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A collection of oral histories
of LGBT persons


You can read excerpts of individual interviews below. Full transcripts are being published as a book soon. If you are using any part of the above text in any article / research paper, please note that it copyrighted by Project Bolo and you have to write to projectbolo.vol1@gmail.com for permission to use the same.


India : Queer Ink
International : Amazon

1. Aditya Bandopadhyay

Aditya BandopadhyayI remember it was in the last year of my graduation, it was in 1993, I don't remember
the exact date. It was a few months before Siddharth Gautam died. He came to Kolkata,
some invitation from Counsel Club, if I am not mistaken, and he was giving a lecture. So
I went. I reached late, and the room was very packed and I could not enter the door. I was
standing outside the door and I was half peeping in and there was this guy standing at
the other end, he was standing and talking.

And he said things like, 'I am a lawyer and I am gay' and these are the problem areas... And that was the first time
I heard (Sec) 377 being mentioned.

And that was the time when I was actually thinking, 'ok I've passed my 12th standard, I wanted to have fun and
basically faff around for sometime and not do work and study and all of that which I am doing and I have done, but
I also need to seriously think about what I need to do with my life'. And then I heard that lawyer and gay and all of
that. So I thought that, 'I am gay and this is something which is interesting… not boring like medicine or engineering
or chartered accountancy, this is something where you can actually do things and make a difference' and things
like that.

Suddenly it was like this is what I should do.

2. Ashok Row Kavi

Ashok Row Kavi I think identity was empowered by reading about it. Like you read about history, you
experience it at a certain level in the gay sub culture. In those days we used to go to
Maheshwari Garden and there used to be parties of men who used to consider
themselves like us. Hum aise hain (we are like that). Still the question of gay didn't
come. With the English group, we would say 'Oh we are the gay groups'. But with
most of the Indian speaking groups there was no such word as the word gay.

And what they started doing first of all (is), if you were very affectionate with someone you changed gender,
'Kashius ga bai, kaisee ho? (how are you, my sister?)'… You know that sort of thing. Secondly you started
heavily borrowing from Hijra cultures that was the only openly identified queer culture. So firstly it was separating
you from heterosexual cultures by inverting gender. You would call each other female.

There is a very good example in England during the time of Oscar Wilde, which started growing there… the Molly
culture, where you change gender like "how are you Oscarina?". Something like that. So I became from Ashok…
Asha Bai. Nobody had a problem about it.

Today suddenly these gay guys get very upset when you change their gender as if it becomes reality. It doesn't,
it is a very affectionate way of looking at it.

3. Betu Singh

Betu SinghI was into security… I was into security for the Prime Minister because I was a Black
Belt in Judo and Karate and from an army background. My father took great care that
we learn horse riding, music, judo, karate… He always wanted that his children should
know everything, and we learnt everything.

I did duty for thirteen hours every day and earned money. I started with a pay of Rs.850 there. Then I called my girl
friend there. She had her family friends at Daryaganj. They gave us a room at the top floor where there was no
electricity, while at work I would be sitting in an air-conditioned space. Now my girl friend came over, I did not have
much money. She would just eat a plate of vada sambar and wait for me the whole day. I would reach early
morning at 2.00 and leave again at 6.00am. This was the only time when we could speak to each other and
make love to each other.

Initially she was sitting at home… as I said earlier she was living on one vada sambar daily. Then gradually I made
more contacts. I got her a job at Hyatt Residency as telephone operator and then even I shifted there. Then we
were working together.

Then she got a job and now we had two salaries. In a nearby colony, we rented a room. We lived there for many

4. Bindumadhav Khire

Bindumadhav Khire I came to India… you know, the typical NRI marriage, coming here and getting
married and running back again… and the marriage did not last at all. I got my divorce
in a year's time. My parents were intensely depressed about what happened. It was
traumatic for everyone concerned and I was in severe depression.

It is true that I did not want to sleep with her so I did not have sex with her and, somehow the whole thing was,
I started wondering whether… yes I agree that I was cheating on my wife and I had cheated her and no one knew
about that neither my parents nor my wife. But there seemed to be a certain way of looking at it and that once
we would go to the US, things would be all right and that kind of thing… and I knew that would not be right… and
I was the only one who knew that I was cheating on my wife. I had started realizing that I am making a big mistake.

