organization in India to offer Helpline and Community services to women attracted to women, queer, transgender, lesbian, bisexual individuals.

We are looking for YOU:
Are you a woman who feels attracted to women? Have you been born into a female body but feel that’s completely mis-matched with your actual self, you are actually a man?
Want to make a difference?
Do you enjoy listening to people?
Can spare a few days for training. Thereafter 5 to 6 out of the 168 hours every week?
Have been wondering how to get more people to become part of the community?

What you get in return:
•Intensive training on ‘Counseling skills, ethics, and principles’;
•Exposure to other organizations working on LGBT issues;
•Chance to interact and learn from various senior counselors, trainers and activists;
•A chance to help people who really need your help.

Grab this opportunity to support women attracted to women, lesbian/bisexual/transgender individuals and couples move out of shame and towards pride.

Interested? Write to us at sangini97@hotmail.com and tell us a little about yourself and how we can contact you.
Or
Call at 9810671603 (Monday to Friday, 11am to 5pm)
Deadline for signing up as a volunteer: November 3, 2011
Counseling training: November 12 and 13 (weekend)
Location: New Delhi"
About Sangini: click here and here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pride Mela details!

We are excited to announce that the 2nd annual Bengaluru Pride Mela is scheduled for Saturday Nov 26th, 2011.
 We are looking for:

PERFORMANCES
Skits, magic, dance (Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood, Hip hop, Classical, Latin American, Contemporary), drama, stand up comedy, poetry, etc.  All performance styles are welcome!
Performances should be under 10 minutes long.  Please email your name / the name of your group, along with a sentence description of the performance to Kareem: kareem.khubchandani@gmail.com.  Submission deadline is Nov 10th. 

STALLS
We welcome NGOs and other LGBT friendly organizations, bookstores, arts and crafts, henna artists, tattoo artists, food and drink vendors, florists, gift vendors etc.
If you are interested in setting up a stall, please contact Rohini: romavenkat@gmail.com for further information.  Submission deadline is the 10th of November.

PICTURES
We are hosting a photography competition as part of the pride celebrations.  LGBTQ oriented photos that fit the theme “IN PUBLIC,” are invited for submission.   Interpretation of the theme is open to the photographer.  The winning photographs will be published in India’s queer magazines: Fun, and Pink Pages.
Please email your submissions to Prithvi: prithvijho@gmail.com.  Submissions should include a high-quality digital photograph, photographer’s name and contact info, and a title or one line description of the photo.  Submission deadline is Nov 10th.

VOLUNTEERS
The mela is a big event and we need help making it run smoothly.  If you would like to help out, please email Krishna: krishnapatil22@gmail.com. 

Please do not hesitate to contact any of us for further information about the Mela!

Krishna, Kumar, Kareem, Rohini, Prithvi, and Sam

Quick and Dirty Update about Pride

Life has been kicking my ASS this last week or more, and I'm finally,  almost, free and back, and missing you girls like crazy.



This is a brief summary of what this year's Queer Pride Bangalore will (mostly) look like:

  • November 19th, Saturday - a fund raising garage sale at ALF
  • November 20th, Sunday - a cricket match? I wasn't at all interested, so I forgot, insensitively, that others might be. Will find out and update you guys.
  • November 22nd, Tuesday - Transgender Day of Remembrance - probably a candlelight vigil at MG statue
  • November 24th, Thursday - Hopefully something at the Swabhava office. Maybe Vinay will run a movie? I'm not sure anyone has actually spoken to him about it, so this might not happen at all, and might just be a little bit like a park bench stories thing, except without the park.
  • November 25th, Friday - a panel discussion, but we're not sure what on just yet.
  • November 26th, Saturday - a Mela, with stalls and performances, hopefully to be held at Ravindra Kalakshetra. And after, we party!*
  • November 27th, Saturday - Pride March. As far as I know we haven't got permission for routes for the march yet, though we do have options.

The next planning meeting is on the 19th, next Wednesday, at ALF.  Probably at 6: 30. Everything is still a bit up in the air. I'm  setting up a WHaQ meeting on Sunday, so those of you who want more detailsshould contact me.

And lastly, venally and importantly: donations, we need them! Look at this adorable pig:


How can you resist that?


*Actually, I daresay there will be parties all over the place, but this one will happen after the Mela, so there!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

SlutWalk (?) Bangalore planning meeting

No one actually recommends walking in those heels; they do look pretty, though.



