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FAQ – Social & Lifestyle

Social support is an important means for tackling stigma and discrimination against LGBTQIA people in India. Such support may have various forms – support groups, safe meeting and recreational spaces, publications, helplines and shelters to name a few. In fact, these have been a crucial part of the Indian LGBTIQA movement right from the 1990s. From self-acceptance and self-help to the fight for human rights and larger social acceptance, these social support activities have helped many LGBTIQA individuals lead a better life. Here’s a look at some key social support initiatives in India :

What are LGBTIQA support groups – what do they do and where can you find them?

What are LGBTIQA support groups – what do they do and where can you find them?

Essentially LGBTIQA support groups are peer support forums – that is, they are self-help forums run by LGBTIQA community members for other community members. They may be for all LGBTIQA people or for specific sections of the queer communities. They may also have an age-specific, activity-specific or location-specific focus. They may be offline or online or both. They may be small loose collectives of individuals or large registered organizations. A few may have a mixed leadership, but cater to LGBTIQA communities through specific programmes and activities.

Fundamentally all support groups provide emotional and information support to those who reach out to them. This is often done through periodic community meetings (in safe physical spaces or a variety of online forums) and one-to-one interactions (face-to-face, over phone, email or online chat). The physical spaces may also be used to host community gatherings, parties or other events. In the process people also get an opportunity to find friends, dates and sexual / romantic partners.

Some support groups go one step beyond and develop referral linkages for LGBTIQA-friendly sexual health, mental health and legal aid professionals. They may also provide support in accessing social security schemes and livelihood options. Some groups are good in assisting individuals come out to family, friends and colleagues; and deal with workplace harassment, or intimate partner and family violence.

Other groups have an even larger agenda and organize public awareness events like film festivals, rainbow pride walks, flash mobs, carnivals and sensitization sessions with students, teachers, doctors, lawyers, police officials and media persons. They may also organize intensive human rights campaigns, and legal or policy reforms campaigns. A few also publish journals and webzines focussed on gender, sexuality and associated issues.

India today probably has scores (if not hundreds) of old and new support groups across different states. Here’s listing some from each region, which could also help you link up with many more in their respective regions:

In the North:

• Basera Samajik Sansthan, Noida: A support forum for transgender women in western Uttar Pradesh
• Nirantar, Delhi: Focusses on education as a means of empowering marginalized communities (including LGBTIQA people) and developing grassroots feminist leadership
• Queer Nazariya, Delhi: Queer feminist resource group working on gender and sexuality with a focus on lesbian, bisexual women, transgender men and genderqueer and non-binary people assigned
gender female at birth
• Saksham, Chandigarh: An LGBTIQA support forum for Chandigarh and Punjab
• TARSHI, Delhi: Focusses on sexual and reproductive health issues through information dissemination and counselling services (including easy to understand publications on gender and
sexuality issues)

In the East:

• Amitie’ Trust, Serampore: An LGBTIQA support forum for Howrah and Hooghly districts of West Bengal
• Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival, Kolkata: A collective of LGBTIQA individuals and their allies that organizes cultural events through the year and takes the lead in organizing the annual
Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk, possibly the oldest such event in South Asia
• Moitri Sanjog, Coochbehar: A support forum for transgender people in North Bengal
• Pratyay Gender Trust, Kolkata: A gender and sexuality rights initiative created by Kolkata’s kothi, hijra and other gender non-conforming / transgender women
• SAKHA, Bhubaneswar: A support forum for transgender people in Odisha
• Sappho for Equality, Kolkata: A support forum for lesbian, bisexual women and transgender men in West Bengal
• Swikriti, Kolkata: An LGBTIQA support forum for Kolkata and 24 Parganas (N) districts of West Bengal

In the North-East:

• All Manipur Nupi Maanbi Association, Imphal: A collective of groups working with nupi maanbi / transgender women in Manipur
• Empowering Trans Ability, Imphal: A support forum for transgender men, lesbians and bisexual women in Manipur
• Xukia, Guwahati: An LGBTIQA support forum for Assam and neighbouring states in North-East India

In the West:

• Badlaav Samiti, Indore: A support forum for gay, bisexual men and transgender women in Indore and neighbouring places in Madhya Pradesh
• Gay Bombay, Mumbai: An informal group that functions as a safe space for men who are romantically and sexually attracted to men in Mumbai and other parts of India
• Humsafar Trust, Mumbai: The oldest surviving LGBTIQA support forum in India since the early 1990s with main operations in western India and Delhi
• Lakshya Trust, Vadodara: An LGBTIQA support forum for several districts in Gujarat
• Sarathi Trust, Nagpur: A support forum for gay, bisexual men and transgender women in Nagpur and neighbouring places in Maharashtra
• Vikalp Women’s Group, Vadodara: A feminist group that works with women (including lesbians and bisexual women) in tribal, rural and urban areas of Gujarat

