Jan 26, 2011

The Indian Express Article

Today, an article about gays and their use of the internet to 'come out' was published in the Indian Express. Yours Truly was featured in the article, that too with a photograph. Here's a link to the article.
The Digital Afterlife of the Queer
Richa Bhatia, Indian Express, Jan 26, 2011*

Coming out to family and friends is not always easy. A number of
dedicated websites have now developed to provide LGBTs with a support system

It was in his early twenties that Madurai-born Shridhar Sadasivan typed the keywords—connection, community, Queer Chennai on the Yahoo group MovenPick (a non-sexual support space for lesbian/ gay/ bi/ transgendered (LGBT) people in Chennai). What was he looking for? Confirmation that his sexuality would not be an impediment in the larger social context, something that MovenPick provided. As opposed to children from hipper, and less conservative outposts, Sadasivan, now in his early 30s “suffered with shame and guilt” all through his teen life. “I had no clue about homosexuality. I had no one to reach out to. I tried to kill myself. I found Internet and it helped me understand my sexuality, accept and be comfortable with who I am and then come out to my friends and family”, shares Sadasivan, who is now currently based in New Jersey, United States, where he works in the IT industry.

Past the closet days, Sadasivan is now making a splash with his profound stories that are published in the Tamil magazine Thinnai and Thendral. He is also a member of the executive team of Orinam.net, a bilingual LGBT resource website and is trying to create awareness in the mainstream about LGBT issues through his writings. “Indian kids normally discuss attraction, sexual feelings with friends. But kids with same-sex attraction can never discuss with their friends, so there is no support system other than the Internet as of now,” rues Sadasivan.

It is a common queer narrative. The rise of the Internet has kickstarted the emergence of a worldwide queer support system. “The personal coming out experience is certainly enhanced by the emergence of online communities. The website lends them anonymity, as people do not give out their real names. If you are anonymous, you can say whatever you want, people can’t judge you,” says MJ, Mumbai-based co-founder of the two-year-old portal gaysi.com, a first-of-its kind initiative in India, where the desi-gay community comes together and shares personal stories of their struggles and their coming out narratives. Over the past two years, the website is seeing traffic from all over the world,with about 500-600 hits a day of late. “Besides international dating sites, there is no online platform where desis can come over and connect. So we set it up pumping in money from our own pockets,” said MJ. Though still not a commercially viable project, she is wary of asking for donations. “The advertising revenue is next to nothing, so we are looking for other ways of marketing, including endorsements from corporates who are not hesitant to support our cause,” she says. 24-year-old Agnivo Niyogi sees larger implications for the LGBT presence on the web in the socio-media landscape. “Of late, the LGBT community is seen as a good market to invest. It can prove commercially viable through right marketing and niche products. We already have queer stores and queer e-zones,” said the Kolkata-based Niyogi, who is also a contributor to the one-year-old monthly magazine Gaylaxy, an online LGBT magazine. Though there are overseas niche websites such as TwoBrides.com, TwoGrooms.com — a one-stop-shop for gay weddings that offers products, information, wedding stories and ceremony topics — the scene in India is very nascent. “People are not willing to come up with such ideas. There is a lack of initiative,” rues Niyogi, who works as a content developer with New Age Knowledge Solutions.

There wasn’t any internet in Thiruvananthapuram, when Krishna Kumar Venkitachalam, now 31, came to grips with his sexuality. There was no one to talk to either. In his early days, Venkitachalam, logged on to Yahoo groups to “find friends online”. Since then, he has moved base to Mumbai, where Venkitachalam, who has a degree in Orthopedics, works in a KPO by the day and slides into the musician avatar as Kris Bass and gigs by night. Bass is also a popular blogger at www.engayinglife, a seven-year-old blog started in Mumbai. It was through the blog that Venkitachalam chose to come out in 2007. “My sister and her husband first read the blog in 2003 and came to know about my orientation, though I officially came out to my parents in 2008. My mother had known about it for sometime but chose to ignore it since she thought I was too young. She is very supportive, though my Dad is still shaky about it,” shares Venkitachalam. His blog, about “a queer, amateur songwriter and a bassist gives an insight into a person who is also gay”. These days, he is perpetually online, hanging out in chat rooms “not to seek sex but intelligent conversation”. “I am not a gay activist,” notes Venkitachalam. “I am just letting people know that I am pretty much a next door type guy, who also happens to be gay,” he said.
Of course, there are errors in the article. First of all, there WAS internet when I came to grips with my sexuality. That's how I got to know that there were millions of men like me. There were very few people to talk to, and I came out to my friends first. Then, this blog wasn't started in Mumbai. I started blogging when I was in Thiruvananthapuram.

I don't exactly know the time when my sister and my brother-in-law came to know about my orientation, but I guess it was around 2004/2005. I was always out on the blog and I have hardly used it as a means to come out. Of course, my friends, when they come across it at first, come to know about my orientation (because the header says that I'm queer).

I have always come out to people personally - either by telling them on their faces that "Dude, listen how can I get in bed with you?" or "Girl, do you have a father/uncle than I can have sex with?" - or by joking about it, just like I did in the first part of this sentence.

I had indirectly come out to my sister way back in 1999 when I had made a website for myself. At that point, my home page had a statement saying that "I'm definitely not a heterosexual." My sister had read it and I thought she had chosen to ignore it.

Then, I came out to my Mom and Dad in 2009. That was the first time they came to know about it. I don't think they have ignored it ever. But they do have problems in talking to me about it. I must admit that my Mom is getting much better at it now.

So, I became famous once more. Thanks Indian Express.


sameer said...

Hi u linked the page wrong
I guess u meant http://gaysifamily.com/
when u said gaysi.com :)

Larry-bob said...

Congratulations on the article (the press never seems to get things 100% right of course.) Ran across your page because of your mention of the open mic on twitter - really glad that happened and hope that there can be something on-going there; I co-host a queer open mic here in San Francisco.
Hope the march is great!

Kris Bass said...

@Sameer: That was a copy-paste from the HT article. They got it wrong.

@Larry-Bob: Thanks for the visit. I'll be blogging about the Open-Mic thing soon! And yes, the march WILL be great!