So, the Slutwalk. This is where it started: in summation: a Toronto policeman told a safety class that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."

In the world where we live, we take precautions. We do this for reasons of common sense, or fear, or because our personal styles insect with a life of taking precautions. Sometimes, we don't take precautions. We wear what we want, even if someone is going to say, That's provocative - sometimes because we want to be provocative. We drink, we walk the streets after dark, we have jobs and transport and we take advantage of our ability to move about freely. Sometimes, bad things happen - actually, no, let's rephrase that: Sometimes, people do bad things, and they sometimes do those bad things to us. The basic point of the Slutwalk is this: That the police, the public, the media, the society around us, should not use our attire as reasons to hold us responsible for someone else's actions against us, and further they should use use these as reasons to excuse or validate the actions of our assaulters.

To sum up: don't blame the victim. don't excuse the perpetrator. He is not "like that only". Don't police the victims. Police the assaulter.

It is a sad fact that in a world that is mostly, informally or formally, structured around patriarchal gender lines, a woman can be called a slut for any number of reasons - not all of them having anything to do with her sexual activity. She is rarely called a slut admiringly. She is not given the same admiration, she has not the same coolth - again, I am talking about the application of the label, not her actual behaviours - as a man who, for instance, is a stud, or even a womaniser. We can reclaim the label - we can say, I am happy to dress this way, I am happy to have sex, I am happy to have sex with several people over the course of time - or at once. We can reclaim the label, be proud to be sluts. We can eschew the label - we can say, I am not promiscuous, my clothing, my drinking, my travelling alone, does not mean that I have sex at all or out of careful relationship bounds. But none of this is the central point of a Slutwalk. The central point is this: In a case of assault, the action was not invited. No one asks to be raped.You do not get to excuse the rapist by implying that the woman asked for it, or is at fault for it. The rapist, the assaulter, is the only person responsible for his (and in this sort of case, it is usually a man, and there is room for argument later about statistics and the like) crime, the harm he did.

To repeat: Don't blame the victim. Don't call them sluts and think that the rape, the assault, was bound to happen. Don't blame the victim, don't excuse and validate the assaulter.

In Toronto, women took to the streets, dressed varyingly, "normally", "provocatively", to make the statement that no one asks to be raped, no matter her attire; "Yes" is not merely the absence of "No", that clothing is a superficial message at best, and not about (or just about) a woman's willingness to have sex with anyone in general, or the men who approach her in particular.  They also organised open debates, workshops on gender sensitisation and the like, but the Walk was the Event, the centerpiece of the campaign. Their website is taking forever to load on my browser, but here is the link.  SlutWalk Toronto: BECAUSE WE'VE HAD ENOUGH.

Following the Toronto Slutwalk in April, there have been rallies around the world, with the campaigns spreading to Asia, and now India. Delhi had a walk at the end of July - have a look at the site for the Besharmi Morcha.

Quick and dirty arguments for a "Slut"Walk and against.

But! Now there are people who are hoping to organise a SlutWalk, and satellite activities, in Bangalore. This is the official Facebook Portal for the Bangalore SlutWalk.

The first meeting was yesterday, at ALF. There seemed to be three main initiators: Dhillan Mowli, our own Sowmya, and someone whose name (I am not sure, I am a horrible person!) is probably Shonali.

[Let's ignore all the arguments for and against the campaign having a man in the collective helm for now. Let's also ignore arguments of male privilege, how we don't need a man to validate our voices and choices. It's an argument for later, and a moot discussion until more has been accomplished. Or not.]

[So long as it's not ignored forever.]

Not much has been decided. DM had a truly excessive list of things we could do associated with the walk - plays, street plays, films, photography exhibitions, music events, school and campus outreach programmes, open panel discussions.