Again I was in the US alone, depressed and feeling guilty… and regretting the mistake that I had done… and no
support system… so it is in this desperate situation that I approached Trikone. If my marriage had worked I don't
think I would have approached Trikone.

5. Dalip Daswani

Dalip Daswani It was a two paragraph (letter)… introducing myself. But that was, in a sense… that
was the first time I was actually telling another person that I am gay… giving myself a
label… sharing it with another person… even though it was through a letter and not face
to face. And that moment also, as I remember, when I literary dropped the letter in the
letter box… that time we didn't have internet and e-mail… there was a sense of a heavy
cloud, ok it was a sense of heavy burden, which was removed… just that act of dropping
that letter… just about 6 to 8 lines sharing that you are gay… that first act of coming out… and this sense of a
cloud, which I realize later was the cloud I had really kept oppressed, had just lifted… not realizing that there were
many more clouds to be lifted.

I had given my P.O. box address… So contacts were made and somehow this chap from Germany lands up and
connects with three-four of us. We meet for the first time in a cafe and the Red Rose group event starts… and we
were the founders… and it was the sense of timing… we met, we discussed… then lets do this again, lets
advertise… but how do we advertise? So let's advertise through Trikone. It was that time span of sending the letter
to them, they then come up with the next publication, the next issue, they give the ad of this meeting happening in
this cafe in Delhi… and red rose is the symbol.

The first meeting, I think, I had several people… and then the second meeting… by then it had grown… word had
spread a little bit plus the first ad had come out I think… That really was magical. I think it was really magical -
small circle of 4-5 people… people walk in grows to 8… grows to 16… grows to nearly 20… it just kept growing…
it was like this bubble… it was growing… encapsulating the whole environment… and we ended up being 50 plus
people! This was first coming out in a public space, which was the moment of revolution so to speak… It's just
bringing tears to my eyes, the sense of joy and liberation… and the magic… it was magic!

6. Gauri Sawant

Gauri SawantOne day a guy came over from abroad. He was a tall hefty guy of 8 feet and had come
with a girl called Kimberly. After half an hour, he turned into a girl. I went and touched his
breasts… He looked very cute with a wig and all so we felt that even we should become
girl. That was the first time I realized that a man can also become a woman.

But one thing was very clear in my mind that I didn't want to be a hijra because I cannot
beg, I cannot do prostitution business. I used to do outreach, I used to go to Cotton Green area and I knew what all
this was. So I was scared and there was this fear in me that I don't want to do all this. I don't want to be exposed
on the roads… this was very clear within me.

Also side by side, I was cross dressing, I had started wearing unisex clothes... the kurta pyjama with the dupatta.
Then I thought I should have sex change. A counselor used to come to Humsafar, and then we spoke at Sion
hospital. The first thing I did was remove the testes. Till then I had not told anyone at home. Then I consulted the
endocrinologist… then I started taking female hormones for one year. Then gradually the breasts started forming.

During the transition period… Now it was the time that I had to tell this at my home, also I was evaluated at in the
three years at the psychiatrists. Now the doctors told me that I could go in for Vaginoplasty. This decision was
very difficult…. but there was no one at home and nor did I want to tell anyone about it and then I did it. That was
one dark or black night, and in that night I changed from Ganesh to Gauri.

7. Geeta Kumana

Geeta KumanaWe started Aanchal with India Center for Human Rights and Law… did it for about
2 ½ years or whatever, and I was thinking of moving out and starting Aanchal on my
own… because when you are with an NGO, the NGO controls what you think and how
to do things and everything. So I wanted to start Aanchal on my own and this was a
perfect opportunity.

So we registered it… I didn't have a third person to sign the agreement… not one woman would sign because of
the issue. And then finally I got somebody to do… and all board members were straight… and not one lesbian
was willing to come on board at that time.

We started with the counseling helpline and then we started fighting for our rights. But like I said, I needed people
around. The Counseling Helpline… I started getting professional counselors from reputed colleges to come and
do work. I learnt a lot with them, because that is when you really see whether she is going through depression
or whether she just wants to talk to somebody… And I have actually seen women who have been terrified of their
sexuality coming… and now they are on a completely different level - with girlfriends, probably thinking of marriage
and all that! It's unbelievable what this small group of ours did.

