Rafiul Alom Rahman is the founder of The Queer Muslim Project (2017), and of the Delhi University Queer Collective (2014). In an interview with Avali and Arunima from The YP Foundation, he talks about the challenges of organising around queer issues and politics within university spaces, about the queer movement in India, and about the importance of The Queer Muslim Project - not only in the lives of Muslim-queers, but also in the larger socio-political context of the country.
In a short conversation with Avali and Tara from The YP Foundation, Ritwik, Jamal and Chitraksh from Transmen Collective talk about issues of representation, inclusion and marginalisation of trans youth in the larger queer movement in India. They share with us the challenges of forming collectives such as the Transmen Collective, as well as recognising and acknowledging the intersection of queerness with other identities.
A large portion of the last decade has been quite tumultuous for the LGBTQIA+ community in the country. From the decriminalization of Section 377 in 2009 by the Delhi High Court to its recriminalization in 2013 by the Supreme Court, from the state recognizing the discrimination people from the hijra community face to the more recent disaster that was the Transgender Persons Bill of 2016 - the community has been through a lot.
Frankenstein’s monster is a thing of utter despair. Its creator is a parent unwilling to acknowledge their child's existence and their right to live , even though he's the one because of whom the so-called monster comes to life in the first place. Once created, the ‘monster’ was shunned and thrown out of civilization.
Unfortunately, as bizarre as it may be, I have often reluctantly admitted to similarities between the lives of a trans-women, like me, and that of Frankenstein's monster.
Whenever I start talking about homophobia, I feel like I am a sham. To be honest, according to me, being gay in India is relatively easy. However, claiming and representing your gay identity isn’t. We don't get noticed when we are in public spaces, we don't have to hide our bodies, the way society expects transgender people to, and most times, because of our ‘normal’ appearance finding work is not so difficult. You see, India is not homophobic unless you want to claim your identity.
I was 12 years old when the feminine form became attractive to me. I wanted to emulate what actresses did on screen.
For a country where arranged marriages continue to be a norm and ‘love marriages’ scandalous stories that are kept within the families, India seems to have an unhealthy obsession with love stories. From folklore to contemporary cinema, our media is saturated with stories that glorify love as an unstoppable force, and an inevitable fact of life.
What’s more, all of these stories are about two individuals - most certainly a boy/man/ mard overloaded with mardaangi (masculinity ) and a girl/woman/ nari with no backbone – who against all odds (and logic) prove that nothing is impossible when you’re in love.
Growing up in Lucknow was an integral part of my life. It molded me into someone who was always worried about what others thought about them. I always acted the way people around me expected me to, and shaped my gender expression into what was considered to be ‘masculine’ or ‘normal’.
But ever since I came to Delhi, I have witnessed a lot of changes in myself - physically, mentally and sociologically. But these changes have not always been welcomed or accepted by those around me. Heterosexuality is still considered to be the norm, and anyone who fails to comply with it is subjected to homophobia.
Ever since I was a little child, I could feel that I was not ‘normal’, precisely because that is how I was made to feel - every time I refused to wear a pink frock, every time I chose to play sports I was made to feel that I was doing something wrong. As I grew up, things became even more difficult and confusing. Puberty brought new challenges, especially the different way in which I experienced puberty as compared to my other friends, whose desires were as heteronormative as the desires I saw being represented in popular culture and media.