It was a fairly long discussion, and I am not going to go through it all. Here are some of the main points, and main decisions we did manage to reach:

  • we're going to avoid a narrative of victimisation. The Walk, and associated events, are to be about our voices and choices, about the appropriate taking and apportioning of responsibility. 
  • we need to figure out precisely what we are targeting: violence in public spheres, private spheres? Violence against women, children? 
  • the concepts of consent - the giving, the denying, the requesting of it. A large part of or concern as feminists, individualists and as human beings is to ensure that people can clearly say, No. Or Yes. Or "Would you?" As women we have the right, and as citizens and social beings we have the duty, to exercise these privileges. We don't, very often. We're raised, conditioned to be nice, to be polite, to not make scenes. But sometimes, it's necessary. Make a scene, darlings, raise your voices. Ask for what you want! Accept what you want that is offered! Give what you want to give! And say No - and let's work on making sure that that No is heard.
  • The school/campus outreach programmes. They need a lot of work, to be structured, to have people who know what the hell they're doing - and if they're not just limited to December, we need more manpower and more training and people with skills. This is not stuff to be trifled with just because we have good intentions.
  • The word "Slut" - is this what we want? Is it context appropriate? Moral policing in India works along different narratives and terminology, with the same final effect. We need to name our SlutWalk something that connects with us in our contexts, without losing sight of our basic goal. This means we want to try to keep it a bilingual campaign, too.
  • Communication, networking with the police and the media. Reminding ourselves and the public that we have instance-specific reasons in Bangalore and Karnataka (remember Mangalore and what started there. Remember the recent Darshan horrors.) to conduct a campaign that speaks out against victim blaming, moral policing and assaulter-excusing.
  • We want this campaign to be inclusive. We do not want a one day spectacle that can be dismissed as "upper-middle-class women dressing up because they want to be able to dress up" - though we want that too. We want all women to be safe on the streets, without fear that they will blamed for being assaulted - this means we need to network harder with people outside of the internet platforms that have informed us of the SlutWalks so far.
Of immediate concern:
  • DECEMBER 4th. We walk.
  • So much of what we need to do begins with figuring out what we want to do, what our specific aims and goals are. We want to be done with that in two weeks or less.
  • We meet again on MONDAY, OCTOBER 10TH, 5 pm at ALF.
That's it for now. There's a lot of work to be done, and a lot of principle to be negotiated. Contact Sowmya or the the Facebook SlutWalk Bangalore Portal for more information or to volunteer!




Monday, September 12, 2011

WHaQ! meeting 11th September

So  it's been a month since we had a proper meeting and yesterday I trudged up to the garage door. IT ALMOST DEFEATED ME. But since I am the heroine of my own story, I prevailed! 

One or two people came and left early. Three or two arrived late, just in time to come with the rest of us for coffee. Two new faces - Hi, guys, it was good to see you! Eight all told, I think.
What did we do?
  • Slutwalk Bangalore - is this a good idea? A bad one? Are we taking part, not taking part?
  • Coming out stories. Always and always, support is always such a lovely surprise, even when you know you're going to be getting it. And sometimes even the people who do not support you, who do not like the life you're going to live, can surprise you. They can detach, let go, even learn to accept. I'm a cynic. I think the world is fulll of horrible things and that even good people can show little chinks of crulty and insensitivity - we're all humna. But sometimes, it is nice to appreciate what some of us have, and hold onto a little hope.
  • Coming out requires a great deal of honesty. But honesty in and of itself is context-specific virtue. Our sexualities are one aspect of our lives, as with everything else. All of us are out there sacrificing one honesty for another, whether we're out or not.
  • Children. Ours. Having them, keeping them, loving them. And vice versa!
  • Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of 9/11. 
  • Underground gay bars around the world. You'd be surprised where you find them.
  • Next's Sunday is games day! The event pages will go up soon.
  • How to tell someone who's just told you he thinks homosexuality is unnatural that you're queer: it's a bad idea. But do it anyway!
  • Lavender Nights. Nothing much has been going on there lately, and probably won't until after November. 
  • Smoking. Apparently queer women smoke more than queer men. The smokers in our group were all, WOOO about this. I was, like,  aw, no! My sexual target demographic is smeely and will die young!
Then we went for coffee. Coffee, as always, was awesome.





Sunday, August 7, 2011

Going back home

"Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness." - James Thurber


How aptly this sums up my first couple of meetings with {WHaQ!}. This may sound odd to you; even dramatic. To me, it's been a long time coming and thank God for support groups like this. And thank you to the 2 lovely souls that helped me find you :-)


I remember calling the helpline a few weeks before the meeting. I had no idea what I was going to say. I wasn't sure who'd pick up the phone and when they did, how would I begin? Should I tell them the truth? Should I use my alias?

I could always start with "I'm calling on behalf of a friend..". But I didn't want to. For once, I wanted to drop this baggage I'd been carrying, all my life. It had worn me down enough. I was tired of pretending to be someone I wasn't. This wasn't about coming out to my family or my inner circle. They knew and supported me. And where they didn't understand, they loved me. Unconditionally. This was about finding support and not trying to do this journey, feeling alone.


