Although India has taken huge strides by decriminalizing a section that criminalized sexual acts ‘against the order of nature’, the fabric of our society still retains the internalized seeds of homophobia and misogyny. But amidst the hate directed towards the LGBTQ community, there has also been a steady rise in acceptance and active action. And this has been possible because of the fiery personas who dare to be their authentic selves in a world that tells them to shrink themselves. Our very own Drag Queens, who have paved the way with their artistic talents and hard-work, deserve to be in the limelight for all the right reasons. The ‘Transgender Awareness Week’ commenced on 14th Nov, and although being a transgender and a drag queen is totally unrelated, we’d like to take you through some powerful stories and the enigmatic personalities behind them.
Alex Matthew goes by the stage name ‘Maya’, and has had a pretty ground-breaking career as a Drag queen. He’s a full time performer (and can be spotted at Kitty Su) and tours across various parts of India. Alex believes he gets to express himself freely and confidently through Drag and has the ultimate vision to open a Drag club in India. He’s always advocated that India needs a safe space for the queer community and hopes that people will start to be more accepting.
Going by the punny name ‘Betty-Naan-Stop’, Prateek Sachdeva credits his chef background behind his quirky stage name. Prateek saw his first drag show in Australia, and says that Drag is recognized as a true art form in the west. At first he was pretty hesitant, coming out in a regressive country like India, but now with the support of his loved ones, he spends his time performing and teaching women and children dance forms like jazz, ballet and contemporary.
Apart from being a drag queen, Rovin Sharma is also an activist for the Lalit group where he works for creating inclusive workspaces in India. He chose the name ‘Raveena Tampon’ as a call for attention, not towards his profession, but towards the miserable condition of the LGBTQ community in India. With the name, he also wants to bring to notice the stigma attached to menstruation, and the common misconception of sexuality and gender being mistaken as the same thing. He says, “Sex is in your pants and Gender is in your brain.”
Laila Gulabi is of Indo-U.S. descent and proudly identifies as a Muslim. Due to her multi-cultural roots, she is an advocate for gender fluidity and performs regularly in India and overseas. RuPaul’s documentary ‘Drag Race’ and UK’s first Muslim drag-queen ‘Asifa’ gave her the courage to accept herself. She wants to send out the message that Drag artists are not overly sexual, and that the audiences seem to forget the importance of consent. Being a drag artist is not about sex and people of any gender can pursue it.
Humza Mian, who goes by the name ‘Manghoe-Lassi’ is of Indo-Pak origin and performs here and in Canada. She’s part of the Canadian drag community but always incorporates her desi-lineage into her looks. She loves everything glitzy, glamorous and fashionable and is a pioneer for desi youth around the world. She’s received countless messages from south Asian countries including India and she’s glad she can be an inspiration. She says drag is not a mockery of women, but is instead a celebration of femininity and gender-fluidity.
We still have a long way to go and dismantle the roots of Patriarchy and hate entwined in our culture. But our drag queens look at it straight in the eye, and dare to defy just that.