In the South:

• Darpan Foundation, Hyderabad: A support forum for gay, bisexual men and transgender women in Hyderabad and neighbouring places
• Nirangal, Chennai: A support forum for gender and sexual minorities and sex workers in Tamil Nadu
• Orinam, Chennai: A forum for support, advocacy and creative expression for LGBTIQA people of Tamil origin and their families and other allies
• Queerala, Ernakulam: A support forum for Malayali LGBTIQA people in and beyond Kerala state
• Sangama, Bangalore: A support forum for LGBTIQA, sex workers and other marginalized communities across Karnataka state
• Swabhava Trust, Bangalore: An LGBTIQA support forum for Bangalore and other parts of Karnataka, with emphasis on counselling services

Online: Many of the groups mentioned above also have an online presence on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. But there are some that function mostly online with periodic offline meetings or events. Example: Desi Boys, Harmless Hugs in Delhi, Queer Campus Hyderabad and Swar in Kolkata. Have fun finding them on Facebook!

Are there any support forums for parents of LGBTIQA people?

Are there any support forums for parents of LGBTIQA people?

A typical support forum for parents of queer people provides an opportunity for parent-to-parent interaction and emotional support. While LGBTIQA people often have to face the brunt of social stigma and discrimination, their parents too have to deal with both internal and external challenges. Being able to accept their queer children may require them to struggle with their personal values, while at the same time deal with the criticism and rejection from the extended family and even neighbours.

In such a situation, parents who have already been through the process of coming to terms with their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity are often in a strong position to help other parents of LGBTIQA people. But this is an area where not much work has been done in India. In Mumbai, Gay Bombay organizes parent support meetings, while support forums in Kolkata, Chennai and other cities organize similar one-off meetings or events.

What about LGBTIQA support groups in educational institutions and workplaces?

What about LGBTIQA support groups in educational institutions and workplaces?

The formation of LGBTIQA support groups in educational institutions is a growing trend in India. Typically, these groups provide emotional support to both newcomers and existing students, and help them deal with issues like coming out, relationship break-ups, and instances of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia. They also provide support on issues that have apparently nothing to do with gender or sexuality. Some of them also conduct sensitization events addressed at other students, faculty and the administrative staff. Information about some key groups is provided below:

• Queer IISc located at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore is probably the oldest campus support group for LGBTIQA people in India
• Most branches of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) have such groups. Saathi in IIT Bombay is probably the first of these, and later Unmukt in IIT Kanpur, Qagaar in IIT Roorkee, Orenda in IIT Gandhinagar, Indradhanu in IIT Delhi, Vannam in IIT Madras and Ambar in IIT Kharagpur came up.
• Queer Campus Delhi provides a safe place for discussions and mingling together for students across the city’s colleges and universities
• BITS Pilani has a support group called Anchor, Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi has Dhanak, the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad has Samvad, the SRM University in Chennai has Prism, and Pondicherry University has Spectra
• Among schools Tagore International School in Delhi has a support group called Breaking Barriers. There are few other such examples at the school level in India
With regard to workplace support groups, some of the multinational companies like Google and IBM and homegrown ones like Wipro have in-house support forums. Delhi has a unique Delhi LGBT Professionals Group that is a meeting point for like-minded professionals across a variety of employment sectors. Meetings and socializing events are held by turn at different members’ houses or other venues.

Are there any phone, email or chat based helplines for LGBTIQA people?

Are there any phone, email or chat based helplines for LGBTIQA people?

India has a number of community-friendly helplines. Many of the region wise support groups mentioned in a previous question have their own helplines, as also a few other groups. Prominent among these are:
• Humsafar Trust, Mumbai: qs_hst@hotmail.com
• Madhya Banglar Sangram, Baharampur: toll-free helpline at 1800 345 3332 (one of the very few LGBTIQA support groups in India to have a toll-free helpline)
• Orinam, Chennai: orinamwebber@gmail.com or http://orinam.net/contact
• Sappho for Equality, Kolkata: 98315 18320 (all days 10 am to 9 pm, except Mondays)
• Swabhava Trust, Bangalore: swabhavatrust@gmail.com
• Swikriti, Kolkata: 94343 33642 (daily 10 am to 12 pm and 5-9 pm) and 98317 43608 (7-10 pm weekdays, 10 am to 7 pm weekends)
• Xukia, Guwahati: 97074 65672 (daily 3-8 pm)
Among ally NGOs, TARSHI in Delhi, International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care in Chennai and SAATHII in Bhubaneswar have queer-friendly helplines. Varta Trust in Kolkata provides information and counselling support around sexual health, mental health, disability and legal issues through vartablog@gmail.com.
Both Orinam in Chennai and Varta Trust in Kolkata also have extensive online databases that have information about LGBTIQA-friendly health and legal service providers.