8. Giti Thadani

Giti ThadaniI bought myself a truck, a pickup truck. This was in 1985. I bought a second hand
pickup truck, it was hardly anything… and I said I want to travel India. I know Europe
better than India and that is ridiculous…

And when I started traveling around, then I realized this whole view that I have been given
of older Indian… and again I am saying Indian as an umbrella term… because there are
different customs… anekta main ekta (unity in diversity), that's how I would have described it. Because there are
many many common threads… so I can say it is just the principle of diversity, but there are many connecting
threads… Because suddenly I was seeing in these temples, you know, not just duality, homosexuality, everything,
sexuality with animals, auto sexuality, auto erotic, sensuousness… along with very abstract motifs… So it was a
highly worked out visual language.

My mother, she went crazy… You know, I have been six months on the roads… and at time the phones didn't
work. There was hardly any STD . I am in the mountain, somewhere in Kinnor… that time you needed a pass to
go. There was no tourism to any of these places. There was nobody there, no hotels, nothing. So I traveled… I was
a traveler. I knew that I am different… and because of this difference, I had taken an extremely radical choice…
and then I just went on that path. I think, in earlier times, the wandering poets / poetesses, they did it their own
way… I live in a modern world, I did it in my way.

9. Hoshang Merchant

Hoshang MerchantI was pretending to study. I didn't study. Until I was beaten up and left for dead one
day. Bleeding on the street. Street walking and then I said to my teacher that I want to
know everything there is to know, because I don't know when I will die. And he said ok.
Do whatever you want to do. Because he was a clever man. He was in the Navy and he
knew what homosexuality was in the navy. Those war ships I am told were floating gay
brothels because there was no island, no woman and nothing in sight between Japan
and San Francisco. (laughs) And now those histories are coming out. Those histories were not written then.

Then I started studying because I knew I could be killed any time. And my teacher, who knew that I was gay, who
knew about gay people, said, 'look Hoshi, you have to study, because then you can articulate your angst… you
can't change anything, but you can articulate your angst which animals and birds can't do and which makes you
human… so once you get your autonomy as a human being, then the sky is the limit.'

10. Jehangir Jani

Jehangir JaniIt started off as a joke, a game… the marriage… and when the time of actual
preparations and everything started happening, I got edgy… there was baraat (wedding
procession) and there was 'vision' side and my side… So apparently there was great fun
- I mean exchange of wows, I was feeling married or getting married types and I think so
was 'vision' and we exchanged rings and… there was mehndi and there was tana bani
(wedding rituals) and there was sangeet (songs and dance) and dhol (drums) and
disparate crowd - 'G' who was from my school, the one with the best butt and the tightest pant, also became one
of my exs much later in life out of school, but then 'G' also came and 'G' actually went to Sheetal and actually
bought an outfit for the event and there was 'L' who was flying for Air India, and was in tears because it was
typically something he had imagined and it was happening to his friend… There was like a lot of overwhelming,
full drama basically.

We never lived together… but we were in each other's homes all the times. We got along… then we started sharing
same workplace… and I think that was the (mistake)… as long as we were apart, you see, 'vision' had his privacy
and over a period of time we had both started extramarital whatever it is… then when we used to come to know,
there used to be a big drama - that you have stabbed me in the back and I stabbed you and then again… forget it.
I think it became a pattern… that's what I want to tell about relationship - I firmly believe - Man is not monogamous
and neither is woman, for all practical purposes… they are monogamous because they fear that if they fool around
then they are going to lose whatever they have invested in or what they have got others to invest in them.

11. Lachi

LachiAt first my parents refused to allow me to go and work for the community centre.
They felt that I would also become like that. I told them that I am already one of them
and nothing happens after entering the community.

My parents were upset a lot. They thought that in the community center we were treated.
Treated means, that we were taught how to walk, how to talk, how to stand. No one
learns all this in the community center… this is god gifted and you learn it naturally. At times I wonder that those
who have 11 fingers, the society accepts them, then why don't they accept us if we are different. I had to struggle
a lot and when my parents came to know about my working in the community center they created havoc… and
said that there is no need for me to work there. There is a shortage of educated people in the transgender
community, so I thought that since I am one of them, then why should I not help them.

