Sunday, December 27, 2015

Queer reasons for bunking school reunions - a conversation

Vartanama, Dec '15
By Pawan Dhall

Graphic credit: Pawan Dhall
Vidya: Look, your school batch mates are organizing another reunion. There’s a Facebook post. You shouldn’t miss it this year!

Sameer: I’m still not sure I want to attend it. These days, too strong a dose of nostalgia doesn’t quite agree with me.

Vidya: But some of them were your fast friends, and you don’t tire of remembering your teachers.

Sameer: Yes, they were all important people in my life – my best friend from the seventh till the 10th standard who helped me realize I too could be a chatterbox, the guy with whom I got into an ink splattering-fight, the mathematics wizards in class, mates from my neighbourhood who went swimming with me, students who so often denied me the first rank, even those who borrowed my notes and never returned them on time . . .

Common cause, kiss of freedom in Kolkata pride!

Insight, Clickhappy! Dec '15
By Prosenjit Pal and Pawan Dhall

Photo credits: Prosenjit Pal, unless mentioned otherwise

The ‘14th Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’ on December 13, 2015 was many things for many people – an expression of not just queer pride but also solidarity with diverse social causes. Demanding intolerance for social exclusion of any kind, it broke new ground with participation by many youth and student groups and a ‘Hok Chumban’ / ‘Kiss of Love’ campaign at the end to protest moral policing anywhere and everywhere. While the walk route took Pawan Dhall down memory lane to 1999 (the year of the ‘1st Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’), Prosenjit Pal celebrated his very first queer pride walk in his home town with camera in hand.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sustainable enough?

Happenings, Policy Matters, Dec '15
Sarika Kar warns that the ambitious Global Goals for Sustainable Development (2016-30) mandated by the United Nations may well miss out on addressing crucial sexual and reproductive health concerns

Kolkata, November 17, 2015: With 2016 knocking on the door, where do we stand as women? Sometimes one feels no less removed in time from that of one’s mother’s. Many women these days are financially independent and may be single, but the world around has not changed much. One is still surrounded by walls of fear and apprehensions – walking alone after 9 pm in most cities is a challenge, uncomfortable questions about one’s single status never seem to end, trying doubly hard to prove our intelligent worth at the workplace – the list is a long one and of course, also includes more direct or physical forms of discrimination and violence – rape, molestation, domestic violence, female foeticide . . . we still need to make advances on a lot many crucial fronts, never mind the technological leaps forward!

Graphic source: www.ids.ac.uk

An inferno named desire

Poetry, Dec '15
By owais

Photo credit: Vahista Dastoor



















Source: First published in http://faqirana.blogspot.in/2008_06_01_archive.html, written June 12, 2008


owais calls himself the ‘sucker for love’ – for knowingly, he not only trusts, but lives on that rainbow which does not actually exist.




Vahista Dastoor wields the camera to get her point across when she is not documenting child rights, mental health or gender related issues.

Taking on Section 377 persecution

Advice - Rights and Laws, Dec '15
By Kaushik Gupta

Reader queries

I’m a writer and need help for an article on legal issues concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. I heard of an incident before 2009, that is, when the legal status of homosexuality was the same as today after the December 11, 2013 verdict of the Supreme Court of India on Section 377, Indian Penal Code. At that time, a young lesbian couple was dragged by their parents to a District Magistrate. The two women, both adults, were living in a flat, away from their parents, and both were pursuing respective jobs. Their parents took the help of cops to catch them and despite their unwillingness, the District Magistrate forced them to return to their parental homes.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Walking with pride! Walking for equality, love, solidarity!

