Queer art projecting stories of struggle and survival is gaining popularity in India, giving the LGBTQIA + community long-due appropriate representation
“One of the highs of my career as an artist was when a person I met at an exhibition wrote to me about how he had used one of my paintings to come out to his parents, something he had struggled with for years,” says Veer Misra, a 24-year old graphic designer, illustrator and artist. Veer uses his art to tell tales from the queer community and normalise their experiences of coming out, finding a partner and falling in love. “Coming out is just a part of the process, there is so much more to our lives. We have relationships like any other heterosexual person and that involves dating, longing for a partner and heartbreak. When we tell stories from the queer community, these should also have a share, so that any person struggling to accept his or her sexuality understands that it is a normal life even if society makes you think otherwise. I want to show the mundane life of queer people,” says the Delhi-based artist who shares his work on Instagram at @v.eird.
Artwork by Veer Misra
Even as the Central Government on September 14 opposed a plea filed before the Delhi High Court seeking recognition and registration of same-sex marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act (1956) stating that ‘our values don’t recognise it’, there is a new generation of queer artists trying to normalise non-binary gender. Projecting stories of struggle and survival through their art on social media, they give themselves, and their community, the long-due appropriate representation in society. “A lot of factors have contributed to this. For instance, the wide access to Internet and penetration of social media, especially Instagram. In the last two years, there has been a boom in India’s queer art scene and one of the reasons is the Supreme Court’s decision to decriminalise homosexuality. These artists that we see today, existed even before the judgement came out, but they shared their artworks in closed groups. Reading down Section 377 helped these artists to be fearless and flaunt their sexuality. Media, like Bollywood, that have mass appeal have largely shown queer characters in a humiliating manner,” says Anwesh Sahoo, visual artist and model who won Mr Gay World India in 2016.
Self-portrait by Anwesh Sahoo
Need of the hourAnwesh who runs the Instagram handle @the.effeminare challenges the stereotype of how a man should look by flaunting flared pants, high heels, faux feather gloves and sheer dresses. “We all grew up in a hetero-normative society, so the definition of a man is ingrained in our minds. But in the last two years, there has been a shift in perception,” says Anwesh, who recently graduated from National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi. Like Anwesh, Bengaluru-based artist T Praveen Kumar believes that making LGBTQIA+ stories a part of the everyday narrative will help normalise non-binary identities.
Sketch by T Praveen Kumar
“As a child, I found art as my mode of expressing the struggle of accepting my sexuality. These sketches helped people around me understand what I was going through. Giving queer artists equal representation not only helps in normalising same-sex relationships in society, but also instils a sense of acceptance and confidence in the artist. Unless you put up pictures of a guy draping saree or having piercings, people will always feel it is unacceptable for men to do so,” says Praveen.Through his Instagram page @koncham_artsy, Praveen aims to make the lives of transgender individuals in rural parts of the country, visible. “Bigger cities have pride parades and support groups but in rural areas, people are still struggling,” he says. “Through my work, I try to bring these stories of trans individuals to a bigger platform, for their share of representation.”