After talking to V and R, I was happy. Elated even. But when D-day finally arrived, I was convinced that I couldn't do it. I was uncomfortable and scared. But with guardian angels looking out for me from Hyderabad to NYC, it became less fearful and more probable.


So I decided to go anyway. What was I going to lose? A lot, in fact. If things went horribly wrong as they did, 14 years ago. I still have nightmares from being hounded by blank calls, threats, and the humiliation I endured. And I haven't forgotten the violence that followed. Now, t's an even savvier, ever more intolerable world we live in. I was terrified by the possibilities. By the time I got out of my car, I was sick in my stomach. I was ready to go back. But I didn't want to let fear get the better of me. So I decided to go inside. I was told to look for a large group of women but didn't find anything close except 2 women who were chatting away. Maybe I was early. I stayed glued to my phone screen, sharing updates by the minute when one of the women approached me and asked: "Are you here for the {WHaQ!} meeting?" Instead of being scared or responding with a garbled, "What's that?" or "I've no idea what you're talking about…", I surprised myself by saying "Yes!"


Slowly, people started walking in and as I began to say hello, I realized that for the first time in my life, I was publicly, lesbian. The war that I had raged within was finally over. I met so many people. I found the face that connects to the lovely, clipped, British accent. I talked to so many people.They looked lovely. And genuine. And just out there to have a good time. For the first time in my life, it was okay to talk about Ellen and not see an unwritten question in their eyes. For the first time, it was okay to discuss all things big and small without worrying about whether I'm being judged for my sexuality. I was having such a good time that I was surprised when it was time to leave…I felt lighter. And walked taller.


3 years ago, I was all but broken. And my spirit, crushed. Two life events in the space of 4 months had changed my life, forever. First came the dreaded C that hit me like a freight train. Then came the unthinkable. The break-up of my marriage with my partner of 15 years. Everything I had nurtured and cherished broke into a million pieces. I lived to please her. But she was gone. Just like that. Her timing couldn't have been worse. I was stunned by the low points of humanness.


Today, I'm trying to make peace with myself. Maybe even have a cup of tea with life again. Without being cynical, angry, or afraid. And if I genuinely tried, who knows what can happen. Anything is possible. At least, I've taken the first baby step to going back home.


Monday, August 1, 2011

WHaQ! meeting: 31th July 2011

Small meeting yesterday, 4 women showed up. Funness, and Matteo's after. 


Short summary of what we discussed:


  • A few OBLs ago, we used to screen movies rather more regularly than we do now - something to actively think about doing again? This is a good opportunity to remind those of us who missed it about Deliver Me - D's first movie. We watched it as a group back in June. More of the same? Not every week, since sometimes we do have other agendas - agendae? - but it would be nice.
  • At least one of the people at the meeting is an avid photographer, so there was some technical and thematic discussion along those lines. We didn't discuss this at the meeting, but Gaysi is running a Queer Photo Contest: Queer Tasveer, looking for the best pictures of gaysi love. Click the link to check it out!
  • We talked about lesbian stereotypes - in India, the lesbian stereotype is in fact that she is invisible. Women are traditionally supposed not to have sex drives, and when they are traditionally represented as sexy they are either vamps or they're mother goddesses. If a woman's sexuality is placed at the feet of her man, how on earth is a woman supposed to have a sex drive, a libido, if there is no man there but simply another woman? The simple answer to "Who is the Indian dyke?" is "Whatever we want it to be!" because that stereotypical invisibility works to our advantage here. 
  • Following on from the last point, we talked about being in the closet in straight spaces, and staying in the closet in queer spaces because sometimes other queer women, men, could not be trusted to respect that you might not be out in your professional and other social spheres. If we have the freedom to be whatever we want to be, we have the freedom to be utterly human, and therefore the freedom to be Not Nice as well. 
  • Menopause: The Musical. Just take a look, yo.
  • Is Simi Garewal homophobic? In other new, Karan Johar is a bitch, and we like it.
  • Lesbian weddings! Savita and Beena, whose families declared yesterday that they were willing to reconcile with their lesbian daughters. “Savita's parents as well as mine have accepted our relationship and forgiven us. It was Savita's parents who had agreed initially. Now, my parents too have fallen in line after several media reports. However, my uncle Satbir Singh still has a problem with our marriage and has threatened to shoot both of us," Well, okay. I'm not sure they should leave their fifteen day protection. But okay. We spent some time yesterday wondering about the legality of the marriage, but really so long as it is not challenged in the courts - especially now that the marriage is acknowledged in a Gurgaon Sessions Court - it may not make much practical difference. We'll find out, I guess.
  • We talked about a few other lesbian weddings, specifically Baljit Kaur and Rajwant Kaur. The marriage was melodramatic and troubled - Rajwant left Baljit and Baljit slit her wrists in court. No. Really. The reporting style has changed a great deal in the four years between Baljit and Rajwant's marriage and Savita and Beena's. 
  • Mangalsutras. The round ones, with little dots in the middle. They're breasts. No, don't argue, they are well-shaped boobies with perky nipples. The husband ties it around the wife's neck. He is giving her her sexuality. Okay? Which is tied into her feeding motherhood. 
  • I found a new minion to write on this blog! We are pleased.
Then we left, acknowledging that the garage door was indeed an obstacle the defeat of which should be rewarded with cookies. We went to Matteo's, where there was nice coffee, and a yummy gossip session.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Calling out for queer-trans blog/collection!

