The calendar for 2022-23 features the artworks made by Tamil queer artists that reflect on the lives of members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Portrait of a non-binary trans person featured in IQueer's calendarInstagram/ IQueer, artist Madhan
Features LGBTQIA+ Thursday, January 13, 2022 - 13:10

When Muhil and DK went on an Instagram live to talk about the queer community on June 1 last year, little did they know that in a few months down the line, it would lead to a collective of queer people. As Muhil and DK continued hosting sessions, the viewership kept growing. Once they switched to Clubhouse, the informal sessions soon turned into a vibrant forum to discuss various aspects of the LGBTQIA+ community in detail, thus paving the way for ‘IQueer’ to be formed. 

The collective was co-founded by Sanjevi Jayaraman, an academic content developer; DK, a mental health professional; Muhil, an architect, artist and home baker; and Harish, who works in the performance arts management sector. “We are currently focusing on queer arts and literature. The Clubhouse sessions between members are open for all topics but we will be soon focusing more on mental health, sexual health and queer rights, and probably, rope in experts in these areas,” says DK, who identifies as a cisgender, gay person.   

A calendar by queer artists

In ‘Dusky Desire’ -- one of the artworks in the IQueer’s calendar -- Madhan tenderly depicts a portrait of a non-binary trans person using a palette of peach, soft pink and powder blue to create a striking image. Niro, on the other hand, blends monochromatic colours with flashes of rainbow to create a lasting impression in their artwork which features two men kissing, with the names of queer rights activists forming the backdrop. Award-winning actor, author, trans rights and anti-caste activist Living Smile Vidya shares her experiences through her intriguing artwork titled ‘Passage to Genderland, My Journey in Genderland’. Madhan, Niro and Living Smile Vidya are all part of the lineup of Tamil queer artists that depicts lives and experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community in the 2022-23 calendar, a first such initiative launched by the collective. “We started curating the artwork for the calendar as late as December 2021, but we are so glad the artistes we have featured felt comfortable sharing their work with us,” says Harish.

The founders explain that instead of featuring the photos of queer persons, they are hoping that the calendar would act as a canvas to showcase artists’ talents, raise awareness and present an opportunity to learn and normalise discourses about the LGBTQIA+ community in people’s day to day lives. Revolving around themes such as gender identity and the mental and sexual health of queer persons, the lineup includes 12 artists.

Along with the artwork of the month, one can also find the name of the artist and other information on them, and a few sentences shedding light on the interpretation of the art. The days that are of significance to the community are also marked in the calendar.

“It has been designed in such a way that the digital illustrations and artworks can be preserved to be used later. The calendar is priced at Rs 750 excluding shipping fee,” says Muhil, adding that they have dispatched the first batch of calendars which included fifty copies and are currently working on the second batch. 

For further details about the calendar, contact IQueer

 

 

 

Building a network

Another initiative focusing on queer writers from the Tamil diaspora is in the works and is likely to be launched in the upcoming months. “We want to explore art before we move to other themes, but at the same time, we are also trying to keep the discussions going with members of the collective on platforms like Clubhouse and Instagram,” says Sanjevi, who identifies as a cisgender gay person.

With over 150-200 participants attending their Clubhouse sessions, IQueer aims to provide a platform to share experiences and learn about the LGBTQIA+ community. “We believe in passing the mic rather than becoming the voice of queer people,” Harish says. 

Attendees and IQueer members have had several takeaways from the sessions. For instance, Haripriya, who came out as bisexual in March 2021, says, “I wanted to learn a lot more about myself since a lot of us grow up listening to heteronormative ideas. I pretty much went into every queer room in Clubhouse but a lot of them were giving out misinformation or were not even run by queer people. I met people like Sanjeevi, Harish and Angel in such rooms where they were correcting others and effective in putting across their points. I got in touch with them, IQueer came up eventually, and I became a part of the collective too. It was good to get affirmation from people who have relevant expertise and experience to talk about the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Nani (37), who is also a member of the collective, explains how the sessions helped her gain more clarity on how to normalise and introduce these concepts to her nine-year-old son. “Before joining IQueer, I wasn’t sure how I am going to introduce these concepts to my son but attending the sessions have given me some clarity on that front. I also participate in IQueer’s discussions in front of him so as to normalise having these discussions in front of kids,” she says.

Along with discussions on broader themes like the rights, mental and sexual health of the LGBTQIA+ community, IQueer also opens the door to nuanced conversations on issues that affect them on a daily basis such as the stereotypes and stigma, the difficulty of coming out, the lack of vocabulary in Tamil or other regional languages to address the LGBTQIA+ community, among a host of other issues. “We also have a few games such as the queer version of Mafia and a game to get people comfortable discussing body image and sexual health in public,” Sanjevi shares. Mafia is a social deduction game where there is a conflict between groups of players who don the roles of a mafia, the informed minority who know who the former are, and the uninformed majority.

Speaking to TNM, theatre artist and IQueer member Angel Glady says, “There are times when even members within the queer community might believe in certain myths or fail to talk about things that need to be discussed. Intersectionality, for instance, is often overlooked. We have dedicated a number of Clubhouse sessions on that.”

READ: This calendar features over 50 women, queer persons in science 

ALSO READ: Madras HC asks TN govt for glossary of terms, queer community asks for wider consultation 

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