Queer Eye: This Year’s Gaysi Zine Is All About Desire
Every year Gaysi Family, an online platform for the queer community, puts out a magazine. The theme of the latest edition is desire. Indeed the zine is so steeped with desire, if you could wring it like a wet towel, you’d get a mug full of fluid (the kind depends on your sexual orientation). The publication has all the things you’d expect from an artsy magazine of this sort – short fiction, opinion pieces, brief graphic novel-style spreads, sex manuals, photo essays and poetry that span a range of sexual identities. Gaysi has been inclusive, offering words and pictures not just for queer folk but straight men and women too.
The magazine is a lusty celebration of desire, an unabashed declaration especially by women contributors of their love for the body. Such frankness is admirable as it’s rare in the Indian public sphere. As is the case with the queer experience, desire and pain are inseparable as desire is in general painfully suppressed. Thus the pieces that make a impression are the ones that examine the Janus face of queerness. Take ‘Balbir Krishan: Lust for Life’, a staggering story of boundary crossing. Krishnan, a Delhi-based artist, grew up in a village in Uttar Pradesh. He overcame crippling social ridicule, years of being raped and a failed attempt at suicide that left him a double amputee to become an artist. The story is in his voice and is written by his partner Michael Giangrasso.
In ‘Never Lost, Never Found’, Delhi-based journalist Dhrubo Jyoti writes about growing up gay and lower caste. The queer Dalit voice is one that’s infrequently heard, which makes Jyoti’s story all the more moving. “My grandmother wasn’t allowed to touch newspapers in her friend’s houses, I am told if I was a little less Dalit, maybe my genderqueerness would be attractive,” he writes.
Bangladeshi-American writer Abeer Hoque’s short story ‘Hourglasses’ is a finely wrought tale of a working woman in Bangladesh finding her first real love. It’s a convincing character sketch of a woman, who evades the normal pressures thrust on young women in conservative societies, namely the demand they marry, by pursuing a career. Her job is both salvation as it takes her away from her family and analgesic as its routine numbs her desire. Till she spots a mischievous colleague and gets swept into a hot climax.
US-based Aindri Chakraborty’s graphic pieces on make-up are particularly illuminating for what make-up can mean in the queer context. It can be uncomfortable, like an itchy sweater, for androgynous women coerced by family and friends to appear more feminine by painting their faces. On the other hand, make-up can be liberating for people transitioning from one gender identity to another. For a trans woman, for instance, face paint is often a way of embracing a new identity. This idea is echoed in ‘I Belong Deeply To Myself’, city-residing photographer Akshay Mahajan’s series of portraits of LGBT men and women. One of them is make-up artist Elton J. Fernandez. He has the confidence of someone who is entirely comfortable in his skin as he performs a variety of everyday motions such as lining his eyes with kohl.
The Gaysi Zine is priced at Rs450 (inclusive of a Rs50 delivery charge). Buy it here.