Kerala LGBTQIA+ activist & writer Kishor Kumar dies at 52

Kishor was a founder member of Queerala and GAMA, welfare groups for queer people, and has authored books about his experiences and perspective as a gay person in Kerala.
Kishor Kumar
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One of the pioneers of LGBTQIA+ activism in Kerala, Kishor Kumar, passed away in Kozhikode on Saturday, April 6. He was found dead in his house in the early hours of April 7. The police have registered a case of unnatural death under section 174 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure). Kishor, a former software professional and writer, was 52 years old.

Kishor, who held corporate jobs in Delhi and later the US, returned to Kerala many years ago and became a vocal LGBTQIA+ activist. He was a founding member of Queerala, a Kochi-based welfare organisation for LGBTQIA+ persons, before becoming its board member. During the COVID-19 outbreak, he took a break from Queerala and together with a few others, began a support group called Gay Malayali Association (GAMA).

He wrote about his experiences as a gay person in his first book Randu Purushanmar Chumbikumbol (When two men kiss). His recent book Mazhavil Kanniloode Malayala cinema (Malayalam cinema through a rainbow lens) looked at Malayalam movies and pop culture through the perspective of a gay man.

Kishor with actor Mammotty holding his book
Kishor with actor Mammotty holding his book

Recently, Kishor also wrote the foreword for the yet-to-be-released Malayalam version of the Inqlusive Newsrooms LGBTQIA+ Media Reference Guide. It is a comprehensive guide meant for journalists and media students, on how to cover LGBTQIA+ issues sensitively.

Several LGBTQIA+ persons talk about the role he played in guiding many of them through difficult times, as a friend and mentor. Anand, a co-founder of GAMA, says the group was started for queer people who were forced to go back to the houses of their unsupportive families during COVID-19 and faced a crisis. Kishor, who was based in Kozhikode, was always present for the activities of GAMA as well as Queerala in Kochi, he said.

Kishor’s friends also allege that he had been facing harassment at the apartment he lived in for a long time, by homophobic neighbours. He was also going through certain personal issues, they say, and had moved to his family’s house some time ago. 

In a 2017 interview with Deccan Chronicle, Kishor spoke about getting away to the US as a way to escape an arranged marriage with a woman, but coming back later because he did not want to bury his Indian and Malayali identity. He had excelled in his studies, going to the NIT and later the IIT-Kanpur for his engineering studies, and found well-paid jobs in Delhi and the US. Also an avid music lover, he had begun a page called Ragakairali to sort out Malayalam movie music according to their ragas, and contributed to the Malayalam movie database m3db. It was on the pages of Ragakairali that he first came out as gay. The acceptance he got there led him to openly talk about homosexuality in public forums. 

Kishor was cremated at the Mankavu graveyard by Sunday noon. His friends and members of the LGBTQIA+ community are planning to hold a memorial service in the coming days.

If you are aware of anyone facing mental health issues or feeling suicidal, please provide help. Here are some helpline numbers of suicide-prevention organisations that can offer emotional support to individuals and families.

Maithri: 0484 2540530
Chaithram: 0484 2361161
Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.

Tamil Nadu

State health department's suicide helpline: 104
Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050 (listed as the sole suicide prevention helpline in Tamil Nadu)

Andhra Pradesh
Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930
Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584

Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222

State government's suicide prevention (tollfree): 104
Roshni: 040 66202000, 6620200
SEVA: 09441778290, 040 27504682 (between 9 am and 7 pm
Aasara offers support to individuals and families during an emotional crisis, for those dealing with mental health issues and suicidal ideation, and to those undergoing trauma after the suicide of a loved one.
24x7 Helpline: 9820466726

Click here for working helplines across India.

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