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Author: Harish Iyer

Rainbow Christmas: Meet these Santas from the LGBT community who are making the world a little merrier

Since the past many years, I have been associated with many charitable organisations. And yes, wherever I go, I carry my identity of being gay with me. Because it is not two different people, my gay identity is a part of me. I am an animal welfare crusader, a women’s rights activist, a child rights activist, also a men’s rights activist and sometimes an environmentalist. I christened the term “equal rights activist” for myself when I found it really hard to confine myself to one category especially when journalists asked me ‘what do I call you’. I am not writing this to bask in the glory of my achievements alone. Of course, I am not modest about my achievements for myself and people and animals I love. This post is not about me, it is about the secret santas with rainbow caps who little by little change the world for all.

A photo posted by Harish Iyer (@iyerharish) on Dec 23, 2016 at 10:22pm PST

Let me introduce you to some who don’t wait for Christmas to play Santa but are Santa all the way.

Santa Robin Chaurasiya:

Robin Chaurasiya is a lesbian who was a part of the US military Air Force, until she refused to stay quiet about her sexuality. I believe we bring our whole selves to work. Gay is not detachable. It is not that you can leave your gay back home while you carry your mind and body to work. She was thrown out of the military, and US’s loss is India’s gain. This indore girl, came back to India to set up Kranti, a non profit for empowerment of girls in the redlight area of Mumbai, Kamathipura.

“I don’t think there is any reason for these girls to limit their dreams. They should never stop dreaming, and they should never stop believing in their dreams. And the onus is on us, as a society, to ensure that they achieve those dreams,” says Chaurasiya.

She is someone who walks the talk. Her girls have got more stamps on their passport than many others amongst us. Some are learning psychology, some are learning drums… and all have learnt to become truer and truer to their real selves with every passing day.

Robin Chaurasiya. idhisoom.com

Robin Chaurasiya. idhisoom.com

Santa Dhruv Ambegaonkar:

A doctor by profession, Dhruv is your sassy young gay  boy from Santacruz. He is not your average Doctor. He has piercings in possibly every visible part of his body. He is trendy in his clothes and is attractive enough that people will fall ill just to go to him for an injection.

That said, there is another side to him that not many know of. He, along with his family, fosters children until they get adopted.

“My family has been fostering newborn children who have been abandoned or put up for adoption by their mothers until they are adopted by a new family. We have 2 children with us currently. A 2-month-old boy and a 6 week old girl. Both are the cutest and so funny. It is a tough job, because it’s impossible not to get attached to the kids. I still miss the kids who have left us. It’s a heartache which never goes away. Because you know they are living happily with a new family and with no idea of who you are and how much you loved them,” says Ambegaonkar.

A photo posted by Dhruv (@ambezing) on Feb 13, 2016 at 7:17am PST

Santa Anand Pendharkar:

Anand Pendharkar used to operate with an alias at one time. I still remember, we had also planned to date. Somehow, we ended up becoming good friends instead.  Anand is an environmentalist and he runs an organisation called Sprouts.

“Gender and sexuality though a personal attribute are a part and parcel of a person. There are many misconceptions that people hold about LGBT people and there is a dire need of positive role models for youth, in every sector, irrespective of the adult’s sexual orientation and identity. I have always been honest and disciplined about my nature conservation work and I mentor youth to be skilled conservation leaders. Nature is a great educator and also one with great sexual diversity. So once they learn about all the gender variations and sexual patterns of creatures, then human sexuality falls easily within that spectrum of diversity. Deep Education is the key to making the young, accepting and inclusive humans,” says Pendharkar.

Read about him here.

Anand P

Anand Pendharkar. Sprouts website

Santa Yaariyan:

Yaariyan is the youth group of the Humsafar Trust. This year, they decided to visit an old age home in Anand Niketan, Lower Parel. I chatted up with my bisexual friend Koninika Roy from Yaariyan.

“Yaariyan decided that while we do a lot of work for our community, as an influential youth group we wanted to give to a cause because we felt like giving. As responsible young adults and LGBTQ we felt the need to say that while we care about our issues, we also care about our communities. This time we felt we would spread our love by spending a day with the wonderful people at the old age home. The response was so great that we want to do this every year,” says Roy.

Yaariyan825

Team Yaariyan at Anand Niketan. Pictaram

Santa Namma Pride Bangalore and Queer Azaadi Mumbai:

This year, Queer Azaadi Mumbai, the LGBTIQ collective that organises the Queer Pride Parade of Mumbai, donated money to the Chief Minister’s drought relief fund. In Bengaluru, the Namma Pride march was organised. which took extra efforts to ensure that the pride is accessible for disabled persons. Thank you Bengaluru for leading the way. We will try and follow the good practice in Mumbai.