Happenings, Nov '15 (update 1)
The 14th edition of the 'Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk', the oldest of its kind in South Asia, is planned for December 13, 2015. Excerpts from a leaflet developed by the organizers of the walk shared here


Backdrop

The movement for equal rights for people of diverse genders, gender expressions and sexual identities has seen some very contrasting developments in the past couple of years in India. The historic judgment by the Delhi High Court on 2 July 2009 held that treating consensual sex of any kind, including homosexual sex, between adults as a crime is a violation of the Fundamental Rights protected by India's Constitution. The verdict resulted in the decriminalisation of homosexual acts involving consenting adults in the jurisdiction of the Delhi High court. This verdict was later overturned by the Supreme Court of India on 11 December 2013, with the Court holding that amending or repealing Section 377 should be a matter left to Parliament, not the judiciary. The legal battle for equal rights of all citizens immaterial to their sexual orientation or gender identity suffered a definite setback with the judgment. Nevertheless the voices against such discrimination became stronger than ever. The same apex court, in the National Legal Services Authority Vs. Union of India and Others case, delivered a landmark judgment affirming that the Fundamental Rights granted under the Constitution of India would be equally applicable to transgender people, and gave every citizen the right to self-identification of their gender as male, female or third gender.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Why should boys have all the fun?

Vartanama, Nov '15
By Pawan Dhall

                                                                 Photo credit: Mitali Sarkar
An assortment of circumstances, and I find myself writing this piece in Maddox Square in southern Kolkata, sitting next to the stump of a once handsome shirish tree struck down by kalbaisakhi lightening. It’s almost 7 pm and as I wait for a friend to turn up from work (we have shopping lined up for later), I observe a group of seven or eight women (presumably middle class and well-off) enjoy tea and snacks at a bench nearby. This is accompanied with much laughter and light banter, a lot of it about family matters. In a while, at least some of the women will join the ranks of evening walkers in groups of threes and fours, in gleaming white sports shoes that don’t quite go with the churidar kurtas or sarees but indispensable nonetheless for a brisk walk. Their conversations will continue uninterrupted, almost as energetic as their walk.

Gendering the trekking trail

Insight, Travel Travel, Nov '15
By Paramita Banerjee

Kanchanjungha from Sandakphu
Photo credit: Rubina Sen
Even my worst enemies, whoever and wherever they are, would acknowledge that I don’t lack in taking risks. So, past 56 years of age, I decided to resume one of the hobbies I’d loved as a young person – trekking. A trek, by dictionary definition, is a long arduous journey and in India, it certainly involves the mountains. The higher the altitude, the more thrilling is the trek for most Indian trekkers I’ve known.

Perhaps naturally, no trek organiser would readily include anyone of my age, especially after a gap of almost 23 years. Not even when the trek organiser is a friend and a colleague in the social development sector that provides me my bread, butter and jam. I needed to prove my fitness. A 14-kilometre walk across a mountain forest, covering two villages and a viewing point was proof enough for me and I managed to persuade this friend into including me for a Sandakphu trek in May this year. This one is considered a beginners’ trek, after all, and ideal for someone well past her prime seeking to resume trekking after a long gap.

Changing houses (and perspectives)

My Story, Nov '15
In this chapter of a series of personal narratives on psychology, people and destiny, Pallav Bonerjee holds forth on the virtues of moving house – across localities and cities

Author (right) with his sister in childhood. All photographs
shared by author from his family albums
My earliest memories of changing our residence belong to a time when I was all of six years age and lived in Calcutta. My world comprised of my parents, a younger sister, grandparents and plenty of cousins. Life was perfect. My sister was in pre-school and I was in class one. We had made some friends in school. And then, all of a sudden, we got news that my father would have to transfer to a city called Raipur in Madhya Pradesh (now the capital of Chattisgarh). Being young and ambitious, my father had said “Yes!” My sister and I were told that since he was in a transferable job, we must get used to such changes. It would help us ‘in the long run’. At six, I had no idea what that long run could have meant. Though I have no distinct recollection, I’m sure I must have tried to dissuade my father from going ahead with this ‘opportunity’ citing reasons that ranged from “How would we manage without speaking Bengali or eating Bengali food?” to “What would happen to all our friends and cousins without us?”. It didn’t help.

