Steering towards new directions: after Sec377

QA Blog: Steering towards new directions: after Sec377

Posted on 20/02/2019
By RJ Yogi, Mirchi Love

Decriminalisation of homosexuality in India will always be an important milestone in LGBTQI history but what’s even more important is acceptance of homosexuality in our society. The onus is on us, content creators to do this in a way that reaches out to a larger audience.

I plan to normalise this conversation by creating content which is easy to understand by people who don’t identify as queer. As I have said in the video, this conversation has to now move to being a conversation one have more freely and widely. Once that begins, Love will be love in true sense.

This video is not just about me, it’s about all of us. Anyone who can relate to that anger, that pain, that helplessness which came along with that archaic law that made us criminals, the crime being love.

Sardiyon ki baarish
aur garmiyon ki dhoop tha woh,
Mere sach ko jhootha karde ,
Waise wala jhooth tha woh,

Aadhar pe likha galat naam tha woh,
90`s ki Filmon mein jo villain karta,
Waisa ganda kaam tha woh,

Kaafi Unfair tha,
Bina sar pair tha,
Par Innocent ko criminal bana de,
Aisa usmein dare tha.

Thankfully ab woh nahin raha,
Lekin uska bhoot, woh aaj bhi aas paas hai,
Raj Rahul se ya Tina Anjali se kare pyaar,
To janta aaj bhi naraaz hai.

News channel se ab is pyaar ko saas bahu tak laana hai,
Love is Love kehna kaafi simple hai,
Lekin abhi is baat ko, bohot door tak jaana hai…

Translation by Brut.:

It was like the winter rain
And the summer heat.
It was a lie that could falsify my truth.

Like an error in my Aadhaar name.
something a 90s’ villain would do…
it was such an ugly act.

It was very unfair.
It had no meaning.
It dared to make a criminal out of an innocent person.

Thankfully, it’s not around anymore.
But its ghost continues to haunt us.
If Raj loves Rahul, and Tina loves Anjali,
then the people still get angry.

From news channel, we need to bring it to our daily soaps.
It’s easy to say, “Love is love.”
But this issue has a lot of ground to cover.

Building Blocks: Laks Mann and Gaysians

QA Blog Series: Building Blocks 1 – Building a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community in the UK.

Posted on 18/02/2019 Written by Laks Mann for the QA Blog Series “Building Blocks – Building a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community in the UK curated by QA Co-founder J. Daniel Luther.

Join QA and Queer@King’s for a panel on Building a LGBT Community in the UK on 22nd Feb 2019 at KCL, Strand Campus (7-8pm) – Free Tickets here.

The founding of Gaysians and the motivation behind forming this collective.

I’d been out as a gay desi guy for several years and had volunteered with various BAME/POC LGBTIQ+ community initiatives.  However, I always felt a slight disconnect with the South Asian queer scene and community. I just hadn’t met many folx who felt comfortable fully embracing their desi queer identities.

That all changed in 2013, when I went along to a workshop as part of the Alchemy Festival at the Southbank Centre.  It was organised by Bobby Tiwana entitled ‘Beneath The Surface‘. It told theatrical stories inspired by British Asian lesbian, gay and bisexual lives so as to increase visibility and move away from stereotypical cultural portrayals, which all too often were mostly limited to stereotypes. For the first time I felt like I’d connected with a like minded soul on multiple levels. Bobby and I went on to become good friends and kept in touch with various projects, constantly bouncing around new ideas and concepts for future events.

Bagri LIFF
Closing Night Panel. Credit: Laks Mann, Bagri Foundation LIFF

In 2014, Bobby Tiwana returned to the Alchemy Festival with a panel discussion called ‘The Love That Knows Much Shame – can you be both LGBT and South Asian in Britain today?’ By now, the discussions between Bobby and I had begun to revolve around creating a movement, pushing for greater visibility, marching in pride parades, and celebrating our desi queer identities more boldly.  Later that year, Bobby registered a marching group for the Pride in London parade called ‘Proud Asian LGBTQ & Allies’ which I fully mobilised behind.

Marching group in Pride in London, 2015. Credits: Bobby Tiwana

Then in 2015 and again at the Alchemy Festival, Bobby Tiwana took it up a notch with a cafe style interactive event entitled ‘Making Progress or Losing Ground: LGBT Asia‘ which took the discussions further and wider.  Soon after I co-signed the second outing of the marching group ‘Proud Asian LGBTQ & Allies’ in the Pride in London parade.  After that summer I decided that my own personal project would be bigger, bolder and something that had not been done in the UK before.  I was going to create Gaysians, a platform to mainstream South Asian LGBT+ visibility.
So later in 2015, I met with some of the then Board Directors of Pride in London and discussed my plans – to form a collective of artists, activists, charities, and organisations, united under a new concept called Gaysians.

I vowed this new platform would be ready for launch at Pride in London 2017.  I then spent the next 2 years contacting desi queer community groups and individuals, following up leads, arranging meetings and phonecalls, and reaching out to as many people as I could in my spare time building on the framework and consolidating the network I had pulled together.


