Editor’s Letter: First print issue, allies in the Parliament & Xulhaz Mannan
First print issue
In 2009, when the first issue of Pink Pages was released online, our team had modest aims. We wanted a community newsletter which would cover LGBT events from an LGBT perspective- given the scant coverage of such issues in the mainstream media. Over the years, we started playing a much larger role than that. Pink Pages soon became a creative platform for budding queer writers, journalists, artists and photographers. It became a space for activism and amplifying the voice of the Indian LGBT community. It became a medium for reaching out to the community at large- even those who were not part of the urban “gay scene” in the large metros like Mumbai or Bangalore.
However, every time I browsed through the magazine section at airports, I wondered why the LGBT media was not represented at all. If airports in Bangkok can sell LGBT publications, why not Mumbai? Perhaps we are lacking both in terms of publication quality and market size. The first print issue is definitely a step in the direction of making LGBT publications- and by implication, the community itself more visible.
Making the community visible, confident and empowered is a much longer journey of course. India currently has the dichotomy of a larger number of younger LGBT people feeling confident enough about their sexuality to come out than ever before- especially among the educated, upwardly mobile sections. On the other hand, we have anachronistic laws being protected by a ruling class that seems insular to progress on the human rights front globally. Shashi Tharoor is probably an exception, but we need more allies like him in our Parliament and elsewhere. The onus lies on each one of us to create those allies wherever we are- at our universities, workplaces and civic society forums.
I cannot wrap up this letter without mentioning Xulhaz Mannan- a fellow LGBT editor and writer from Bangladesh, and a friend of mine – who was murdered by religious bigots for daring to speak up for the rights of LGBT people in a conservative society. Xulhaz was a passionate writer, a talented photographer and a spirited activist. He had started the country’s first and only LGBT publication “Rupbaan”, and had helped organized the rainbow parades during the Bengali New Year celebrations in Dhaka. His death is an irreparable blow to the LGBT equality movement in Bangladesh, and of course is especially painful to me as he had written in Pink Pages about the situation in his country, and was supposed to join us in Mumbai for the launch of our first print issue. I understand why the LGBT community in Bangladesh feels helpless right now, but I do hope that very soon his friends at Rupbaan and elsewhere will soon take his work forward.