Hello Queeristas!

Hope it’s not going that well and you are also somewhere, like me, perpetually enraged and annoyed and bored with the kind of literature/websites/ (fuck-sites)/depiction of queer trans folks that is thrown around.

Over past few months, I have been reading a lot of international queer-trans, gender bending blogs and I somehow always feel a need for something like that in an Indian context. This of course comes along with a string of some enjoyable and often notorious Youtube videos of queer events from across the globe. The most interesting event I came across was “Girl Talk’ an event where cis-women (please Google this, its hard to start the argument here) and trans women come together on a common stage to discuss their fears, anxieties, seduction fantasies and the rant of queer politics. It is usually organized by the beautiful Julia Serano (don’t know her? She wrote an important book that introduced trans-feminism in a way. It’s called the Whipping Girl) and in case you remember my old (ooooolllddd..) post regarding radical feminist and trans-women divide (http://whaq.blogspot.com/2011/04/hating-trans-women-and-other-stories.html), such events really cool down the steam fuming from everywhere. Okay, I am distracted again on what I really wanted to say. So here it is.

I am hungry to come up with a beautiful, vocal collection of Indian queer-trans experiences. I don’t want to see American blogs declare that Indian trans genders are only hijras (Really NOT. Where do the struggle/happiness/concerns of an urban trans individual like me figure? Is it again a trap of categories?) And that there are no records of trans-genderqueer experience in India. This has to be confronted, with a Tamil butch’s knuckle fist and a smack of an androgynous –fatale, who cruises around Brigade Road. A trans man who sneaks around Delhi, gender defying femmes in bikinis in Gokarna, you have their pictures? Transitioning females, corporate post-ops. Your pictures. Our sex escapades. The constant fears and the voices that always OUT us.

I am calling out ALL of you to pour it out. This is not strictly limited to trans or gender queer identities only, if we do have gay and lesbian voices/experiences that are equally eschewed or you have being intimate with a trans individual, I want it too! or should I say, we all want it too.

I would love to start it out by putting up a blog and of course, I would need your suggestions on that. Eventually if we do have a good fat pump of queer voices…we can pursue this for a published anthology. These all discussions would become more fluid as we go ahead. Just like bodies feel suddenly softer in sex. So nibbling lips and dildos and estrogen shots have an urgent calling.

Get them out in your words. Mail me at afreenchaudhary1@gmail.com with whatever you have in mind regarding this.

Till then.
Happy days ahead.
Shamelessly yours.

Afreen.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

WHaQ! meeting: 17th July 2011


I begin this post with my usual demand for cookies: opening the garage door in high heels was a labour I'd normally delegate to Hercules. And then people came - we had a small meeting yesterday, no more than five women. But it was fun, and we went to Koshys after.

