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Being queer, being Dalit

Queeristan aims to show us why we need to take a closer look at caste

One of Steevez Rodriguez’s portraits of transwomen at home made in collaboration with Aravani Art Project.
One of Steevez Rodriguez’s portraits of transwomen at home made in collaboration with Aravani Art Project.

Take a cue from the Pride Rainbow flag—queerness is a vivid spectrum. It’s the kind of diversity that Jo and Dan bring to the Instagram account @find___love, where each post is a modern lonely hearts ad. The sheer range of crowdsourced posts hoping for someone to “be my library" or the “strings to my guitar" is aww-inspiring.

Projects like this one and many more are set to be part of Queeristan, a two-day (18 and 26 January) programme by Godrej India Culture Lab, Mumbai. Through panel discussions, visual art and performances, Queeristan intends to explore the intersections that shape Indian queerness, while also asking us to pay attention beyond the metros. Saniya Shaikh, a member of Godrej India Culture Lab and the curator of Queeristan, says, “Queerness is often seen as homogenous, which isn’t true. There are several narratives that don’t come from Mumbai or Delhi, and these voices often don’t get represented. Just because we won the victory against Section 377 doesn’t mean we don’t amplify these voices anymore."

Considering the protests that have been held against the Trans Bill recently, Queeristan is a reminder that the fight against discrimination is far from over. On 18 January, the programme kickstarts with “Caste and Queerness". “Being Dalit and being queer is a discussion that needs to happen especially in India where narratives of upper caste activism are dominant," says Shaikh. A panel discussion featuring student activist Dhiren Borisa, trans-rights activist Grace Banu, and anti-caste activist Kiruba Munusamy is the highlight of the day. It will be moderated by writer-director Akunth Aroh.

Queeristan continues on 26 January with “So Many Queer Indias" to focus on movements happening in smaller cities and non-urban centres. Here too a panel discussion is planned. Look out for performances by artistes like rapper Sumeet Samos, who will perform his act against Dalit oppression on 18 January.

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