I have never worked for money. If I get money or not, it is important to work for the community. If women are getting
education today it is because many years ago Ambedkarji, Mahatma Phule, Savitribai Phule …. they all worked for
it. They all said that women should be educated as she is also a part of our society… The seeds they had sown
earlier, women are now getting the benefits. Women are getting educated now. So I think that if I sow the seed
now for my community, then maybe in the coming 10 years or 50 years, my next generation will benefit from it.

12. Laxmi Narayan Tripathi

Laxmi Narayan TripathiI went to Toronto, my first exposure to the outer world… and I got my passport. And
in my passport it says I'm a female, I'm a TG, I'm a eunuch - so three sexuality on one
passport. But I got it, hello, I had it!

And I went there, I saw the outer world, I saw the TGs, I met the people there - it was a
good exposure. And I was glad when the Asia Pacific Sex Workers Network gave their
seat and they appointed me on their seat… and they voted me to be on the seat for the Civil Society Task Force
for the UN President's Office, for the high-level meeting. It was a major exposure for me!

I was an Indian TG woman on the Asia Pacific Sex Workers Network… but I talked about the sex workers' issues,
I talked about TGs, I talked about MSM, I talked about every sexual minority, because this was the first time in the
UN Civil Society Task Force that there was a TG woman… and I was totally decked up in saree, in my whole
glamour… because I thought its not only me, it's my country, I am representing my whole country. It was an honor.
I still remember when I walked to the UN General Assembly… I just touched my Indian flag! It was a proud moment
for me, that being a hijra, I could make it till here… which I never ever thought in my life.

13. Manvendra Singh Gohil

Manvendra Singh GohilI was not sports-minded as such… But I was fond of music, so at a very early age, at
the age of 8 years itself, I joined a music school… where I was learning Indian classical
vocals… and even somethings like public speaking… which is a part and parcel of our
life, as we are involved in public life… I was given training in that too.

I was totally against the idea of hunting… because I loved animals - whether they were
domesticated or in the wild form - and I would go for hunts with my cousins and other relatives, but somehow I
wasn't mentally prepared to kind of kill an animal.

As I was growing I was observing that I was attracted towards the male and not the female and that was happening
in school, it was happening amongst the servants who were raising me and at the age of 13... I would say I was
kind of looked after, kind of was adopted by him, because he was an orphan and with him I started discovering my
sexuality and like I was observing that he was getting attracted towards me and we did kind of an experiment with
each other's body about what it is to be attracted towards the same sex.

I would say our relation was more on a physical level, and nobody doubted us… because he was meant to satisfy
my personal needs, my domestic needs and then he started fulfilling my sexual needs as well!!

14. Nisha

NishaThey took me Malad, Malvani. I had come here without telling anyone at home. I was
in leather shoes, formal pants and a striped-shirt. They took me to their house at night,
because if I went there in pant-shirt during the day, then it would be wrong for them also.
They told me not to come in daytime and I had to think about them… though I thought
myself to be a Hijra (transgender). They took me at night and gave me food to eat and
I still remember the first saree they gave me to wear. It was a fluorescent yellow saree.
I wore it in Asha Guru, my guru's (master's) house. I had short hair so I used to warp a dupatta around my head
and wear a salvar-suit and be in the house and not go out. They say that if you remain in a veil, you become more
beautiful… and I kept waiting to become a woman!! I used to go for weddings with my guru and play the dholak
(drum) and dance. It used to be different days for different places. Monday - Ghatkopar, Tuesday - Santacruz,
Wednesday - Malad and so on…

We used to go shop to shop and ask for money... we used to do mangti (begging) on Fridays. Those days every
shop used to give 25 paise to one hijra. So to get 1 rupee also we had to beg in 4 shops. When I had come to
Mumbai with my parents we had eaten food in one hotel in South Mumbai. When I went to beg I realized that I
had come to this hotel with my parents and sisters and eaten food and even given Rs.10 tip… and today I am
begging for 25 paise from the same hotel!

