The Gaysi Zine seeks to shed light on what it means to be gay and desi
At a time when several print publications are strengthening their digital presence, The Gaysi Family has made the reverse journey. Started in 2008 as a blog seeking to provide a “safe space” to gay desis (gaysis), it has taken the process forward with The Gaysi Zine, to “welcome anyone…who has something to share about the queerness in their lives and otherwise”.
Going offline might seem like a counter-intuitive thing to do, but it also signals the increasing self-confidence of the queer scene in India. Launched last month, close on the heels of the Delhi Queer Pride parade, Gaysi Zine is a collection of stories, poems, reviews, recipes and graphic art. Also featured in it are excerpts from Benjamin Law’s recently launched “Gaysia”, in which the author meets a godman to ‘cure’ his homosexuality, and from Kaberi Roy Choudhury’s “Mr. Ranjabati”, translated from the Bengali by Arunava Sinha.
The Gaysi Zine’s content is a mix of writings from the blog and from new writers. Apart from putting out a call for submissions on the blog, personal networks were tapped into to seek out stories and voices that would resonate. Talking about the factors driving the selection, zine editor and contributor Priya Gangwani says, “First, the pieces we have selected spoke to queerness at large – about it being more than just about gender, sexuality or labels…Second, queerness and the community is frequently associated with a misguided sense of activism. While it's true that there is a fight for justice, rights and a right to live – with the zine, we want to break the notion that the queer community always wants something, always wants to take. Instead, with the zine we just give – stories, laughter, ideas and love among other things.”
The unifying factor in all this diversity is the design element. “Even if there have been differing opinions about the zine’s content, the design of the zine has consistently been lauded by many of our readers...It’s the commonality all the zine works share and in that way forms the visual backbone to our publication. It has been a fun challenge to showcase everything from graphic art, poems, fiction and movie reviews while maintaining a thematic character in print,” Priya adds.
Priya got involved with the blog in 2009, around the time that the Delhi High Court decriminalised homosexuality. A compilation of personal, coming out stories at the time, it has broadened its scope over time to include fiction, poetry, interviews and graphic art as well. The attempt, says Priya, has been to spread awareness by sharing stories. Apart from the zine, offline representations of The Gaysi Family include Dirty Talk, an open-mic event, and a compilation of content from the blog.
While The Gaysi Family has tied up with indie bookstores around the country, circulation remains an issue. “We think they are quite amazing and provide incredibly diverse reading content – we understand that it’s a tough scenario out there for such bookstores right now with many shutting shop. We haven’t seen many bulk orders,” she adds.
For its next issue, the bi-annual zine has set up for itself the not-so-easy task of presenting queer voices from small-town India. But Priya is hopeful. “We hope to convert anyone who chances upon the zine into not just a reader, but a writer – someone who wishes to tell us their queer story and share it with the world at large.”
(Priced at Rs. 130, The Gaysi Zine is available at People Tree and Bahrison’s in New Delhi)