Star quest: Bisexual, bipolar and happy

Clickhappy! Star Quest, Nov '15
By Kaustav Manna

Star of the month: Sudeshna Basak aka Rupsha
(all photographs provided by Rupsha) 
The third (October 2013) and fourth (November 2013) issues of Varta carried a column called Star Quest, a series of photo-stories of individuals who may not be public figures like politicians, artistes, social activists or media persons, but have in their own way contributed to social equity and empowerment around gender, sexuality and related issues. For a variety of reasons, including priority given to other interview and photography based columns, Star Quest was discontinued. With the previous (October 2015) issue of Varta, we revived the column to continue sharing innumerable untold stories twinkling with inspiration!

The contribution of the ‘stars’ we zoom in on may be in an intimate arena – among friends and neighbours, their local community, a village or slum school, their own work place and so on. It may not have attracted any media attention, yet the importance of their efforts cannot be underscored enough. Varta is happy to bring to light such hidden ‘stars’ and focus on endeavours that generate hope for a better present and future.

Rewarding awards

Advice - Disability, Nov '15
Ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Shampa Sengupta wonders how government awards related to disability rights can be made more rewarding

December 3 is celebrated as International Day of Persons with Disabilities and this year the theme chosen for the day is ‘Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment for People of All Abilities’. According to the United Nations website, “The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is marked around the world annually on 3 December, as per General Assembly resolution 47/3 of 14 October 1992, to promote awareness and mobilize support for critical issues pertaining to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and development.”

Photo credit: Shuvojit Moulik

Friday, October 23, 2015

‘O ma, how queer!’

Vartanama, Oct '15
By Pawan Dhall

Goddess Durga as Ardhanarishvara in a puja
organized by trans women in Kolkata
Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
It is queer when more than a dozen social researchers from different South Asian countries have to travel to Bangkok in Thailand to train for a study to be carried out in South Asia. More so when the focus of the study is on sections of society that often identify as ‘queer’ (a term that signifies a non-normative gender or sexuality). Well, yours truly was one among the researchers and so this editorial was inevitable!

Freedom fair and square

Insight, Happenings, Oct '15
Sukhdeep Singh recounts how 19-year-old trans man Shivy, a student of neurobiology, won an emotional and legal battle against his parents’ transphobia and trickery to marry him off forcibly

Delhi, October 5, 2015: When Shivy (born Shivani Bhat) came to India from USA with his mother in July this year, little did he realize that his own family would turn against him and make him a ‘prisoner’ in the country. What followed was a riveting story of exemplary courage shown by Shivy and a number of queer activists in Delhi who helped him escape his family’s clutches. The story culminated today in an equally brave verdict by the Delhi High Court, which directed the police to ensure that Shivy got back his identity and travel documents from his family and was able to return to USA.

Shivy (second from left) at a media conference in Delhi, September 25, 2015
Photo credit: Nazariya Queer Feminist Resource Group

Reflection

My Story, Oct '15
Pratulananda Das shares how mathematician Alan Mathison Turing’s life story inspired him to come to terms with his own sexual orientation

All photographs provided by Pratulananda Das
I remember the day vividly when I could not keep my eyes off the young man working in a paddy field. It was drizzling and my younger brother and I were huddled together under an umbrella on our way to school. As I grew older I realized something was ‘wrong’ with me. That puzzled me. I felt frustrated that I never had an explanation for my lack of interest in girls, while the simplest of ads showing a man in his briefs would attract me for seemingly no reason. I guess being born in a conservative Bengali family did not help much in terms of understanding what I wanted from life and what would help quell the restlessness within me. I had no one to confide in and share my anxieties with.

Ifs and dos and don’ts for the queer in 76 countries

Poetry, Oct '13
By Rajib Chakrabarti

Learn the art of concealing
the thrill that you feel deep within.
If you fall in love
don’t let it so soften you
that the inevitable hurt becomes unbearable.

Star quest: Straight from a queer positive heart!