And in Dahisar East there was a computer institute… and he used to call us inside and make us sit and talk with
us. If you give me the old computer with DOS operating system to repair, I can repair it. So if there was any
problem in their service centre I used to tell them from the beep what to do - change the RAM or have the SMPS
connection right or else it will blow off!! I used to think that they don't know anything and run a computer institute
and, I who knows so much, why can't I do something.

15. Parmesh Shahani

Parmesh ShahaniActually most of all of my working life, (I have made sure) that I won't be treated any
differently than anyone else… because of anything… certainly not because of my
sexuality. So, whether it was the Times, whether it was at Mahindra , (wherever I have

So earlier, when I was at Mahindra, I was in a relationship… So my desk had a photo of
me and my spouse on it… just like my boss' desk has a photo of him and his wife on it. My photo wasn't kept face
down, it was kept face up. When people would ask me who is this? I wouldn't say, 'it's my friend'… I would say,
'this is my partner'… 'ummmm what is that?'… I would say, 'Boyfriend, you know'… and then it was like, 'Oh!'…
And that was that. I have never really been… I don't know, I am sure people talk about it, maybe they talk about it
behind my back… but they certainly don't talk about it to my face.

I don't think one has to be out. I am far from it… I think people should have the right to represent themselves in
exactly the way they want to… and nobody should pressurize them in any way to be anything other than who they
want to be… whether it's with one's sexuality or anything else. I mean one's own identity, in any sense, is a
construct… but one decides what one wants to, right?

16. R. Raj Rao

R.Raj Rao I met this boy who was 19 years old, Dalit (working lower class) and I met him at
Churchgate loo and… I was a great one for washroom sex, I still swear by it. I think the
internet is no match!! Washroom sex is extremely sensuous and internet sex doesn't
have half of that sensuality. This is where I met Rakesh and we took it from there and
the fact that something begins in so sordid a way, blossoms into a serious relationship…
it is a quite amazing and should be recorded. I think the book does it.

Working men is always my hero. The attraction could come from my early romance with Marxism, but a younger
working man was better. I didn't have problems finding the kind of people I want and having sex. I had all my
friends - who are professionals, academics, both gay and straight. But when it comes to my love life - it is a very
different type of guy that I am looking for.

The thing is to shun stereotypes… and if you would detect stereotype, then one should try to move away from it.
Having said that, it should be left to the individual... Stereotyping is the silliest thing to do, as anybody could be a
gay man or a homosexual. That's what the word 'queer' does, it includes all these people under the ambit of 'queer'.

Also when you talk about stereotyping, we are talking about certain segment of society that is affluent, what about
who are outside the affluent society but are also queer?

17. Ruth Vanita

Ruth VanithaThere was a period when I had very very short hair and most of the time I wore jeans,
baggy sweaters and didn't wear any make-up or jewelry or anything like that. That was
partly because of being a feminist. Now lots of people are teaching in jeans but that time
nobody did… and at that time I was so young too… that I couldn't be distinguished from

The first time I cut my hair it wasn't that short, it was shoulder length… but they still were very upset. That was not
anything to do with being lesbian, but it was because they belong to a particular type of Christianity where women
are supposed to have long hair… So they were not at all happy with what I did. Over the time they were upset, but
they accepted it.

At some point of time in '87-88, I did tell my mother. I didn't tell my father. She asked me a few questions, she
didn't get terribly upset, but of course, she would have preferred it not to be the case. She kind of accepted it…
and over the time we have talked about it a little… they accepted it, they were fine. With all my friends and all…
now with my partner also she is fine… She sometimes introduces her as her daughter-in-law!

18. Saleem Kidwai

Saleem KidwaiThe parks, I found a little later… and the parks were intimidating. If you are alone.
I learnt about parks from someone I met. You know, you didn't know anyone else around,
you had one or two bad experiences.

I don't want to go into the steamy side, but the stuff. I mean there was stuff happening
there. I mean the Connaught Place parks for instance, as I was to discover, you met a
lot of people. All of us were there, you made friends… we were into larger groups, you run and catch up with news
and all
sort of things happening and there were also hustlers and there were also blackmailers. And there were
also cops. People robbed you.

