Here’s how Navin Noronha keeps it queer on his podcast: by telling us stories.
Keeping It Queer is a podcast series hosted by Navin Noronha, a stand-up comedian who’s openly gay. Though Navin often uses the platform of comedy to talk about his experience of living life as a gay man in the Indian society, he’s taken a different route with his podcast. Stemming away from his usual light-hearted take on sexuality, Navin uses his podcast as a platform for his guests to open up and tell their own stories. Each episode stars a different guest who is a part of the LGBT+ community and has a unique story to tell us.
It’s easy to lose yourself in these stories. This is, I think, the best thing about a podcast: much like reading a book, it gives you space to imagine everything you hear in your head. There’s no video to distract you from visualizing everything in your own way. The guests indulge us in stories of their childhood, their relationship with family and friends, and of course, growing up homosexual. Navin’s questions are often the same - “When did you first realize? How did you come out to your family? How did they take it?” - but the answers paint a different picture each time. Whether it’s reliving a painful memory or recalling an experience of warm acceptance, the guests are unfailingly raw in their confessions – something that makes this podcast ever more personal.
What makes ‘Keeping it Queer’ engaging? For me, it is how Navin always draws an intersection between something personal to the guest and homosexuality. Be it books, like in the case of the well-known book-worm Vivek Tejuja or something like mythology, when speaking with the bestselling author Devdutt Pattnaik. It is these intersections that bring to light the fact that sexuality is a very personal part of an individual’s life. It does not exist in isolation, no – it is, in fact, interspersed with very many little things in a person’s life. Vivek Tejuja mentions how he came out to his parents by giving them dozens of books to read, books about homosexuality. Gauri Sawant, a popular trans-activist tells us how as a little boy, she pretended as if one of the older boys playing cricket in her society was her boyfriend. The little things, so personal to each guest are what adds warmth to this podcast.
Throughout the two seasons of ‘Keeping It Queer’, Navin’s guests bring up important issues like the section 377, transgender rights and child sexual abuse. Looking at these issues from the lens of someone who has suffered at the hands of them is an eye-opening experience. For me, it was an exercise in building empathy.
Being a stand-up comedian, Navin plays with comedy and often uses it to get his point across – and it usually works! He has a rather loyal following in the comedy scene. Similarly, he also keeps this podcast light-hearted, making jokes and satirical observations. It’s quite evident that ‘Keeping it Queer’ is not only about tackling the more difficult aspects of growing up a homosexual or dealing with the abuse that sometimes comes with it. It is also about normalizing it, by sharing anecdotes – funny, warm, happy anecdotes - about one’s life as member of the LGBT+ community.
As Navin told the Indian Express, “I want every youngster who is dealing with the angst of not being able to come out, like I did, to listen to people of the community talk, and feel inspired to follow their heart.” With a different voice in every episode and dozens of engaging, real life stories to tell us, Keeping it Queer is doing just that.
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