“Disappointment isn’t a distant cousin of queerness. It’s woven into the fabric of queer desire from the very point we start articulating our attraction for bodies we aren’t supposed to.”
When I first picked up the new Gaysi Zine, I didn’t expect to spend my Republic Day buried amidst the pages of the publication’s 5th annual edition. As a straight man I figured I’d peruse over some of the artwork, but I didn’t expect to dive into the stories, not because I’m a homophobe, but because I thought the Zine would have less to offer a man of my sexual persuasion. Turns out, I was both wrong and misguided.
Two cappuccinos and 56 pages later I took my first cigarette break. I had just finished one of the most heart-wrenching stories of my life, and was puffing away on my smoke like a petrified Popeye. I returned to the Zine, and five minutes later I was laughing out loud. Gaysi offers a whirlwind of emotional experiences, and you can feel the weight of the words carrying life lessons, pain, joy and longing, all channeled through a single sentence — a sentence that has the power to provide both author and reader with a perspective that’s not always easy to find.
In truth, Gaysi is probably the purest publication I’ve read, as their agenda, in its essence, is simple and selfless. It is a platform designed to give its readers a sense of kinship with those, who like them, are too often ‘othered.’ This edition, in particular, goes after the concept of ‘desire’, from a short story about figurative ‘star rainbows’ shooting out of the dick of a guy who realizes he rather enjoys his girlfriend’s vibrator up his derrière, to the saga of an abused man who let a train roll over him just to see if the pain could change his life.
The confidence and the courage these Zine contributors offer their readers opens up a rare opportunity to truly get more in touch with yourself, regardless of sexual orientation. An honest and aesthetically stunning reminder that we are all humans first.
The curator and designer of this stellar issue, Karishma Dorai, was kind enough to answer a few questions, so read on and don’t forget to grab your own copy from the purchase link below.
HG: Can you tell us about how you conceptualised this edition. Who are the people that worked on it?
KD: “For the last four years, simply put, the zine has been a submission-and-curation-based endeavour, where people contribute their voices and we piece and curate them into a collection. A theme-based approach is something we’ve always wanted to try, and this edition provided us the right time to do so.
At first, we threw a few ideas around. However, none seemed to incite as much debate and polarization as the topic of desire. Out of the two of us, one argued entirely for it, while the other argued entirely against it, immediately elucidating how this topic might require discourse and expression in the context of queer. And both arguments made perfect sense too – is it over-represented? Or is it underrepresented? Misrepresented? Even though it is such a huge part of mainstream conversation, the livelihood of many glossy magazines, and a topic that is popularly spoken about, there was very little when it came to material on its various facets, how we use it to express ourselves, our likes and our dislikes, the lines between accepted and taboo that we toe and more. In a country like ours where desire is criminalized and penalized, it seemed odd to not explore how millions navigate what seems instinctively right to us. As a result, the fifth edition was born. Priya Gangwani and Karishma Dorai have put this edition together with editing help from Indu Jain, while Anuja Parikh and Sakshi Juneja charm (hopefully many) people into buying the zine through their marketing, sales and promotional skills. We’d also like to acknowledge all our friends who patiently heard each one of us out for months on end, helping answer questions that we didn’t yet understand through the course of the zine.”
HG: Did this edition expose any emerging talent we should keep our eyes on?
KD: “Every single contributor in this magazine is a talent to watch out for! The contributors in this issue are a diverse mix - some of them are established and experienced in their respective fields, while others have put out their first piece with us. Kadak collective, a group of 8 South-Asian women who work with different kinds of graphic storytelling, contributed a wonderful mix of graphic narratives, while The Kinky Collective, a group which raises awareness on BDSM and Kink in society, put forth a much-needed broader perspective on desire through intimate accounts from their members. Contemporary authors like Abeer Hoque and Rosalyn D’Mello have contributed dazzling fiction to this edition on queer desires. Every zine is not just a showcase of different voices, but also the talent that makes those voices valid, relevant and engaging. Keep your eyes on each and every one of them, you can’t go wrong.”
HG: How has the zine evolved from its very first edition? Is there something in particular you keep in mind, in terms of changes and adaptations with each edition?
KD: “Ever since the start, the design language was established as one that wouldn’t be templated, making each and every issue special in its own right, representing the distinct individualism that we as queer people possess. This gave each issue the room to evolve freely, becoming different from each other in expression but still retaining the same soul of content through a mix of personal accounts, fiction, graphic narratives, illustrations, photo essays, art and more. As a result, every issue is an evolution of the previous one, a representation of not just our journey as the zine, but our collective journey as LGBTQIAPK+ people and allies made over the span last five years. It also grows in size (well sorta, though this is completely unintentional).”
HG: What would you say is your favourite aspect of this edition in particular? What makes it special?
KD: “What makes this issue special is the fact that it takes a topic like desire, and uses it as a lens on the queer realm, and tries to veer the reader away from looking at this subject from a purely physical/romantic/sensual context. It is also the first time we’ve explored a theme-based approach and as a result, all pieces share something in common right off the bat, while expressing their own varied perspectives.
This issue is divided into three chapters where the first chapter looks at desire identified in the self, second chapter focuses on desire performing in our lives and the lives of others, and the third chapter looks at desire as a construct and offers different perspectives on it.
Every single piece in this issue helped us expand our own understanding of the subject, while also reminding us that this issue is only just a scratch on the surface of what we know as queer desire. We believe and hope that we can continue to peel the layers off this topic across future editions of the zine, and, one fine day, compile them as a collected study of the landscape of desire in the queer realm.”
HG: Does this edition stand out from its predecessors in any way?
KD: “Probably in the sense that it is the first time we’ve successfully included a variety of expressions, both written and visual, in the zine. While the third edition saw a majority of written pieces, the fourth edition was a pure graphic anthology. The fifth brings both and more together under one roof, with a mix of documentation, fiction, graphic narratives, illustrations, poetry and photo essays.”
HG: In your opinion, has art been an important and effective tool in starting a conversation in Indian society about queerness, sexuality and homosexuality?
KD: “Without a doubt, yes. Art anywhere in the world pushes societies to look beyond the normative and articulately express what words cannot, or are forbidden to. In India, art, whether it’s through Internet memes, illustration blogs, exhibitions, Facebook headers, t-shirts and fashion accessories, graffiti, photography or typography or anything with a visual voice, sheds light on what is labelled as ‘not normal’ or ‘unnatural’, thereby exposing the trouble with validity of that notion. It brings queerness to light, thereby unequivocally ripping the sheets off, saying ‘we exist’. It argues for us, it expresses for us, it talks where we can’t. And we’re only yet seeing the beginning of it.”
HG: Is there anything you feel readers should look out for?
KD: “We hope that our readers see a glimpse of themselves, or of their yet undiscovered selves in the zine. And most importantly, look out for our contributors and their work beyond this zine – details about all of them are available in the contributors and collaborators section.”
HG: Are there any Gaysi projects coming up that we can be excited about?
KD: “2017 is the year that we’re going back to the drawing board to come up with more LBT-focused ideas for queer women both online and offline, as we feel that spaces for them are currently more lacking than others. With some positive feedback received post a few experiments both online and offline last year, we look forward to bringing these spaces and properties to fruition this year.”
Purchase The Gaysi Zine 05 here.
Images courtesy Of The Gaysi Zine
Words By: Julian Manning