Gaysi Family turns 10: Reflections on inclusivity, need for open dialogue on queer experiences
In essence, Gaysi has one dream, which also encapsulates their purpose and existence: that no LGBTQ person should feel alone in this country
Gaysi Family, an online platform synonymous with LGBTQI expression for desis in India and West Asia, marked its tenth anniversary this November. It was one of the moments that defined the Indian queer community's year. The collective brought in its eleventh year doing just what they are known for: creating safe spaces for 'Desi-Gays' — those who've been with them from the start and those who've just joined — by presenting Pinky Promise, a theatre production celebrating the Supreme Court judgment acknowledging same-sex love.
Though it may now be a leading voice for queer individuals, co-founder Priya Gangwani insists they never planned a future for the portal. "We tried to write its mission and vision a few years ago and failed miserably. We know Gaysi has impacted several people and has been a significant part of the community, but that's because it belongs to the community where many of us have realised our choicest dreams."
With its genesis in a longing to connect with other desis who identify as LGBTQ, Gaysi seemed like an easy ride back in 2008. However, maintaining it while wading through criticism and self-doubt taught the founders what it meant to means to "re-commit and persevere". Recounting their years, both the best and worst, Gangwani says, "We had a great honeymoon period followed by days that demanded love and time, and continuous test of our commitment. We had to keep innovating things (like in the bedroom) to keep our passions and hopes alive. Soon it became a form of faith, seeing clearly towards an inclusive tomorrow which was visible to us but often invisible to those around us."
While keeping Gaysi alive may have been an act of rebellion against existing persuasions, it was a walk towards a set of another, with freedom at the core. Gaysi's year has been about incredible highs, having successfully executed Zine Bazaar (their biggest collaborative event where "the energy of inclusivity was so high, everyone was tripping on it") and now, Pinky Promise.
In the words of curators Sheena Khalid (also the director) and Gangwani, Pinky Promise is a collection of stories which celebrates queer love, longing, desire, devotion. The first edition of the collaborative theatre project brings together six writers, six actors, a director and team Gaysi. The tropes of "love and its denial, memory and forgetfulness, loss and finding" have come to define queer experiences in recent years, and have been viscerally driven alive in the ensemble. While the scripts are an acknowledgement of India post-377 with all its quirks and flaws, the stories are a generous mix of fictional and real accounts. "We decided to pick the ones that had the most variety and flavour and yet, would give a sense of these characters celebrating the larger story. Most of these stories have been written by people who have not scripted a live production before. Therefore, they are not restricted by the constraints of writing for the stage," adds Khalid.
The stories have been carefully chosen keeping in mind the writers' own view of people on the LGBTQI+ spectrum. And so, the production is devoid of regular coming-out stories. They are also a nod to the need to have an open dialogue about queer experiences, and Khalid agrees. "The dialogue can be overt enough. Theatre, especially, is not just a surface level experience anymore for audiences," she points out.
With Pinky Promise, what Gaysi is aiming to arrive at is a bouquet of stories that can be performed in different spaces over time. Their larger goal is to penetrate into conservative, smaller towns and cities; their heart wants "a big fat Gaysi wedding". Resolute in their mission to achieve recognition of same sex love/marriage, adoption rights, the right to choose one's preferred gender, and equal rights to all irrespective of gender choices, Gaysi essentially has one dream, that also encapsulates their purpose and existence: "that no LGBTQ person feels alone in this country."
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