I mean, you know the New Delhi Railway Station was very close by. So what would happen, people would pick
up… and there was always a problem of space and very often people would walk down there and go into the trains
that were parked in the shed… and go into the empty compartment and use that for sex… And people were
robbed there. At knife points, even razor blades and horrible stories… but not as if to say that was the only side,
a lot of people were having good sex. But this element was there all along.

And this, I later discovered from someone, that he had been cruising in the Connaught Place park during the
World War! But that has been… the public places have always been that. I mean after that, when I was
researching a book and discovered that markets and parks from the 14th-15th century have been doing that…
and even earlier… and anywhere where males collect, this is bound to happen. It happens today, it is natural,
you know.

19. Shivananda Khan

Shivananda Khan...And I suddenly started realizing that there are several issues… one is culture -
woman are more pleased, it is very hard to find girl friends and sexual partners, very
difficult to find sexual partners. May be now it's easier for certain Indians, but for certain
who were working, there wasn't... there wasn't this division between men, between what
they do with their bodies and with whom they do with; whether it is to do with men or
women. There wasn't an antagonism whether I was doing homosexual sex or
heterosexual sex, I am just doing sex. There was the whole concept of 'masti' (fun) that is visible to me… that this
is not sex anyway and so I can have lots of fun, this is not sex anyway, and the only sex I am going to do is
with my wife.

All of this was staring at me… and we started counting in numbers… and we realized that male-to-male sex is
very common in our country for a whole host of reasons compared to western countries… which meant that the
risk of HIV transmission was higher in our country, compared to other western countries like UK, America. Unless
we change the construction of the way we see gender, sexualities and masculinities and feminities, we are never
gonna deal with the issues of HIV. It is easy among gay man because they confuse these things with the other…
but having a gay identity is very much linked to class, income, its not a generic framework.

The advantage of - my education, my multi ethnic background and my anger at how we have been treated as
human beings - all of these became like a well-cooked soufflé…

20. Sunil Gupta

Sunil GuptaSo then I discovered Delhi's buses which were and are still probably quite notorious.
So more advanced stuff happened on the bus, and so then I discovered this was an
exciting way to come home. But there were just very fleeting… Again there was no
talking, no name, no nothing you know. So then I get off the bus, and then I had those
white shorts on, and so I had to carry my books in front if I had ejaculated in my lovely
white shorts to hide the stains, so that was too.

In fact my clothes became an issue with my parents when they realized that I had cum in my shorts. So I was
hauled off to a doctor once to see if I had a problem, something I had wrong with me. I was never scared. It never
occurred to me that it might be a threatening situation. And luckily I never had a really serious problem… except,
once I did.

I lived next to Humayun's Tomb and so it was a fantastic playground and it was just open… and it's full of places
to have sex and it was being used like that by all of us… you know, so… and then one local boy who I knew, by
then I was like 13 may be or something, and so we were having sex of a kind… not penetrative... but we were
explicitly going there to do it… And we arrived at this spot and we weren't actually doing it, we were standing at
two different levels… with these uniform cops around… So they... I got roughed up and then they demanded
money of me, or something…

I just thought everybody did it… because everybody seemed to be willing to do it… and I assumed that everybody
did it. All kinds of people did it, everybody who would come to our house when my parents weren't there, I would
try it… and actually they would say ok… Whether it was the taxman or the breadwalah (bread supplier). But then
it didn't have a name… and I didn't think I was different from anybody… and I didn't think it would interfere with
what I thought came later… which is girls.

Disclaimer: The views in these interviews are those of the authors' / interviewees' and do not reflect those of the
United Nations Development Programme or the Producers.

If you are using any part of the above text in any article / research paper, please note that it copyrighted by Project Bolo and you have to write to projectbolo.vol1@gmail.com for permission to use the same.

Vivek Anand

Concept, Interviews & Direction:
Sridhar Rangayan

project BOLO - vol1

Supported by
UNDP India
Produced by
The Humsafar Trust

Associate Producer
Solaris Pictures


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Adita BandopadhyayAshok Row KaviBetu SinghBindumadhav KhireDalip DaswaniGauri SawantGeeta KumanaGiti ThadaniHoshang MerchantJehangir Jani
LachiLaxmi Narayan TripathiManvendra Singh GohilNishaParmesh ShahaniR.Raj RaoRuth VanitaSaleem KidwaiShivananda KhanSunil Gupta


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