Clickhappy! Star Quest, Oct '15
By Kaustav Manna

Star of the month: Arunabha Hazra (all
photographs provided by Arunabha
unless otherwise mentioned)
The third (October 2013) and fourth (November 2013) issues of Varta carried a column called Star Quest, a series of photo-stories of individuals who may not be public figures like politicians, artistes, social activists or media persons, but have in their own way contributed to social equity and empowerment around gender, sexuality and related issues. For a variety of reasons, including priority given to other interview and photography based columns, Star Quest was discontinued. With this issue of Varta, we seek to revive the column and continue sharing innumerable untold stories twinkling with inspiration!

The contribution of the ‘stars’ we zoom in on may be in an intimate arena – among friends and neighbours, their local community, a village or slum school, their own work place and so on. It may not have attracted any media attention, yet the importance of their efforts cannot be underscored enough. Varta is happy to bring to light such hidden ‘stars’ and focus on endeavours that generate hope for a better present and future.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Living on the edge

Vartanama, Sep '15
By Pawan Dhall

Who would have thought that an airport security check would have been the most adrenaline- generating moment on a recent trip to wondrous Manipur? The purpose of the trip was to interact with mental health professionals on issues concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in a seminar. While there was a good exchange of ideas and experience during the post-event networking and it was heartening to see queer concerns gaining currency among mental health professionals and researchers in the state, there were no pointed questions or clarifications sought in the seminar itself. It could have been the auditorium acoustics, political correctness or my presentation was just not invigorating enough. But one was left wanting for greater engagement on the matter, especially when queer individuals across India continue to report negative encounters with mental health professionals.

Trans-ing the college roll call

Insight, Sep '15
Trans woman activist Santa Khurai tells Pawan Dhall how she pushed hard to help her friend Sandra Nandeibam secure admission in a college stating her gender as ‘TG’. This was possibly the first such instance in Manipur since the Supreme Court verdict on transgender identities and rights in April 2014, and perhaps more such ‘exceptions’ on the ground would propel faster formulation of policies, systems and rules to implement the verdict

Sandra Nandeibam, a picture of confidence
Photo credit: Santa Khurai
Pawan: Santa, congratulations on your and Sandra’s success! How did this come about?

Santa: In June this year, Sandra Nandeibam (earlier Nandeibam Sandeep Singh) succeeded in securing admission in the D. M. College of Arts Imphal as a trans woman, probably the first trans person in Manipur to have managed in breaking a social barrier that does not recognize any gender beyond male and female.

Going by a University Grants Commission directive (based on last year’s Supreme Court verdict on transgender identities and rights), the college had expanded the gender options in the college admission form to include ‘TG’ (or transgender). Sandra opted for ‘TG’, and also submitted the legal documents for gender change (court affidavit, newspaper declarations, gazette notification and other papers) to support her option.

Qatha: Brother queer brother (part 2)

People, Sep '15
By Pawan Dhall and Soma Roy Karmakar

All photographs from the family albums of Sanjib Chakraborty
(in the picture) and Rajib Chakrabarti
Varta brings you the ‘Queer Kolkata Oral History Project’, an initiative to document five decades of queer lives in Kolkata (1960-2000). Our aim in this project is to go back in time and bring forward diverse queer voices through a series of interviews, which will provide a landmark to Kolkata city's queer history. Typically, the focus will be on the queer scenario in Kolkata during the growing up years of each interviewee – how it was to be queer in Kolkata in different decades since the 1960s till more recent times. The effort will be to bring forward a mix of the well known and the lesser known voices. Apart from the excerpts published here, the project also aims to publish a collection of the interviews in different formats. All interviews are based on informed consent and where requested, all markers of identity have been removed for reasons of confidentiality.

This issue brings you the second and final part of an interview with Rajib Chakrabarti, a teacher, 46 years old and a resident of Kolkata, and his brother Sanjib Chakraborty, 42, a health worker and queer activist based in Guwahati. In the first part of the interview (published in the August 2015 issue of Varta), they talked about the difficult times and small pleasures of life that saw them through to self-discovery, self-acceptance and discovering each other as gay persons. In this part, they talk about coming out to their mother and sister, connecting with queer support forums in Kolkata, and their vision for the future.

