I have always believed that there is nothing more important than creating space for discussion where the queer issue is concerned. You can have a thousand gender-screwing CEO’s, leaders, writers, hookers and hustlers but unless these experiences are shared and celebrated, they make up nothing in a larger-bigger- queer picture and that’s where Project Bolo arrives.
I discovered Project Bolo through a string of gay blogs and I was extremely happy to finally see a cohesive collation of oral histories of Indian (the most important word here and also in Hindi!) LGBT individuals. I have wandered through countless v-blogs, YouTube videos, Vimeo snippets, Facebook uploads (Of course) of Western queers documenting their personal histories through a tiny lens in their rooms. Sometimes it would be a dyke talking about her new girlfriend at a queer convention or maybe an extremely seductive transwoman, posing along with her mother and sharing advices on transition but I don’t (still don’t) find enough Indian examples like that. Maybe as Indian queers and especially for the ones still coming out, virtual/technological space continues to be a hazardous area. If it provides with friends, sex and quick gossip, it’s also ambiguous (and this is not specific only for Indian queers). No one is really sure what would happen with the information given out or a more Indian anxiety is, when it would start to threaten their family’s privacy.
When the Planet Romeo scam happened last year with a local television channel (TV 9) devouring into details of ‘hidden immoral men’ on Internet and flinging homophobic messages throughout the telecast, it was a huge shock to many of its closeted users who feared that might be its their profile that would be flashed on the screen now, it would be their pictures beamed into countless households as ‘immoral, sex hungry’ creatures while all they were looking for was just company and a sense of comfort (and HAPPINESS, hello?). With still an alarming sense of homo/queer-phobia in general Indian media and social sphere, it’s not shocking that Indian queers who are not urban, well networked or a part of a community, abhor being a part of a dialogue.
“All I care about is that I am alive and have a meal at night and where will this video go, what will happen?”.
That’s what Nanda, a twenty-something hijra, told my friend when she asked her to narrate her story for a series of documentaries she was doing. Her statement smelled of cynicism and a resent that echoes throughout the Indian transgender community but should that stop the dialogue from going on? Should the dark pictures completely overshadow the positive experiences or should we not look into the memory pockets of the inspirational ones? Should we stop talking because we have just believed that nothing is going to change?
Some of these questions are answered well in Project Bolo.
In a situation like ours in India where the urban queer is becoming increasingly visible and discussed (along with its problems), it’s important that its discourse is circulated well not only in the fashionable balconies but to the smaller towns and the grass roots level. Project Bolo is remarkable because it identifies and gives space for strong Indian queer voices to share their experiences and celebrate hope. Showcasing such strong narratives through film festivals and public screenings, very obviously helps in keeping a buzz about the ‘issue’ and also presents the struggles and happiness of the Indian queer, which I feel a deep sense of responsibility to. I am hoping to consolidate a kind of a database of Indian queer testimonies and collection of oral histories (hopefully, as skilfully done as Bolo) that can always be referred to. They function as our power lips. Electric mouthpieces and motherly kisses. Watch out this space for some updates on this soon..:)
And yes, here is the link to Project Bolo’s website http://www.projectbolo.com/. Make sure you watch it!