For an extended period of time, the LGBTQ community remained unacknowledged; leaving them unheard of and misrepresented. With the onset of the “queer” movement and LGBTQ activism in India, a wide array of Indian LGBTQ publications arose celebrating the identity of the community and addressing issues relevant to their status in society. The following editorials represent some of the major LGBTQ magazines published in India.
I. Pink Pages
Pink Pages is the first All-India LGBTQ Magazine, whose first issue was released within days of the historic Delhi High Court judgment decriminalizing homosexuality in India. Founded in 2009, by Editor-in-Chief Udayan, the magazine covers a broad range of articles featuring gay rights, health, fashion, popular culture, books and more. When asked about his role as a “writer activist”, Udayan begins to describe his aversion to the stereotypical notion that separates writing from activism.
“It’s as if a writer is someone who’s supposed to be suave, subtle and aesthetic, as opposed to the activist who’s always belligerent, loud and on-your-face. Can a good writer not be a good activist too?”
Following the first issue of the magazine, it received a variety of feedback, some of which was rooted in unkind criticism.
The nasty TV9 episode got us on our heels and the efforts of our community resulted in a small but significant victory with the channel being forced to issue an apology and pay a fine.
However today, the magazine thrives under its extensive fan base and continues to grow with each coming year. Over the last four years, the magazine has profiled well known men and women from the queer community, relentlessly delivering bold, honest and sensitive gay journalism in India. Udayan seeks to constantly provide readers with content rich in quality, and has revamped the design of his website to make it sleeker and reader friendly.
Founded in the confines of a hostel room in 2010; Gaylaxy magazine started out as a brainwave of Sukhdeep Singh, a then eighth semester B-tech student at the Indian School of Mines, who is the current Editor-in-Chief of the magazine.
Aggravated by the sheer scarcity in of queer magazines documenting the triumphs, aspirations and concerns of the LGBTQ community, Singh was motivated to create something new. With the assistance of a few friends, the first issue of Gaylaxy magazine was published on January 10th, 2010. The issue garnered a ground-breaking response, which served as a driving impetus for its massive growth over the course of the years.
The magazine has contributors from all parts of India, along with a worldwide readership, with nearly 60% from India, followed by USA, UK, Pakistan and Canada. The content revolves around detailed LGBTQ issues in the country; that covers relationship advice, movie reviews, literature, fiction as well as personal articles sent by people about their opinions, lives and “coming out” stories. Gaylaxy continues to strive to be a publication that offers regular impeccable quality; it is one of the few LGBTQ publications in India to be regularly published, issuing almost 24 copies over the last three years. As an archive that illuminates queer news and events it serves as a platform to fearlessly talk about issues no one is talking about.
III. Bombay Dost
Launched in 1990, Bombay Dost is India’s first registered LGBTQ Magazine. After attending a conference on HIV in Montreal, Ashok Row Kavi, the Editor-in-Chief of Bombay Dost, decided to start a newsletter in order to reach out to the LGBTQ community about issues concerning STI’s, HIV and AIDS. The roots of the magazine originated in pre-internet days where the only way to reach others were through print, and post & telegraph. However, amounting to the sharp stigma attached with being “openly gay”, a lot of gay men would refrain from subscribing to the magazines, which made the newsletter circulation as the key source of readership.
The circulation received a flood of letters from all over the country expressing their alienation and psycho-social concerns, and felt a strong sense of connect with the tone and voice of the publication.
Ashok, believes that the Indian gay movement, and Indian gay consciousness is parallel to the movement of the 50’s and 60’s in America.
There is no “official” construction of gay identity. Most people simply deny that gay men and lesbians exist.
The editor-in-chief believes that India is in the state of multitudes, and the only avenue that will lend a voice to the gays is elements of urbanity.
“Rural India is too busy with her soul and spirit, it is Urban India with her cacophony and confusion that will raise a vigorous gay voice.
In an attempt to conduct HIV outreach through a secure foundation, Bombay Dost set up “Hamsafar Trust”, India’s leading community-based organisation for men-who-have-sex-with-men. In 2002, the magazine suffered a brief suspension due to lack of funds, but re-emerged to the forefront of LGBTQ activism a few years later. Today, the magazine seeks to break the deep rooted perception about gender and sexuality, strengthening new perspectives about men, women and transgenders.
IV. The Queer Chronicle
Steering away from run-of-the mill publications, The Queer Chronicle exemplifies a wide lifestyle resource for its online readers in over 25 countries. Exclusively created for private distribution, it is a non-commercial publication that features personal stories, interviews, fashion, music, food and drink, art, event and business promotion events representing the LGBTQ community.
“TQC has helped readers understand what “being queer” really means and helped them connect with likeminded people” says Editor and Publisher Keith.
Founded in 2009, Keith was convinced it was the right time to launch a magazine “that was for and by the queers”. The magazine has received unwavering support, and continues to thrive with the growing fanbase.
This one’s more of a bonus, given it isn’t technically a magazine. Formerly known as Stree Sangam; Labia was founded in 1995, as a Bombay-based autonomous, voluntary collective of lesbian and bisexual women and transpersons.
The primary concern of the organization is to alleviate the feelings of isolation that surrounded queer life, as well as create safe zones for the LBT community.
The organization also organizes sessions and workshops on marginalized genders and sexualities in a number of national conferences; one of which was called Humari Zindagi, Humari Choice, a campaign aimed at collaborating with women all over the city and addressing different social issues. Along with this, they have also initiated spaces for queer expression including a zine called Scripts, which have had 14 published issues since 1997. Along with organizing reading/performance events for queer persons, their film club CineLabia holds monthly film screenings of queer and feminist films.
An initiative driven to build solidarity with other queer groups and support the LGBTQ community through counselling in person and over the phone, Labia has had great bearings on the community via its own distinct form of written communication.
Founded in 2008, this particular ‘zine has both an online and print version though the latter only gets published once or twice a year. Possibly one of the most active and powerful voices in India’s LGBTQ world right now, they seem to have struck that unique balance between two worlds to get the message out a little beyond the peripheries of their own community and they continue to churn out huge volumes of fresh content every month by both crowd-sourcing their content from LGBTQ writers across the globe (with a focus on India) and creating original content in-house as well.
There’s a lot of focus on creative expression on this site, as they often turn to visual experimentation, either with videos or illustrations to get their hopes and dreams (albeit, subtly) across. In fact, their videos are something we particularly love and vouch for. This year’s print version was an entirely crowd-funded affair and will see its release on the 13th of September at their bi-annual Dirty Talk event. Usually, the show is a curation of fresh talent across mediums, be it stand-up comedy, music or art.