Quick bullet point list of what we talked about:
  • Us, and what we've been up to the past few weeks. A. is leaving Bangalore in a fortnight, which sucks. We need to party extra hard on the next few Thursdays, pack in as much fun as possible for her to remember!
  • We had a visitor from Mumbai: hi, visitor! It took her forever to find us, so at the next meeting and on the WHaQ! mailing list we're going to have to talk about making it easier for people to find us if they want to meet us.
  • July 2nd! Two years since the high court judgement. We weren't at the balloon-flying, or the movies, or the Sanghamitra July 2011 launch. BUT. Here is a link where you can download the Sanghamitra July 2011 edition. It's 50 pages, about 2.6 MB. It is pretty great, so read it!
  • Chai with Lakshmi: Urban Conversations - She seems neat.
  • Parties! We have not done any parties lately, what with one thing or the other, and the Pink Nation/Party Square events are mostly filled with guys. (Also, our visitor from Mumbai was very confused by how everything seemed to wind down by midnight.)
  • Queer Pride Keralam, Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival and Chennai Rainbow Pride - pride events for the summer. Bangalore Pride is likely to be sometime in October/November, when it won't rain on us. (Delhi Pride too, but they can take care of themselves.)
That was pretty much it. See you guys Thursday!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gurl in the World has already blogged this, but please, take a look, pass it on: Children have been separated from their mother, kept captive in a foreign country. Their mum has legal custody, their dad kidnapped them anyway. Sign this petition, please? Help reunite a mother with her children.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Writing our own history - Finally!"

So this wound its way onto the WHaQ mailing list, and it seems like a good idea to pass it around as much as possible.
Hello Queer People!
A recent chat, actually let’s say a recent comment thread on Facebook
led Udayan Dhar and I to a realisation that we’re sure most of you
would agree with — something that should have happened by now, but
hasn’t! So we took it upon ourselves to get this idea into action and
here’s why you’ve received this mail.
It’s been a good, super-happy and challenging 2 years since the law
‘came out of the closet’. Yes, we’re legally gay and how! But what
seems to have been missed in all this celebration or the lack of it,
are the wonderful stories of people who were involved in or affected
by the movement — personal narrations of varied individuals who were
most actively involved or affected by the high court ruling that week.
From the high spirited celebrations of the multi-city pride, news
stories of which, still elicit a tear in anyone involved in the
struggle in the smallest of ways, to the country erupting in joy over
the final high court order — we hope to capture and re-live those
moments, those nail-biting hours and those euphoria filled festivals
from the mouths of the very people who made it happen.
We’re looking for 15-20 stories and 15-20 nominations of people who
you think should make it to the book... and then we shall contact
these people and get them to share their story.
As they say, “Only when it is written, will it be known to have
happened”, and hence, this is our very own, small yet much-required
step towards writing our own History.
Please send us nominations and broad areas in which you think your
nominees can represent that wonderful week.
For example: Someone who worked on the legal front could be nominated
to write his/her experience with a legal perspective — personal, yet
legal all the same.
Get in touch with either of us, before the 23rd of July.
Udayan Dhar — udayan@pink-pages.co.in
L Romal M Singh — elromal@gmail.com
Looking forward to hearing from you.
P.S. Please mail us all your nominees. Comments on the social network
service will not be accepted — only to avoid confusion.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gurl in the World has already blogged this, but please, take a look, pass it on: Children have been separated from their mother, kept captive in a foreign country. Their mum has legal custody, their dad kidnapped them anyway. Sign this petition, please? Help reunite a mother with her children.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hellos lovebirds+queers+beautiful+mad!

It feels delightful to steal some bits from my new found office life and scrounge my little diary for poetryyy:) and yes! apologies for being so inconsistent with blog entries. I guess, i just have to deal with the fact that i can only post stuff on blogs when I honestly feel a need for it and most importantly, when there is INTERNET around me with a proper speed and not a slow mooing machine (like mine:(

I thought I would put some poetry here this time.

One of them is new, one of them is old, all of them are full of me. And a certain you. And that panting, breathless word.

So here are two, three hands of that desperate word. Let me hear you scream too. Its very easy.


GETTING TO SILENCE

Run your fingers to the only place they are destined to speak at……

(Mildly perfumed nipples.)

You only talk there, curl on the legs and make me whorl like a tweaked lily..

Take another gentle nip, splashing salted dew

And I do the job of being silent

(For a change).


THE ONE AND OTHER

When two people can sit jarringly silent in one room

And One, fiddles with the thought of storming out and Other, packs up a smile of a disdainful content.

One, picks up a queasy vomit of logic. And taste its horror. The Other, shits more and throws it like a little girl with her first game of ball. Throws with utter delight. Like a real man.