Are there any temporary shelters for LGBTIQA people who have to face eviction by their families or leave home in a crisis?

Are there any temporary shelters for LGBTIQA people who have to face eviction by their families or leave home in a crisis?

Many of the bigger support groups like Humsafar Trust in Mumbai and Sangama in Bangalore facilitate access to shelter in a crisis. Apart from these, there are a few other initiatives that should be mentioned:

• Snehalaya in Ahmednagar in Maharashtra state is one of the few NGOs that provide a temporary shelter for LGBTIQA people, women and children facing a crisis (including those living with HIV)
• Gay Housing Assistance Resource is a free all-India location-based, short, medium and long-term accommodation resource bulletin board on Facebook. It brings together LGBTIQA people looking for accommodation and those in the community as well as their allies who have safe spaces to offer
• International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC) in Chennai has a shelter for women leaving home because of violence from parents, siblings or intimate partners. Women who are being, or have been, coerced into marriage, including lesbian, bisexual and other queer women, could also get in touch with the PCVC helpline at 044 4311 1143 or online at http://www.pcvconline.org/contact.htm

What about Indian LGBTIQA themed publications?

What about Indian LGBTIQA themed publications?

Queer themed or gender and sexuality focussed journals and newsletters have been an important part of the Indian LGBTIQA movement right from the start. In recent years, webzines, rather than the printed publications, have become more popular. Some of the publications have both print and online versions.

These publications played a crucial role in mobilizing LGBTIQA communities, providing emotional and social support, generating awareness within these communities about health and rights issues, and in advocating with key stakeholders on the concerns of LGBTIQA people. They provided an opportunity for marginalized communities to create their own media and write their own stories as against the inaccurate, stigmatized and sensationalized portrayal in commercial media. And they are still playing this role!

Today you can choose from numerous LGBTIQA publications (and even publishing houses like Queer Ink, Mumbai) from across the country, depending on your interests and location. A list of currently active publications follows:

• Bombay Dost, English, print, once a year: This is the oldest magazine of its kind in India, and is published by Humsafar Trust, Mumbai. It was first published in 1990. For many years it was a quarterly with bilingual content in English and Hindi.
• Gaylaxy, English and Hindi, online, updates on the go: One of the most popular queer webzines published by a group of queer individuals from different walks of life and different parts of India, started in 2010.
• Gaysi Zine, English, online: A magazine dedicated to curating content about what it means to be queer and desi – published by The Gaysi Family, Mumbai
• In Plainspeak, English, online, quarterly: A magazine with content on gender and sexuality published by the South and South-East Asia Resource Centre on Sexuality of TARSHI, Delhi since 2005.
• Orinam.net, English and Tamil, online, updates on the go: This website serves as an online resource for LGBTIQA people of Tamil origin in India and elsewhere. It was launched in 2006.
• Scripts, English, print: This is also one of the oldest surviving queer magazines in India featuring queer, feminist, activist and creative voices, published by Lesbians and Bisexuals in Action (Labia), Mumbai. It was started in 1998
• Swakanthe – In Our Own Voice, Bengali and English, print and online, twice a year: This is a newsletter published by Sappho for Equality, Kolkata and has been published non-stop since 2004. It is widely circulated during the annual ‘Kolkata Book Fair’.
• Swikriti Patrika, Bengali and English, print, once a year: A journal published by Swikriti, Kolkata every year just before the annual ‘Kolkata Book Fair’ since 2004.
• The Forbidden: Ek Xukia Dristanto, English and Assamese, print and online, once a year: This is a very young periodical brought out by Xukia, Guwahati since 2015.
• Varta, English, online, monthly: A webzine published by Varta Trust, Kolkata since 2013, covers LGBTIQA and larger gender and sexuality issues in context of a variety of other social issues. It is a more contemporary version of Pravartak, among India’s earliest queer journals published in the 1990s by the now defunct Counsel Club.