Namma gay. Galaxy MagazineNamma gay. Galaxy Magazine

Namma Pride Bangalore. Galaxy Magazine

Santa Gaysi Family

Gaysifamily organises the super-awesome spoken word event called Dirty Talk. Dirty talk has always highlighted other social issues. We started with child sexual abuse, then acid attack survivors, then recently a de drug addiction group.  In between, we also saw an innovative campaign called #KissOfLove where they pledged to send ½ a kilo of rice for every kiss shared to a woman rights and rehabilitation NGO called Urja. The founder, Sakshi recently donated money for the treatment of a dog.

Agreed. Such is the vibrant LGBTIQ community. We are all about our cause… but also all beyond it.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 20:06 IST

Rainbow Christmas: Meet these Santas from the LGBT community who are making the world merrier

Since the past many years, I have been associated with many charitable organisations. And yes, wherever I go, I carry my identity of being gay with me. Because it is not two different people, my gay identity is a part of me. I am an animal welfare crusader, a women’s rights activist, a child rights activist, also a men’s rights activist and sometimes an environmentalist. I christened the term “equal rights activist” for myself when I found it really hard to confine myself to one category especially when journalists asked me ‘what do I call you’. I am not writing this to bask in the glory of my achievements alone. Of course, I am not modest about my achievements for myself and people and animals I love. This post is not about me, it is about the secret santas with rainbow caps who little by little change the world for all.

A photo posted by Harish Iyer (@iyerharish) on Dec 23, 2016 at 10:22pm PST

Let me introduce you to some who don’t wait for Christmas to play Santa but are Santa all the way.

Santa Robin Chaurasiya:

Robin Chaurasiya is a lesbian who was a part of the US military Air Force, until she refused to stay quiet about her sexuality. I believe we bring our whole selves to work. Gay is not detachable. It is not that you can leave your gay back home while you carry your mind and body to work. She was thrown out of the military, and US’s loss is India’s gain. This indore girl, came back to India to set up Kranti, a non profit for empowerment of girls in the redlight area of Mumbai, Kamathipura.

“I don’t think there is any reason for these girls to limit their dreams. They should never stop dreaming, and they should never stop believing in their dreams. And the onus is on us, as a society, to ensure that they achieve those dreams,” says Chaurasiya.

She is someone who walks the talk. Her girls have got more stamps on their passport than many others amongst us. Some are learning psychology, some are learning drums… and all have learnt to become truer and truer to their real selves with every passing day.

Robin Chaurasiya. idhisoom.com

Robin Chaurasiya. idhisoom.com

Santa Dhruv Ambegaonkar:

A doctor by profession, Dhruv is your sassy young gay  boy from Santacruz. He is not your average Doctor. He has piercings in possibly every visible part of his body. He is trendy in his clothes and is attractive enough that people will fall ill just to go to him for an injection.

That said, there is another side to him that not many know of. He, along with his family, fosters children until they get adopted.

“My family has been fostering newborn children who have been abandoned or put up for adoption by their mothers until they are adopted by a new family. We have 2 children with us currently. A 2-month-old boy and a 6 week old girl. Both are the cutest and so funny. It is a tough job, because it’s impossible not to get attached to the kids. I still miss the kids who have left us. It’s a heartache which never goes away. Because you know they are living happily with a new family and with no idea of who you are and how much you loved them,” says Ambegaonkar.

A photo posted by Dhruv (@ambezing) on Feb 13, 2016 at 7:17am PST

Santa Anand Pendharkar:

Anand Pendharkar used to operate with an alias at one time. I still remember, we had also planned to date. Somehow, we ended up becoming good friends instead.  Anand is an environmentalist and he runs an organisation called Sprouts.

“Gender and sexuality though a personal attribute are a part and parcel of a person. There are many misconceptions that people hold about LGBT people and there is a dire need of positive role models for youth, in every sector, irrespective of the adult’s sexual orientation and identity. I have always been honest and disciplined about my nature conservation work and I mentor youth to be skilled conservation leaders. Nature is a great educator and also one with great sexual diversity. So once they learn about all the gender variations and sexual patterns of creatures, then human sexuality falls easily within that spectrum of diversity. Deep Education is the key to making the young, accepting and inclusive humans,” says Pendharkar.

Read about him here.

Anand P

Anand Pendharkar. Sprouts website

Santa Yaariyan:

Yaariyan is the youth group of the Humsafar Trust. This year, they decided to visit an old age home in Anand Niketan, Lower Parel. I chatted up with my bisexual friend Koninika Roy from Yaariyan.

“Yaariyan decided that while we do a lot of work for our community, as an influential youth group we wanted to give to a cause because we felt like giving. As responsible young adults and LGBTQ we felt the need to say that while we care about our issues, we also care about our communities. This time we felt we would spread our love by spending a day with the wonderful people at the old age home. The response was so great that we want to do this every year,” says Roy.