Battling the depression demon

My Story, Sep '15
Pallav Bonerjee continues his series of personal narratives on psychology, people and destiny, this time in collaboration with a patient who provides his perspective on depression

All photo credits: Vahista Dastoor
When I started collecting my thoughts on depression as a mental illness and how strongly it affects the life of an individual, I couldn’t help falling back on some of the many anecdotal instances narrated to me by patients during their interactions with me as a therapist. I have tried to recreate some of them here with the intention of allowing others a glimpse into the life of an individual suffering from depression. I have also tried to collaborate for the first time with a patient who I felt could provide a unique and invaluable perspective on depression.

Age and disability

Advice - Disability, Sep '15
By Shampa Sengupta

Reader queries

Artwork credit: Prosenjit Pal
I'm a middle-aged single man living in Kolkata, closer to 50. In the last couple of years, I have developed joint and muscular pains in my legs, and though treatment is on, and in phases I feel better, the problem does not go away entirely. Could this be an onset of age-related disability? My family members feel I worry unnecessarily, but I have seen other family members suffer and their movements drastically reduced. Other than family support, do I have a right to expect any facilities in public places? Do I need a certification for my disability? If yes, how can I get it?
Anonymous, Kolkata

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Of birthdays and bans

Vartanama, Aug '15
By Pawan Dhall

August is Varta’s birthday month. On the first day of the month, we turned two and celebrated the occasion both online and offline. Around the same date, the Government of India blocked 857 porn websites to protect ‘morality’ and ‘decency’. In effect, this proved to be an apt birthday gift for Varta as the ‘dialogue on gender, sexuality and intimacy’ shot up hundredfold on social media, in newspapers and on TV shows, and in drawing rooms across India. Radio jockeys, irrespective of gender, went to town cracking jokes, mostly inane but a shade better than their usual banter. For a while, no social visit was possible without the ban creeping into the conversation, sheepishly or accompanied with raucous laughter. It was almost as if the government had inadvertently brushed past the Indian social G-spot!

On wings of desire!

Insight, Happenings, Aug '15
Pawan Dhall, Kaustav Manna and Drake Fort take a look at some out-of-the-box initiatives to promote greater understanding of transgender identities and rights

An artist from Amitie' Trust interacts with children during the
art workshop in Peyarabagan. Photo credit: CWF
Kolkata / New Delhi, April-June 2015: Childhood is supposed to be full of happy, carefree moments. But most children in the Peyarabagan slums of northern Kolkata learn to deal with the harsh realities of earning their daily bread early on in life. The morning of April 25, 2015 though might have been pleasantly different for them, when NGOs Civilian Welfare Foundation (CWF) and Child Relief and You (CRY) joined hands with transgender members of Amitie’ Trust to organize an event called ‘Ichchedana – Wings of Desire’ in Peyarabagan. About 150 children participated in the event, many of them school drop-outs; also involved were 20 school teachers with whom CWF aimed to link up the drop-outs.

Qatha: Brother queer brother (part 1)

People, Aug '15
By Pawan Dhall and Soma Roy Karmakar

All photographs from the family albums of Sanjib Chakraborty
(left) and Rajib Chakrabarti
Varta brings you the ‘Queer Kolkata Oral History Project’, an initiative to document five decades of queer lives in Kolkata (1960-2000). Our aim in this project is to go back in time and bring forward diverse queer voices through a series of interviews, which will provide a landmark to Kolkata city's queer history. Typically, the focus will be on the queer scenario in Kolkata during the growing up years of each interviewee – how it was to be queer in Kolkata in different decades since the 1960s till more recent times. The effort will be to bring forward a mix of the well known and the lesser known voices. Apart from the excerpts published here, the project also aims to publish a collection of the interviews in different formats. All interviews are based on informed consent and where requested, all markers of identity have been removed for reasons of confidentiality.