How can you participate in LGBTIQA community events?

How can you participate in LGBTIQA community events?

Film festivals, rainbow pride walks, flash mobs, carnivals, parties and more – the Indian queer calendar of community events has become quite busy over the years. A region wise snapshot of currently active key events follows:

In the North:

• Annual rainbow pride walks in Delhi, Chandigarh, Lucknow, though other places in Rajasthan and Uttarakhand have also hosted one-off walks
• Delhi has one of the best and busiest queer party circuits. Other than private parties hosted by individuals or groups of individuals, friendly restaurants and bars like Guppy by Ai in Jor Bagh, Sky Lounge in Connaught Place, and Mocha Lounge in Defense Colony Market also host parties throughout the year. Some of the parties also act as fundraisers for other community events like the Delhi Queer Pride and Chandigarh Rainbow Pride Walk. All venues put together, Delhi has a queer party happening almost every Saturday.
In the East:
• Annual rainbow pride walks in Chandannagar and Kolkata; other places in Odisha and West Bengal have also hosted one-off walks. The pride walk in Kolkata is possibly the oldest event of its kind not just in India but also South Asia. The first walk took place on July 2, 1999 and only 15 people participated. After a gap of four years, the event was revived in 2003 and since then has been organized annually without a break
• ‘Dialogues: Calcutta International LGBT Film & Video Festival’ is India’s oldest continuously running queer film festivals. It started in 2007, and is organized annually by Pratyay Gender Trust and Sappho for Equality in collaboration with the Goethe Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan
• ‘Kolkata Rainbow Carnival’: Organized for the first time this year (2018) by the West Bengal Forum for Gender and Sexual Minority Rights, this is an effort to revive an earlier queer carnival that used to be organized by Sappho for Equality
• Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival (KRPF) parties, addas and cultural events organized throughout the year. KRPF parties are among the most popular and inclusive of the queer diversity across India, and act as fundraisers for the annual ‘Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’ (KRPF takes the lead in mobilizing participation for the walk). KRPF organizes parties strictly in venues that are trans and genderqueer inclusive

In the North-East:

• Annual ‘Queer Pride Guwahati’ organized by Xukia and other queer support groups in the north-eastern states since 2014; Imphal organized a one-off event in 2015
• Manipur hosted annual regional transgender beauty contests organized by LGBTIQA support groups and allies from 2011-15. Smaller events continue to be organized, and transgender women from the state have become well known in beauty pageants organized in India and abroad
In the West:
• Annual rainbow pride walks in Mumbai, Nagpur and Pune; other places in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have also hosted one-off walks. Mumbai’s ‘Queer Azaadi March’, started 2008, is today among the largest attended rainbow pride walks in India (along with Bangalore and Delhi). It is organized as part of a fortnight long ‘Queer Azaadi Mumbai’ festival of music, theatre, sports, photography and open mic sessions
• Gay Bombay parties are among the most popular among gay and bisexual men not just in and around Mumbai but across India. Gay Bombay also organizes other queer social networking events like film screenings
• ‘Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival’ is the premier and largest film festival of its kind in India and South Asia and has had eight editions till the summer of 2017. Every year it showcases a large number of Indian and foreign queer themed films from different genres in commercial venues in Mumbai. The film festival also has a touring wing called ‘Kashish Forward’, which is organized every year after the main festival in different cities in collaboration with local youth groups and educational institutions.

In the South:

• Annual rainbow pride walks in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kochi; several other places in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry have hosted one-off rainbow pride walks. The Chennai pride walk is organized under the banner of the Tamil Nadu Rainbow Coalition.
• ‘Bangalore Queer Film Festival’ is one of India’s most popular queer film festivals since 2008 – it started the same year Bangalore’s first rainbow pride walk took place.
• Koovagam annual fortnight long festival of transgender communities attracts participants from across India every year in April-May. It takes its name from a village of the same name in the Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu. The festival takes place at Koothandavar Temple dedicated to Aravan (Koothandavar). The participants ‘marry’ Lord Koothandavar, thus re-enacting an ancient myth of Lord Vishnu or Krishna who married him after taking the form of a woman called Mohini. The next day, they mourn Koothandavar’s death through ritualistic dances and by breaking their bangles. A beauty pageant and other events like singing contests are held, as also sessions on health care and legal rights of transgender people.
• ‘Reel Desires: Chennai International Queer Film Festival’ has been going strong since 2004, and is organized as part of a fortnight of several other LGBTIQA community events in and around Chennai.

Last Modified: 19 June 2018

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