Over the past four years, Queerela has evolved to play a key role in promoting the rights of members of the LGBTIQ community of Kerala, using events and initiatives to spread awareness to the broader public.
The LGBT community in India faces many complex issues, and it all starts with the taboo of talking about sex; when there is no way for learning about sex, we close our minds to the possibilities of other sexualities. Being queer in India is treated as a character flaw, a sign of dishonouring the family, and is an open invitation to social discrimination and being shunned.
This was noticed by Jijo Kuriakose, the Founder of Queerala, who decided, four years ago, that India needed to change, starting with Kerala. Queerala was started as a secret Facebook support group, and quickly gained momentum, turning itself first into an open Facebook page before finally blooming into a full-fledged community-based organisation.
In the past four years, Queerala has inspired many individuals to come out and speak for the cause. It has also initiated many campus-based talks, and has helped change the attitude towards the sexual minority in Kerala. Queerala conducts bimonthly meetings with its LGBTIQ members to build and extend the community support, and to discuss the queer scenario at both the national and international levels, including the ill effects of homophobia faced by gender non-conforming and openly queer individuals. The organisation also helps in providing support for sexual health and spreading HIV awareness.
“Even after the NALSA judgment, trans people are asked for medical certificates for gender change at the gazette. This medical certificate is issued by a medical board consisting of a urologist and a gynecologist who ask the trans individuals to strip to prove their gender,” Rajashree Raju, a member of Queerala, says, and goes on to add, “We believe that it is extremely essential that queer people write, speak, and undertake educational initiatives to educate the masses. Queerala is undertaking a project in collaboration with Gender Park to modify the syllabus at a college level to include issues relating to the lives of the LGBTIQ people.”
An important facet that Queerala has also focused on is helping the less privileged trans individuals in getting permanent jobs, and the organisation has achieved advocacy for such individuals.
The organisation has also joined national queer support events like ‘Wiki Loves Pride’ and ‘Free and Equal’, conducted by the Wikimedia India chapter and the United Nations respectively. Their ‘Wiki Loves Pride’ movement is to inspire creative minds to direct their writing skills towards adding more articles on homosexuality and LGBT rights to the Wikipedia Malayalam pages. Queerala, as a queer support group, always stands for the annual Queer Pride march in Kerala to raise funds.
Homomorphism, an art initiative by Queerala, was a project to pinpoint the notions on same gender intimacy, which is often misinterpreted by people. The art exhibition got a wide response, inspiring them to take the art project to other cities in India.
Quest2016 offered a unique platform for various kinds of laypeople and subject resource personnel to spend two days in devising new strategies and approaches to make the lives of LGBTIQ folk more meaningful and directional. I noticed how everyone was interested and keen on learning more by their questions and opinions. It was a participatory and proactive conference,
says Shana Susan Ninan, board member and Academic Consultant for Queerala.
Queerala aims to fuel healthy media-academic-political discussions regarding queer topics, and with respect to the same, had allied with the National Council of Churches in India, which organised a seminar on ‘Envisioning an Inclusive Church; Dialogue on Homophobia and Transphobia!’
Queerala members were also part of the crew of the gay-themed Malayalam movie KaBodyscapes, directed by Jayan K. Cherian, a New York-based director. The film was denied certification by the Censor Board owing to its vivid depictions of homosexuality.
Queerala plans to play a bigger role in moulding the community, and wishes to acquire a safe space for the queer community – a place where they do not need to be scared of being themselves – with the help of a crowdfunding campaign. They plan to utilise the space to bring the community together with recreational activities and film screenings, to advance in the academic fields by developing their skills in the IT and communication sectors, to hold their fortnightly community and board meetings, to provide mental and sexual counseling services, and to have a library of queer texts in the academic and human rights genres, which will eventually be moulded into a knowledge exchange hub.