Of particular note, I was always determined to launch Gaysians at Pride in 2017. On a personal level, it marked the 70th anniversary of India’s partition and independence which also resulted in the colonial penal code including the oppressive S377 (now decriminalised) continuing into the newly formed democracy. 2017 was also the same year when the UK would be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England & Wales.  This juxtaposition of anniversaries galvanised something within me, a British born gay guy of Indian heritage who enjoyed legal protections and social freedoms in the country of my birth, yet who would be a deemed a criminal if in my motherland, all because of laws inherited by my birth country!

Gaysians at Pride in London, 2017. Credit: Yanika Chauhan

The work of Gaysians in the the queer British Asian community.

A lot of people in the queer British Asian community had some links with others, but to me it was largely a word of mouth thing. The community never fully transcended beyond regions and the visibility of desi queers just wasn’t cutting through to the stagnant narratives taking place within our wider South Asian communities.

Around the same time, I had sensed that desi queers were starting to become more confident, vocal and visible with some really great work being done by many pioneers.  Though to me it still felt that some of these efforts were niche, underground and simply weren’t getting the recognition from the wider LGBT+ community that they deserved.

Gaysians was to be the platform that connected all these islands together.  Not only in physical settings such as pride parades and social events, but also online and across various social media platforms.  That sense of building a community was key, the sum of the parts being greater than each separate island.


I wanted as many people as possible to connect with each other so that collectively we could visibly demonstrate how united, important, and influential the queer British Asian community were becoming.  It was all about creating a movement.

My journey though this process.

I was lucky to meet so many amazing and talented people on this journey – some of whom I asked to come on board and become part of the core team as I knew they had skills which the movement needed.

I’ve also grown so much over the past few years, and have truly learned loads while being made aware of so many other people’s inspiring stories along the way.  Through these discussions and more, I’ve come to learn and acknowledge the privileges that I have, being male, gay, cisgendered, and having an open and accommodating family who have been accepting towards my sexuality.



There have also been so many personal highlights on my journey with Gaysians:

  • leading the marching group at Pride in London 2017
  • deciding to launch a woman’s platform for our first event in 2018 which we branded ‘Desi Lesbians – where are you?‘, which got picked up by WOW Festival
  • being a panelist at Too Desi Too Queer events discussing mental health and well-being
  • forging a partnership with BFI Flare for ‘Brown Is The Warmest Colour’ screenings
  • building a mainstream partnership with The Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival and hosting their closing gala film Q&A discussing ‘transgender and sexuality’ narratives
  • being a flag bearer for the giant rainbow flag at Pride in London 2018 and subsequently being invited to speak on the main stage in Trafalgar Square to thousands of people
  • speaking as a panelist about S377 and desi queer narratives at a charity launch attended by 150 influential business and community leaders from London’s South Asian community
  • conducting 3 live radio interviews with BBC Asian Network regional shows from within the grounds of UK Black Pride 2018
  • being invited in as the opening speaker at the inaugural South Asian LGBTI Conference 2018
  • appearing as a speaker at Stonewall’s BAME Showcase 2018 event, which coincided with the day when the Indian Supreme Court decriminalised S377 of the Indian Penal Code
  • to numerous other radio phone-ins, interviews and appearances.
Laks Pride in London 2017.jpg
Laks Mann addressing the crowd at Pride in London, 2018. Credit: Sasha McCarthy

Imagining the future of Asian queer communities in the UK.

I truly do believe that there has been a ground shift over the past few years and that narratives are starting to cut through with Gaysians playing a central role in mobilising those efforts.  Whilst some within our community are expecting there to be earthquakes of change, my personal belief is that the movement has firmly taken hold, it’s not about any one individual, organisation or particular group, and that younger generations will be bolder, braver and more vocal in their visibility.  I think the combined power of Asian queers in the UK still has some way to go.

I think we will also see more narratives from underrepresented Asian queer voices such as bisexuals, trans and non-binary individuals, much like in the wider global movement of queer narratives.


One area that I’m intrigued about is whether we will see more UK desi queer individuals coming out later in life, perhaps those who had previously entered into heterosexual marriages, had children and maybe even grandchildren.

‘Queer’ Asia’s influence/motivation. 

I’m inspired by the name alone — ‘Queer’ Asia —I love it!

QA 18
Getting a tour of QA’s first ever art exhibition at the Paul Webley Wing in SOAS during QA2018. Credit: ‘Queer’ Asia. Artwork: Jay Cabalu, Curator: Rhea Tuli (featured)

I discovered QA in the Pride in London Festival 2016 programme and was fascinated by the concept. I simply had to know more so attended the inaugural conference and was blown away by the sheer breadth of speakers, countries and queer topics being discussed.  A few weeks later I reached out to QA for an after work chat over chai, where I was keen to learn more about their work, and to see if I could bring them on board into the Gaysians partner network I was building. It was such a refreshing conversation and I was truly inspired by  their commitment. I knew that QA were going to make big waves and I was so pleased to gain QA’s support for my parade application when I registered Gaysians as a marching group for Pride in London 2017. On the day itself, having QA volunqueers in the marching group was extra special and like everyone else, they had a blast.

