Mumbai

Accepting queer children



Within ten minutes of speaking with gay rights activist Bindumadav Khire, he’d already revealed what was asked of him and more. The Pune-based Khire speaks evenly, without hesitation and everything he says seems to be a mere matter of fact: whether it’s details about his guilt over being married to a woman for a year, or even his interviews online where he talks about sensitive subjects like his first sexual experience, or the unrequited love he’s faced.

In September 2002, when the engineer established the Samapathik Trust in Pune, Khire plunged deep into helping the queer community. “When my parents were looking to get me married again, I told them I was gay,” says Khire. “They went through a lot of trauma and it is then that I decided to give up my career and [establish] my NGO in Pune that works with LGBT and intersex people,” he says.

While the trust receives financial support from international funding agencies for specific projects, Khire uses his own savings and money made from renting out rooms in his house to keep the organisation afloat. The activist also runs a helpline from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays for those apprehensive about visiting the trust. Then there are his ongoing conversations with the local police and press in the hope of sensitising them about homosexuality. Khire is also a key organiser of the Pune pride parade every year.

As one of his outreach initiatives, Khire has self-published several books for members of the queer community, their family members and those who are curious or interested. There are the four anthologies: stories about gays and lesbians: Antaranga (2013); stories about transgender people: Saptaranga (2013); parents coming to terms with queer children: Manachiye Gunti (2013); and an introduction to intersexuality, Intersex – ek prathamik olakh (2015). However, all the literary endeavours have been in Marathi… until now. This month, he releases an English translated version of Manachiye Gunti as Beautiful People , An Anthology by the Parents of Gays .

Coming out together

Released in 2013, Manachiye Gunti immediately resonated with readers in Pune and across the country. “The book was restricted to people who are Marathi speaking,” shares Khire. “There was a lot of demand saying non-Marathi people would like to read the book since there are no similar resources available to parents,” he says. Conceptualised five years ago, Manachiye Gunti took about a year and a half to bring to fruition. However, Khire was fortunate enough to already have contact with people through his trust who readily agreed to be published. Facebook too proved to be helpful in reaching out to parents of queer children who were out.

A closeted doctor actively involved in Samapathik outreach activities volunteered his services to translate the draft into English. Enter Aditya Joshi, an openly gay computer engineer who stepped in to help. The 29-year-old Mumbai boy came out to his parents in 2012 and the book helped them accept their son.

“The Marathi book made a lot difference to my life,” says Joshi. “I gave it to my parents and had seen the change in their perception of me.” Naturally, then the opportunity to translate the book was welcome to the engineer, especially since he’s comfortable in both languages. Joshi worked on the second draft of the book and Khire finalised the stories.

Ordinary people

Beautiful People features 11 stories including essays by a Pune-based senior police inspector Bhanupratap Barge who elaborates on the legal aspects involved with homosexuality; psychiatrist Bhooshan Shukla on mental health; and an introduction by Vivek Raj Anand, CEO The Humsafar Trust, Mumbai.

“All the stories happen in Pune or rural parts of Maharashtra and mine is the only one in Mumbai,” says Joshi about his parents’ featured interview that isn’t part of the original Marathi book. The stories showcase writing by family members: including a sister talking about her gay brother, the mother of a gay German professor, and a business man who likens his son’s coming out to his own struggle to break away from the family business.

The stories were originally written in Marathi by the contributors. “They’re not beautifully written literary pieces of work,” explains Joshi adding that the writers often backtrack on acceptance and even make stupid statements. For instance, some of them were alright with homosexuality but questioned same-sex marriage. “We have retained those perceptions in the book, but that’s what makes them different,” says Joshi. “There’s little to no beautification. There are colloquial ways of putting things in Marathi and I’ve just translated them to sound reasonable in English,” states Joshi.

Hopes and fears

Both Khire and Joshi agree that a vernacular discourse about queer issues is absolutely important. “My main objective is to make non-English speaking India aware of the fact that I am a person and that my joys and sorrows are just like yours,” says Joshi. “There’s nothing special about me.”

Incidentally, Khire was an inspiration to Joshi primarily because of the former’s online interview in Marathi. The younger of the two, Joshi recalls how seeing a fellow homosexual Marathi engineer made him feel comfortable with his own sexuality. “Within the gay community, I was judged for being unfashionable, pakau (boring),” says Joshi. “For the first time, Bindumadhav offered me this perspective that you could be boring, an engineer, be gay and still be happy about it,” he shares.

Joshi and Khire hope the book resonates with readers and helps them accept themselves. Unfortunately, when a child comes out, parents are entirely isolated; embarrassed to speak with anyone. Often, this can sever a strained relationship. “So the book is a support mechanism,” says Khire. “Seeing how other parents coped with their children’s sexuality would help readers.”

Khire will continue his efforts in Pune and simultaneously work on translating the anthology on intersex titled, Intersex – ek prathamik olakh , a primer on intersexuality.

Beautiful People (Rs 90/-) will be available both in hard copy and e-book versions from queer-ink.com after November 23 onwards. Alternatively, emailSamapathik@hotmail.com, or call 09763640480 to place an order. Visit samapathik.org for more details.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 11:52:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/Accepting-queer-children/article16667860.ece

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