Aditya Tiwari, a queer poet, and activist navigated through his queerness from the young age of 13, and grew up in the underground homosexual community culture in his small hometown of Jabalpur for nearly a decade, even at a time when homosexuality was punishable with up to 10 years in prison.
He experienced the fair share of both glory and pain of being queer in a small town. He says, “Pre-377 queer life for us in small towns existed in a parallel universe, after dark, and it was only in the shadows where we could find solace and be our true selves in places where our identities were concealed from the heteronormative world.”
It was his hometown where he first began writing poetry, he has contributed to various national as well as international publications and is the author of a book of poetry, April is Lush. He actively engages in the advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights in India and uses his platform to amplify the discourse and conflicts of queer lives outside metropolitan cities. After gaining recognition on social media, he dreams to see more queer poets openly being celebrated.
“My love for poetry began in 2017, I would write a blog on and one day a friend saw my poems and suggested that I should get my poetry published, it ended up becoming this book that I had never imagined that I’d publish in a million years. The book is a compilation of mini-poems, mostly things I’d needed to hear at that time as a young, gay person, living in Jabalpur. Today, the books I intend to write are, generally, books I wish I had been able to read when I was younger, more scared, more dangerous, or all of the above. I wrote my first book because I longed for someone to tell me that they believed in me. Above all, I wanted to talk to myself directly and tell myself that It’s all in me, it’s always been there, all along, which no one told me growing up gay in Jabalpur,” Tiwari says.
At a time, when Indian queer publishing in a way is pushed back into the closet, Tiwari has not lost hope and has come together with a new book of poetry. Now, at 24. Aditya has developed a voice that can no longer be silenced or shunned. He uses poetry to distill the non-metropolitan queer experience. He has written a new book of poetry, which is yet to be released.
Having completed his Master’s in Journalism from the University of East Anglia, Aditya began his journey for this six-part podcast with BBC Voices based on the theme of male mental health.
Describing his journey, he said. “The pandemic was hard for me as it was for most people, I was stuck in Jabalpur and had lost whatever little sense of community I had. I decided to do something with my life and got enrolled in a Journalism program. When I moved to the UK, I experienced what it means to be at the intersection of both queerness and color, something I’ve never experienced back home in India, and which puts someone like me at the risk of double the oppression, being both brown and queer. These stories, that the listeners come face-to-face with, are at the crux of my own experiences as well, as some of these stories are connected to my own identity and my experiences of growing up as a queer person in India.”
His push for the maximum amplification of these narratives, and for creating a constant safe space for these to unravel, is a never-ending one. He believes that these queer narratives should be handled and voiced by queer people themselves, and he adds to this short, but growing list another platform and outlet for queer voices to be heard across the world. “I feel that platforms do matter because as queer people we don’t necessarily need acceptance, we just need acknowledgment.”
Reflecting on his journey, a takeaway that he leaves with his readers is “Never stop believing in yourself, never give up on your dreams, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Growing up, I was told that I’d do nothing or I’d be nothing. But over the years, I’ve realized that it’s all in me, it’s always been there, all along. I never stopped trusting my inner voice. “My impact may not have been felt widely, but at least I know where it has been felt.”
The views are the author’s own.