In this issue we bring you the first part of an interview with Rajib Chakrabarti, a teacher, 46 years old and a resident of Kolkata, and his brother Sanjib Chakraborty, 42, a health worker and queer activist based in Guwahati. The older brother a reticent speaker, the younger equally voluble, both are a picture of calm and patience and often speak to each other in Sylheti. They talk about the difficult times and small pleasures of life that have seen them through to self-discovery, self-acceptance and discovering each other as gay persons.

Doodle with dad

My Story, Aug '15
Debasmita Dasgupta’s artistic venture, mY FaTHer Illustrations, is a child rights campaign based on illustrated father-daughter stories. Started in 2014, it takes a fun step forward this month

Copyright for all artworks: mY FaTHer
Illustrations
 by Debasmita Dasgupta
It all started with one small step. One Sunday afternoon I came across a story of a father, who despite all odds never gave up the courage to defend the rights of his daughter. His story became the turning point in my life. I knew I wanted to do something but was caught between ‘what’ and ‘how’. That’s when my red sketchbook and pencil caught my eyes.

Before long I had taken the first step. I had illustrated my first father-daughter story and shared it online to spread some inspiration. The journey of mY FaTHer Illustrations continued as I kept looking for moving father-daughter stories from across the globe. Some I found; some found me. Platforms like Varta helped immensely to spread the word (click here).

To CC with love!

From the Archives, Aug '15
If Counsel Club were functioning today, it might have celebrated its 22nd birthday party this August 15. Pawan Dhall, one of the founder members, rummages through Counsel Club’s archival material and jogs his memory to look back at some of the ‘CC birthday parties’ through the 1990s and early 2000s. These series of articles intend to create an archive of the queer movement in Bengal and India – not a chronological narrative of the movement, rather anecdotal histories capturing the little voices that are often lost in general historical accounts – voices from thousands of letters received by Counsel Club, eastern India’s first queer support group (1993-2002), and from the group’s house journal Naya Pravartak.

Counsel Club logo
Ice cream, junk food and antakshari were the highlights and delights for around five Counsel Club members, who braved the rains and slush at Vivekananda Park in South Kolkata, to celebrate the group’s first birthday on August 15, 1994. This is from what I remember, as I did not find any reports or photographs of the occasion in the Counsel Club archives with me. But by the time the group turned two, its documentation had improved. The May to December 1995 issue of Naya Pravartak reported: “When only 11 of the invited 20 turned up for CC’s birthday party on September 3, it appeared that the event would be a damp squib . . . The party should have been on August 15, but had to be postponed for a number of reasons. Anyway, the merry-making by the 11 present surpassed all expectations. Games, discussions (even on that day!), singing, dancing and even a ‘gay quiz’ sent the hours flying.”

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Happy birthday 2 our friendship!

People, Aug '15
Birthday wishes from Varta readers . . . Facebook posts and messages, phone calls, WhatsApp messages . . . thank you all!

Amitabha Sengupta: It's always been lovely to grow with u dear Varta . . .

Aparna Banerjee: Wish we can grow all together with Varta, wishes loads of love hugs. 


Dhrubo Jyoti: Amazing stuff . . . more power to Varta.

Indrani Kar: Congratulations!! Keep up the good work! I suggest 2 things . . . Best of Varta Book or a reading session, film screening n interactive sessions . . . Or designing an online short certificate course on Gender and Sexuality (We don't have anything like that here, do we?) Congratulations once again and looking forward to all the new Varta ventures in d future!  

Souvik Ekamebadwitiyam: Congratulations and best wishes. Keep up the great job. More power to your keyboard!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Not my problem?

Vartanama, Jul '15
By Pawan Dhall

“Erasure as individuals and invisibility as a group – that is the fate of women with disabilities. Teased, taunted, looked down upon, and spoken about instead of spoken to, women with disabilities experience the combined disadvantages associated with gender and disability . . . Autonomy, respect, dignity and equality of personhood are denied to them. Women with disabilities form a heterogeneous group, since disability and gender also intersect with other categories like type of disability, class, caste, ethnicity and rural-urban residence . . .”