One, plays hard to mask all the terror. One, is perfect at pretense and One, glorifies this tacit nudity in the mirror every day. One has to understand the Other. But

The Other, walks out of the room leaving no scope for debates. Takes away the logic and the loathing. All acts that could connect this seamlessly vast ocean of relations.

One, continues to sit in the room with lips pursed and a generous consumption of cigarettes and a heart that plops out on the plate and scatters like a mutilated bloody lump. A delicacy One eats. A truth One lives.

And nothing will change it in the years to come. Maybe if only, One becomes the Other.

Or the Other finally finds the One.



A BETTER WORLD


Innocence of children should not be taken for granted nor should promises made by men.

Both can grow up to be vengeful bastards with gangrenous spite

That cannot fill up a room. Fingers, etched to purple ass holes.

Ensue punches, “our logic”, “truth is what you see hard” and other such smoldering infections. I wish their words could be turned into silicon, at least we could get use them to stuff. We will need a different nation for such creatures. Some distant piece of land.



Some might call it The Manland.

I say its Men’s toilet or better





Trash cans.



ONE NIGHT STAND


Sweet surprise.

Your chest was made of marijuana- sugar. Like tinkling little balls of flavor.

And it fell on me like a warm blanket with two marble nipples. One throbbing heartbeat and an oaring hand that swept across streets. Through all the muck. To just reach me.

You told me, you were not like other men and you will not hurt me. Because you came equipped with Vaseline and sturdy fingers. Raunchy boiled tongue, reeking of nicotine and a temporary love, I am very fond of when you slip yourself between and forget where you are. Your eyes closed. And an open mouth. Like Krishna did when Yashoda asked him…

And he showed the entire world swirling in his mouth.

But you craned your mouth down to pick up globules of sweat and trailing it around my waist. Dropped more Vaseline and a dizzying thrust.

That spirals up to pain and then eyes, (a tear) and

Hands, lifelessly haunting the creases of your shirt.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Minal Hajratwala at Swabhava


photo credit Bob Hsiang

Minal Hajratwala is in Bangalore for a few weeks – we mostly know her as the editor for Queer Ink‘s forthcoming 2012 Queer Ink Anthology (also here). I cannot currently remember who took dreadful advantage of whom, but Vinay (the guy who runs-manages-GrandViziersSwabhava/Good As You ) spread the word and a bunch of us gathered to meet her today (actually, by the time this gets posted, yesterday) at the Swabhava office.

Hajratwala’s Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Five Villages To Five Continents explores her family’s

Excerpts from *Leaving India*

multigenerational movement across the world, contextualising her self against this century of transplantation and settlement. It’s won at least four awards (one of them a Lammy!). Hajratwala is currently in India for research for her next novel and for her poetry – more on those later.

It rained quite spitefully on the latecomers today, but we began (mostly) on time. Hajratwala read out an excerpt from Leaving India, a section pertaining to herself and her early adulthood – Feminism, Queerness (“Feminism is the theory, lesbianism the practice.”) and the like. She’s not my favourite sort of reader – her tone remains too even – but she has a clear and soft voice. All in all, very pleasant.

Questions! Answers! :

  • Hajratwala spent eight years (instead of the projected two) researching and writing this book. Her extended, very close-knit family is spread out over nine countries. She has thirty-five first cousins, and knows all their names – an impressive feat in and of itself. The book, in some senses, is her way of understanding the sheer scale of diaspora and finding a place for herself within it.
  • Writing the novel changed her; it rebuilt her relationships with the family, allowed her time, conversation, communication with an older generation that would not necessarily spend time taking a young woman and her questions seriously. Diasporic narratives and histories have to encompass an extraordinary amount of movement: “It is the central trauma of our lives.” In some ways, it is the role of the queer family member, to have that displacement away and reconciliation back to the traditional family home – it gives the writer a dual, insider/outsider perspective.
  • The section in Leaving India which is about herself was written first, and partly as a response to the “naked honesty” she was getting from the people she talked to. She came out to her extended family on a case by case basis, and for the most part all is well. (She did remind us that it’s easier to be proud of a “famous lesbian” in the family rather than a boring old “regular lesbian”.)
  • Blogs! She likes blogs. (Who doesn’t?) They give you a personal space to write anything you choose, without an editor overseeing the process. You can control who sees your words and who doesn’t. It can be a space to have your private, intimate voice “connect to some bigger thing out there”. (She had contact with the damascusgaygirl hoaxer: See this and this.)
  • The Queer Ink Anthology! Queer Ink is going to be one of the first queer publishing houses in South Asia, and this anthology is going to give us stories that haven’t been heard before. About ten percent of the submissions were in vernacular languages. (Queer Ink is looking for people interested in editing, design, writing, the like. Contact them! Say you want in!)
After, there were cookies. After after, we went to Koshy’s. Life was good.


