Monthly Archives: August 2015

To Be, or Not To Be.. “Out”

To be or not to be.. “Out”

bobby darlingIt was interesting to see such a diverse response to the documentary on Muslim Drag Queens on Channel 4. Some people loved the Queens, found them brave and inspirational. Others loathed them and said it was inappropriate and too brazen. But the fact is, South Asian LGBTQ people exist. Aside the entertainment factor, whether this is for laughs in a movie, or a Queen on the screen, there is a reality in which our own family and communities suggest we are all better off hidden and back in the closet?

Back in the 90s when the so-called “Gaysian” scene emerged, clubs like Shakti and our own night, Club Kali were established due to need to create an alternative safe space for LGBTQ people from the Asian subcontinent. A place where alternative or ‘Black’ Queer identities, were valid and we could meet like minded folk, make friends and find love and feel we belonged. Pre-Grindr and pre-internet, these clubs were the hub to meet, connect and establish support systems. Perhaps they were a foundation to where we have reached today where young boys, including Muslim are prepared to go on terrestrial TV and declare who they are in all their colourful glory.

Along the way, some Queer folk were outed, others decided there was only one way, to finally come out. Consider Ellen Degeneres’ watching her career disintegrate after she came out in 1997 and, George Micheal arrested for “lewd behavior”, followed by public shaming in 1998. Perhaps because of these incidents, LGBTQ people develop the courage to fight on for equality and fairness. Only two years later, the revolutionary TV show “Queer as Folk” aired on terrestrial TV, followed by queer characters in soaps such as Brookside, Hollyoaks, Corrie, EastEnders all of which enable debate and visibility of LGBTQ people in general.

So where are we now? Well big names in film and sport started to come out. Wentworth Miller, Neil Patrick Harris, Jodie Foster, Ellen Page and even Dumbledore. The western world is certainly more open to alternative identities today. As we take one step forward, how many steps back are taken in terms of our racial profile. This time not just by this same western world but also by our own family and communities, still unable to comprehend our sexuality and gender identity? Is it worth coming out now even though it could mean death threats, forced marriage and if you’re in the wrong country, stoned or thrown off buildings for acts of love?

Here, now, with more human rights, Equal marriage and such, coming out is thankfully more a cause for celebration than ridicule. But how many dare come out in Bollywood? With the county’s U – turn in queer human rights, one famous director refuses to discuss this aspect of his life, let alone his circle of queer friends. Considering the experience of Bobby Darling in Bollywood, her treatment by the media, and the state police, is it any wonder the Bollywood closet remains tightly shut. Did Aamir Khan’s TV show Satyamev Jayate, an episode about accepting queer identity as normal make any difference? Because news flash: normal is exactly what it is to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or straight.”

As they say, the only constant is change. Hiding behind ignorance, or culture, or religion, or a past keeps those closet doors shut. Every small step in our collective past as LGBTQ people is evolution, sometimes at a price. Each step shines a light on our existence, we are here, we are queer, and this is our life. Together as a LGBTQ community, we, the Kali community are a huge leap forward, uniting differences in faith, genders and sexualities into one queer community. We know being “out” is an extremely difficult and personal choice. That ability to choose comes from a long and painful journey of acceptance of our self. Only after passing this milestone, then reaching a point of self expression and freedom to be who you are, can we choose a destination ahead. Sadly there’s always one too many casualties along this journey, when charities like the Naz and Matt Foundation pick up the pieces.

Some days, we survive, others we live. We wake up each day battling, not with the world, but with our inner self.. Do I come out today and be who I am, or not?

Heard about whitewashing of the Stonewall movie?

Did you know the Stonewall movement was started by Marsha P. Johnson, a black-transgender female who retaliated against the police? But her role seems to be replaced by an attractive white male in the movie. So is the uproar justified?

Are you surprised? Hollywood is Hollywood where stereotypes sell and more often than not the core character is the white male. Decent BME roles in Hollywood exist, but reserved for the minority few like Samuel L Jackson and Halle Berry. The issue here seems to be one about recreating a story, based on actual events and then replacing the main player with someone so far from who the original.. is this a bit too much in 2015?

Gay white male director, Roland Emmerich, defends his decisions by saying that the movie is a fictionalized version of the events. He put a message on his Facebook account, “The courageous actions of everyone who fought against injustice in 1969 inspired me to tell a compelling, fictionalized drama of those days centering on homeless LGBT youth, specifically a young midwestern gay man who is kicked out of his home for his sexuality and comes to New York, befriending the people who are actively involved in the events leading up to the riots and the riots themselves.”

Does this make a difference? Is Roland Emmerich a sell-out or a hypocrite? Does the fact that he gave $150,000 of his own money to Outfest’s Legacy Project to preserve Gay and Lesbian’s film history in 2006 make any difference?

Reality check. Is Hollywood about money? Or is Hollywood simply another indulgent playground where a few privileged directors can play storytelling however they want? Could the directors be directed by those who hold the purse strings? Which is a sexier sell to masses? An attractive, white, 20 something or a black she-male? Hollywood doesn’t claim to address inequalities, or raise awareness, or change attitudes. But Stonewall was about the power of a minority which did change attitudes in the World. Can we, the Queer/LGBT people also make a statement and influence change when Hollywood so blatantly changes actual historical events.

We won’t be throwing bricks through windows but what will you do with the power we have? Use social media? Go see or not see the movie? Hold pickets outside screenings? Share your thoughts as Stonewall movie is due for release on 25 September.

Watch Trailer Here

The Daily Beast Article