I continue to be motivated by QA and have attended all 3 conferences, both film festivals, numerous satellite events, and art exhibitions.  I’ve watched the QA collective grow stronger and seen their unique star(s) shine bigger and brighter, such a talented and committed team. I’ve also really enjoyed collaborating with QA on events, including the Gaysians partnerships for the ‘Queer’ Asia Film Festival 2018, alongside Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival, and both Too Desi Too Queer events.

I can truly say I’ve made many new friends and connections along the way and I will continue to support QA where I can.


Continue reading “Building Blocks: Laks Mann and Gaysians”

Resistance and Subversion: Queer Movements across Asia – Kazakhstan

Written by Amir Shaikezhanov for the QA Blog series Resistance and Subversion curated by QA 2018 committee member Ismail Shogo

The author, waving the flag of Kazakhstan, at a pride march in Prague (Image credit: Esquire Kazakhstan and author’s own)

Issues pertaining to LGBT community have gained increasing traction in Kazakhstan, with LGBT-related articles, interviews, and news getting more attention than most local and global events – a trend that stems from the taboo status of sex and sexuality in the region, and forces that seek to either preserve or disrupt this status quo (see links below). Yet very few LGBT individuals dare to open up to their own families, let alone through the media. In addition, discrimination is faced directly or indirectly on almost any level both in the professional and personal life of an individual. In this sense, LGBT visibility in Kazakhstan exists as somewhat a paradox – as prominent on the global stage and yet invisible as a social group in the country itself.

 Few studies have pertained to LGBT issues in Kazakhstan, with existing research reflecting high levels of homophobia in society. A study organized by the Friedrech Eberett Founation highlighted that homosexuals remain the third least favoured neighbours (16,6%) among Kazakh youth, after alcoholics (25,7%) and drug abusers (17,8%). In addition, Human Rights Watch has also reported that LGBT individuals are not only forced to hide their identity, but are also vulnerable to physical and sexual abuses. Many are afraid to address such cases to police fearing outing, or further abuse or blackmail from the police. In many cases LGBT people would face disapproval and disowning by their families, and could even face corrective rapes or murder.

The state has sponsored LGBT friendly service, such as local HIV prevention offices that provide free testing and free condoms to mainly MSM (men who have sex with men) and transgender people. Yet there are still laws that discriminate against LGBT people directly: marriage is not allowed between individuals of the same sex; no surrogacy or children adoption is permitted to homosexual; and homosexuals cannot serve in the military or police force. In addition, although transgender people are officially recognized, they are only allowed to change their ID after they have gone through a mandatory psychiatric 30-day evaluation and sex-reassignment surgery. This not only forces individuals who fail to comply to these regulations into illegal work, but also limits their access to education and travel. Furthermore, although the Constitution forbids discrimination on any basis including gender, nationality or other grounds, this is not seen to extend to sexual orientation and gender identity. As a result, courts often ignore this statute when cases involve LGBT individuals.

In recent years however there has been an increasing anti-LGBT stance by authorities in Kazakhstan. This has been informed in part by Russian influence, that resonates strongly in Central Asia. Politicians in Kazakhstan have adopted homophobic rhetoric on many occasions, which is also prevalent in Russian politics to advance anti-LGBT laws. These include the infamous anti-propaganda bill that has sought to mute LGBT-related discourse in public spaces. The Constitutional court however recently turned down the latest initiative of the law, sending it back for further development.

At the moment, because of strong public backlash and social pressures, t. Issues of safety have also prevented prospective activists from coming to the fore. There are, however, several civil initiatives such as Kok Team that advocate for LGBT rights, as well as provide psychological and juridical support to in the community. There are also online resources – including Feminita and Alma-TQ that are dedicated to LGBT issues and various other communities in Kazakhstan. International and local human rights defending institutions and healthcare funds have also organized activities and support for the LGBT community. In addition, active local communities have been formed in the two major cities of Almaty and Astana. These hold regular meet-ups, activities, flash mobs and other modes of socializing. These movements however have yet to develop objectives that go beyond social activities. This is likely to result from internalized homophobia, misogyny and transphobia within the community, as well as the increase in an anti-LGBT social environment, that has prevented the development of any coherent organized

Amir Shaikezhanov is an LGBT activist based in Almaty, Kazakhstan. He is also a contributor to an LGBT dedicated web-portal that aims to both strengthen the LBTQ+ community and increase visibility of LGBT in society.

News, Interviews, and articles:

февраля 14, 2017Написать автору
Светлана ГЛУШКОВАфевраля 13, 2017 – NUR:KZ
мая 18, 2017 – NUR:KZ – Amir Shaikezhanov – Amir Shaikezhanov
08 ноября 2017 –

In this series: