On July 2, Avinshu Patel – Avi – wrote two Facebook posts, one in English and one in Hindi. Both were suicide notes, that explained how he was bullied for the way he walks and talks, for the way he presents himself. “I’m gay,” he said in one of the posts. “Everyone knows I’m a boy, but the way I walk, think, feel, talk...it’s like a girl. People living in India don’t like this,” he wrote in another. The next morning, the 20-year-old’s body was found on the Neelankarai beach by the police.
“Avi called me around 5 pm on July 2,” says Avi's friend from Mumbai, “We hadn’t spoken for about a month since we had a fight, but he suddenly called me. He was very out of sorts, and he told me he was going to kill himself. I tried to talk him out of it, but he wouldn’t listen. I then called up his colleagues and friends in Chennai and asked them to track him down.”
But no matter how many times his colleagues at at the salon where Avi was a trainee tried to call him, Avi did not pick up. By 10 pm, he had switched his phone off and was untraceable. The next morning, when his manager tried to call him again, the phone was picked up by a police officer who said Avi had been found dead. The organisation then helped his family travel to Chennai, take his body back to Mumbai, and paid for their expenses.
“He was the brightest trainee in his batch,” says a source at the salon, “He had been working with us for just three months, but because he was so talented, we were giving him advanced training to become a nail artist. He wasn’t facing any problems at work, in fact he was doing very well. It came as a shock.”
Avi’s body has been taken back to his home in Mumbai by his parents. His death has once again brought to the fore issues of bullying and discrimination that queer people face on an everyday basis.
For queer people who face discrimination and violence in several walks of life, it’s important to have accessible mental health support, and other resources. In Tamil Nadu, there are several offline and online groups that one can reach out to, and while each of them has a different focus, all of them can help community members with contacts to the right people, and resources for safety and support.
If you’re feeling suicidal, or are facing bullying, or require help with anything else, consider contacting one of the following:
1. Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre is one of the longest running suicide helplines in Chennai. According to their website, “Sneha, run by a small band of volunteers, offers unconditional emotional support, 24-hours, 365 days a year, to people who are feeling upset, distressed, depressed and suicidal.”
2. Sahodari is an organisation that works with transgender people. Any transgender person in need can contact the organisation for help. “We have rescued many people from suicide,” says Kalki, the founder of Sahodari, “We also offer leadership programmes for transgender people, including workshops on how to come out at work, how to stand up for yourself while facing discrimination etc. We also offer mental health support.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or +91 76397 41916
3. Sahodaran works with LGBTQIA+ people in Tamil Nadu, and runs a crisis line. According to their website, “We seek to empower all sexual minorities to reach their full potential by providing a safe haven of community support, outreach, and activism. Our mission is to create a world that is safe for all people, regardless of orientation, a world without fear of violence or stigma.”
Contact: +91 98418 65423 or +91 44 23470486
4. Orinam, an all-volunteer LGBTIQA+ collective based in Chennai, offers peer support via email, Skype, and phone; monthly peer-facilitated support groups; and referrals to mental health and legal professionals, as needed.
Contact: email@example.com or +91 98415 57983 (after 6 pm preferred)
5. PCVC provides crisis intervention services and long term rehabilitative services for survivors of family and interpersonal violence.
Contact: 044 4311 1143
6. Srishti Madurai is a LGBTIQA+ friendly space which explores the interrelations of nature, human and society via the conscious or unconscious sediments of the members who constitute Srishti Madurai in a parallel, interdisciplinary, multiple and universal approach.
Contact: 24X7 Helpline +91 9092282369
Editor's note: This article initially mentioned the name of the organisation where Avi worked. TNM and the writer of this piece would like to clarify that Avi did not say in his suicide notes that he was being harassed at the workplace. The organisation has tried to help Avi's family following his death.