Yaariyan825

Team Yaariyan at Anand Niketan. Pictaram

Santa Namma Pride Bangalore and Queer Azaadi Mumbai:

This year, Queer Azaadi Mumbai, the LGBTIQ collective that organises the Queer Pride Parade of Mumbai, donated money to the Chief Minister’s drought relief fund. In Bengaluru, the Namma Pride march was organised. which took extra efforts to ensure that the pride is accessible for disabled persons. Thank you Bengaluru for leading the way. We will try and follow the good practice in Mumbai.

Namma gay. Galaxy MagazineNamma gay. Galaxy Magazine

Namma Pride Bangalore. Galaxy Magazine

Santa Gaysi Family

Gaysifamily organises the super-awesome spoken word event called Dirty Talk. Dirty talk has always highlighted other social issues. We started with child sexual abuse, then acid attack survivors, then recently a de drug addiction group.  In between, we also saw an innovative campaign called #KissOfLove where they pledged to send ½ a kilo of rice for every kiss shared to a woman rights and rehabilitation NGO called Urja. The founder, Sakshi recently donated money for the treatment of a dog.

Agreed. Such is the vibrant LGBTIQ community. We are all about our cause… but also all beyond it.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 20:06 IST

No homo? Bar’s refusal of entry shows all-access spaces for the LGBT are still a dream

A couple of years ago, I received a call from my friend, Suzette, late at night. She was screaming on the phone, so much that I had to keep the receiver away. She had been denied entry into a restaurant called Ginger in Kolkata. The reason – because she was the ‘park street rape victim’. She was told on her face that she couldn’t enter because she is the ‘Park Street Rape Victim’. The eatery owner had the audacity to say that she had visited the place with other men before and had created a ruckus — further maligning her character. Suzette told me that she felt raped again.

If you’re going to say that she should have been okay with it and should have gone to to more accepting places, spare me the thought. That’s not how equality works in this country. Every citizen has the right of dignity.

Representational image. APRepresentational image. AP

Representational image. AP

In January this year, a good samaritan in Pune decided to take a kid from the streets to McDonalds. The kid was not allowed. The kid was thrown out and was not allowed to buy his fanta. Because, may be, poor children spoil the look of McDonalds? Or what else could be the reason? And why should this be tolerated?

Even if you were not from Mc Donalds you would have felt really angry. You would have shared this Firstpost article on Facebook. But how do you treat your house help? How do you treat your lowest-ranking staff in your office? Do you mind him or her or her eating with you? How do you treat your house help? Wouldn’t it be a good practice to look into your own prejudices before you give us your sermons on Facebook?

Recently when I was at The Bar Stock Exchange at Lower Parel in Mumbai with a male friend, I was told at the entrance that only “couples could enter,” I quickly responded saying “we are a couple”. The staff first giggled and then said that couple meant “men and women”…all these episodes came to my head. A similar incident had happened in Shiro’s — a pub in Worli, Mumbai where a gay person was denied an opportunity to ring in the new year with his loved one from his own gender. Soon, DNA carried a story and suddenly everyone was speaking about it.

Shiro’s offered a response after being tagged many:

Dear patrons,
We extend our sincere apology on behalf of our management for the miscommunication that has gone up in the media. We strongly disagree with the accusation and we do not discriminate between people on the basis of race, ability or sexual orientation.
As a matter of precautionary measure of our female guests on the occasion of New Year and to avoid any misbehavior or unwanted issues at the restaurant where men posing a couple to gain entry, the management decided that a man can be accompanied with a couple(s) or two men can enter with a lady .
We strive to provide the best possible experience to our guests and will continue to do so.

Regards,
Shiro Management

I am also urging people to re-evaulate their Zomato reviews of Bar Stock Exchange.

We should be careful; such behaviour percolates from the management. The people, at the counter, at the door, the waiters, have been told that the meaning of couple is “man and woman” and they in-turn must be feeling that as long as there is regular influx of women, the place will be safe. We all know, how women are used as a trophy to make venues, not more accessible, but also lot more ‘attractive’. If you get the drift? Also, with so much prejudice, I haven’t seen any straight man fake his sexuality as gay, put his arms around his male friend romantically to just gain entry to a bar. If we lived in a world where this was happening, maybe, we would be in a more liberal world.

My friend Bhuvan Narang from The Little Door says “We have a ‘come as you are’ policy. We don’t care about people’s sexuality or gender. If you are drunk and behave nasty, we will kindly see you off the little door. If you are nice, we will be nice. And we will not brand all women or all men or all trans people who come to our place because of one episode or one person. That’s not how businesses work. And more importantly, that’s not how humanity works’.

Nothing will change if we don’t go to Shiro’s in Worli or the Bar Stock Exchange in Mumbai. The ‘Guysexual’ of Firstpost will still be doling out his homo gyaan. The earth will still revolve around the sun. And these little cosmic particles of homophobia will and we still will be kicking some real mean ass. That’s us. What to do. We are like that only. We don’t take insults lying down. We will not bear any cruelty against our people. Poor, rich, Dalit, Muslim, Brahmin, gay, lesbian, woman, man, trans irrespective.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 12:33 IST