Intimacy, family and violence in queer lives

Insight, Policy Matters, Jul '15
By Pawan Dhall

Intimate partner violence or family violence, not quite alien facts of life, with news headlines and television serials full of one or the other! Victims of intimate partner violence are often women, sometimes men; while family violence seems to affect inter-racial, inter-caste or inter-religious couples at an alarming frequency. But this is only part of the reality around intimate partner and family violence.


What if the violence is between two males in an intimate relationship, or between a Hijra and her male lover? What if the family violence is directed at a son who would rather be a daughter? Or how do you help trans women who face relentless physical and emotional abuse at home because of their gender non-conformity, and then face it also from male intimate partners to whom they turn to for solace and love? Equally importantly, why does such violence happen, what is its impact and how can it be reduced, if not eliminated?

Through the prism of gender diversity

My Story, Jul '15
Pallav Bonerjee continues his series of personal narratives on psychology, people and destiny, this time on the need to do away with biases around gender and sexuality

Artwork credit: Himanshu Patra
From our very early childhood years, we are taught by our parents, elders and teachers to evaluate almost everything from the ‘good-bad’ and ‘right-wrong’ perspective. It is an essential component of the socialisation process, where we learn to stay away from the ‘bad/wrong’ and work towards all that is considered ‘good/right’ for us. Through consistent use of rewards and punishments, we are primed to identify objects, activities, places, events, situations and people through that very same lens, judging them quickly and modifying our actions accordingly. We hardly ever try to find the basis of these evaluations, mainly because we may be too young to ask at the time they are being formed. Gradually, they become part of our value systems and belief patterns, thereby shaping our attitudes. It is a very efficient process; one that helps us with decision making on a day-to-day basis effortlessly. So that, effortful thinking is preserved mainly for the more important and bigger decisions that would affect our lives.

Pride in Chandannagar

Clickhappy! Jul '15
Prosenjit Pal photo-recorded his pride walk debut at Chandannagar’s third rainbow pride parade on June 26, 2015

At the starting point on Strand Road, Chandannagar

Tackling blackmail around Section 377

Advice - Rights and Laws, Jul '15
By Kaushik Gupta

Reader queries

My friend is a bisexual man and has been a victim of blackmail by someone known to him. The blackmailer threatened to expose my friend's sexual relations with another man to my friend's parents and had to be paid money to keep quiet. Is there any law at all that can be used to protect my friend from this blackmailer?
Anonymous, Kolkata

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Gensex mish-mash

Vartanama, Jun '15
By Pawan Dhall

South Indian Punjabi Chinese Juice and Ice Cream . . . what would you make out of this geographic and gastronomic concoction that can be interpreted in multiple ways? Do the juice and ice cream in question have South Indian, Punjabi and Chinese influences? Or is the juice in question Chinese and served by a South Indian Punjabi along with ice cream?

Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

Challenging queer ‘cures’

Insight, Jun '15
Psychiatrist Dr. Ujjaini Srimani, advocate Kaushik Gupta and social activist Bappaditya Mukherjee on how to tackle grievous, illegal and unethical attempts to ‘cure’ queer persons

Reshma is 19 and lives in Tangra, Kolkata (some markers of identity changed to maintain confidentiality). Reshma is a trans woman affected by relentless family violence because of her non-conforming sense of gender and attire – so much so that she has started contemplating suicide. Matters came to a serious head recently when she was beaten up by her brother and parents and threatened with eviction from home. This time she mustered the courage to report the matter to the local police station with assistance from Kolkata Rista, a Kolkata-based support forum for trans women. But she was in for a shock when the sub-inspector at the police station sided with her family members instead (though he did record a General Diary based on her complaint), and exhorted them to get her ‘treated’ for the ‘disease’ she was suffering from, even if force was required. If any doctor refused to treat her, he promised to speak to the doctor to ensure that Reshma got the ‘treatment’ she required to become ‘normal’ (euphemism for ‘heterosexual man’).