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 and tell us a little about yourself and how we can contact you.
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:

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:  Submission deadline is Nov 10th. 

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: for further information.  Submission deadline is the 10th of November.

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:  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.

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

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!