(originally posted at my reading blog)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A shout-out to queer writers -


I'm supposed to be blogging about babies, but all I've got so far is "I don't want 'em," which is not as verbose as I would like. Here is baby clipart, which as almost as good as a post about babies and the people who do want 'em:

Innit precious.

Anyway, while I was procrastinating instead of talking/writing/thinking about babies (I don't want 'em!) I found this on my email and Facebook both, somehow ignored until Not Working led me to it. It is, in essence, a call for submissions for an (so far unnamed) anthology of Queer Erotica by South Asian writers. Tranquebar Press (the same people who published The Electric Feather last year) will publish the collection sometime in 2012. I'm copy/pasting the text here:

Call for submissions: Anthology Of South Asian Queer Erotica [title forthcoming]

To be published by Tranquebar Press in 2012

The spaces for expressing queer concerns have increased across South Asia in the last decade. Much is being written about sexuality, rights and queer lives. Yet, in all of this, sex itself doesn't get written about very much and there is a dearth of queer erotica from South Asia. Contemporary queer erotica with a South Asian focus would make these queer lives apparent in newer and compelling ways. This anthology is an attempt to present queer, sexual, regional literature that pleasures and satisfies. It is about queer sex lives, erotic experiences and passions. Queer in this anthology represents non-normative genders, sexualities, lives and perspectives. It aims to bring out voices that have been limited to smaller groups or never heard before.

What we want:

We want stories of queer love, lust and craving. Sex, however you may define it, should be a big part of the story. We want gender play, auto-eroticism, dark fantasies, monogamous and non-monogamous sex, stories of bondage, domination, sadism and masochism. We are looking for stories of deep passions, stories that complicate sex. We want stories of desire, fulfilled and unfulfilled. Stories that defy the gender binary. Stories of how you sexed up your aids and appliances. Stories on masturbation or the pleasures of paid sex. Stories of how you steamed up a bus ride, ended a clandestine affair or fucked with sex toys. Share with us stories that confront, redefine, dispute and reclaim what sex is. Let your stories queer erotica itself.

We invite you to write short stories with South Asian themes, characters and places reflected in them. We are looking for a wide expression of experiences across age, region, class, ability, gender and sexual identities. Stories can be fictional, semi-fictional and non-fiction, but we are not looking for academic or solely autobiographical writing on sexuality. Your stories will shatter the silences around queer erotic lives and encompass their diversities, so let us have them.

Who can write:

We want to foreground the queer voices of people living in or originally from South Asia. Queer includes but is not restricted to identities like lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, intersex, hijra, kothi, questioning, genderqueer, genderfluid and pansexual. Authors do not necessarily have to identify with one or more of these identities but the stories they submit should reflect non-normative genders, sexualities, lives and perspectives.

How to submit:

We are looking for short stories with a word limit of no less than 3000 words. We regret that we are unable to include poetry.

All submissions should be in English. Translations from other languages are allowed as long as the author owns the rights to the translation as well.

Please submit the story as an email attachment on a word document. Please include a title and word count.

Do not include your name or any other identifiers in the word document. As we are using a blind submissions process, we will have to reject submissions that indicate the author’s identity in the body of the story.

Authors will be informed whether their work is selected by mid-October. At that time, we will request you to provide a name under which you wish to be published and a short bio.

All selected authors will receive a one-time payment. The copyright of the story will remain with the author.

The deadline for submission is 15th September 2011.

Send your stories to queerotic.stories@gmail.com

Now get writing about the kind of sex you have wanted to read about. And get us swooning!

About the editors:

Meenu is a queer feminist activist. She has been involved with issues of gender and sexuality through women’s rights organisations and autonomous collectives for the last six years. She lives in Delhi and is an avid reader of erotica.

Shruti is currently based in Bombay. In the last eight years, she has actively engaged with the women’s and queer movements in the country. Over the years, she has worked as a researcher, social worker and counsellor.

Pass the word around!