"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you," said Maya Angelou and this couldn't be truer for the Indian queer community. Indian queer writers and the content they produce plays an essential role in normalising queerness. They provide a point of view that cannot be told by anyone else.
Consuming content produced by queer writers is an easy way to learn more about the queer community. It also allows for young audiences to see themselves represented. Here are 7 Indian queer writers and their works.
1. Sunita Namjoshi
Sunita Namjoshi is a lesbian poet and a fabulist (writer of fables). Her work is known for challenging prejudices such as homophobia, sexism, and racism. She has written many collections of fables, poetry, children’s books, and novels. Her work has been translated into several languages, including Spanish, Italian, Chinese, etc.
One of her most famous works is Feminist Fables in 1981. In Feminism, one of her voices, it was described as a "brilliant body of work, marked by sparkling wit, wordplay and inventive power, emerged”. Namjoshi was influenced by writers like Virginia Woolf, Adrienne Rich, and Kate Millett. She has been active in the feminist movement and gay liberation movements.
2. Gazal Dhaliwal
Gazal Dhaliwal is a screenwriter known for writing the screenplay and dialogues for Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. Gazal has also worked on Lipstick Under My Burkha as the dialogue writer. She also co-wrote the screenplay and the dialogues for Qarib Qarib Singlle. Gazal has openly spoken about being a transgender woman, most famously in an episode of the talk show ">Satyamev Jayate. Read an interview with Gazal here.
Gazal Dhaliwal spoke out against the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018. She voiced her support for the scrapping of the bill as it does not grant transgender people the right to self-determine their gender identity.
3. Devdutt Pattanaik
Devdutt Pattanaik is an openly gay Indian mythologist, illustrator, and author. After the decriminalisation of homosexuality in India, he came out as gay in a televised interview. He is known for his writing on folklore, legends, and fables. His work focuses on myth, mythology, religion, and management. Some of his popular works are Myth=Mithya: A Handbook of Hindu Mythology, Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana, and My Gita.
4. Vikram Seth
Vikram Seth is an Indian novelist and poet. He is also the receiver of awards such as Padma Shri, Sahitya Academy Award, WH Smith Literary Award, and many more. In his poem ">Dubious, Vikram Seth describes his thoughts on his sexuality. Seth’s notable works include the poems All You Who Sleep Tonight and Mappings. The novel A Suitable Boy, which has a series adaption that aired on BBC One and is also streaming on Netflix.
5. R. Raj Rao
Ramachandrapurapu Raj Rao is an Indian writer, poet, and professor of literature. His novel The Boyfriend is one of the first gay novels to come from India. Poems written by Rao in his BOMGaY collection were the basis of the film Bomgay (1996).
Rao founded the Queer Studies Circle at Pune University. He was one of the first to offer a course on LGBTQ+ literature at the university level in India. Rao has been described as one of India’s leading gay-rights activists.
6. Apurva Asrani
Apurva Asrani is an award-winning filmmaker, film editor, and screenwriter. He came out as queer via Twitter when he posted a picture of him with his partner. He has been vocal about the fight for equal rights for the queer community in India. Apurva is known for writing the acclaimed drama Aligarh, co-writing the film Shahid, and is also editing Made in Heaven.
Vijayarajamallika is a transgender poet in Malayalam literature. She is also a writer, teacher, inspirational speaker, and activist. Vijayarajamallika is Kerala’s first transwoman poet. She is the founder of Sahaj International, India’s first transgender alternative learning centre.
Daivathinte Makal (Daughter of God) is her first collection of poetry, and it has been included in the syllabus of a course at Madras University. Certain poems from that collection have been included in the curriculum of different universities. Her second poetry collection Aan Nadhi (Male River) describes the life and struggles of members of the LGBTQ+ community. It has a special reference to the transgender and intersex communities. Her autobiography Mallikavasantham is the first transgender autobiography in Malayalam literature.