In April 2017, couples, April and May (names changed for privacy reasons) were returning home in a rickshaw conversing on a hot afternoon in Mumbai. They were discussing the queer community and how often it’s misunderstood. And that was the conversation that fueled The Queer Question—a Facebook page that would later become a platform for queer people to ask any questions they might have on the topic—all through a Google form!
They also realised that the biggest issue that leads to bigotry and homophobia was the lack of awareness. And often, the issue is that people are afraid to ask questions about sensitive topics. They fear backlash and unpleasant reactions. The aim of The Queer Question is to demystify the stereotypes surrounding the queer community. And help people understand and learn about issues.
We at The Grey Alley catch up with the duo behind The Queer Question to discuss the motivation behind the account, their experiences with the platform, and more.
What was the main motivation behind creating your queer visibility account?
May: I’ve always wanted to do something as a queer person. I’m tired of being so heavily closeted. I do have restrictions on how much I share and where, because of my family. But regardless of that, I’ve wanted to start something ever since I had accepted that I was gay. When April told me that she wanted to start an account together, I was delighted. I do admit that I was scared but I was more excited than scared. It’s so important to be visible. When I was a 16-year-old kid with no idea. I struggled a lot with embracing my queer and my Indian identity. A lot of the resources I had (which I’m grateful for) were all the stories of white people in ‘developed’ countries.
When I was 20 and started meeting more queer Indians, there was a sense of belonging; a sense of not being alone. The more queer Indians I met, I realised how much easier it would be to cross the stage of denial of one’s sexuality if they could just see that it was okay and normal. Visibility and representation are always important. Having a queer visibility account also helps me express myself. It’s a great feeling of relief and freedom after having repressed a huge part of me.
April: It’s not something I thought of until May spoke to me about not having enough people to look up to—especially those who identify as gender queer and gay. So we decided to be exactly what we didn’t have, and voila!
How did the idea to create The Queer Question come to you?
In April 2017, the both of us were returning home in a rickshaw on a very hot afternoon in Mumbai. We got talking, and it was about the queer community and how often it’s misunderstood. That was the conversation that started it all. We realised that the biggest issue that leads to bigotry and homophobia was the lack of awareness. People are often conditioned to believe things without questioning them. The moment you ask “Why?” and look for the answer is when you’re educated. And often, the issue is that people are afraid to ask questions about sensitive topics; they fear backlash and unpleasant reactions.
We came to the conclusion that education is one big step towards achieving a tolerant society. By that night, April had started The Queer Question. We had a Facebook page up and running and made a simple Google Form where one can anonymously ask questions about queer topics. April and I answer the questions to the best of our knowledge and give some factual resources as well. We share them on our Instagram page too. The aim of The Queer Question is to demystify the stereotypes surrounding the queer community. And also help people understand and learn about issues.
In a country like India, where even hushed conversations about queerness are met with harsh responses, how do you deal with the homophobic messages that you get on this platform?
May: The Queer Question believes that getting angry doesn’t solve anything. We try our best to have a conversation with the person who has sent us homophobic messages. We try to engage with them and try and understand why they believe what they believe. Beyond this point, if they don’t respond well or continue to shut us off, then we must leave it and move on. Sometimes, it’s difficult to get through to homophobic people. They’re too closed off with their beliefs. We only hope that they educate themselves and learn better.
April: People are often afraid of things they aren’t exposed to and we all try our best, but it’s always good to keep to your limit and not tolerate stuff that you do not need to hear based on how ‘different’ you may be from the status quo. I’ve never shied away from calling out things that I see are wrong—and this is necessary because the time to fix anything wrong is NOW. Always remember that artificial intelligence learns from whatever we allow.
What has been the best part of sharing your life (or at least parts of it) online?
The positivity and energy that we receive from people (friends and strangers). April and I feel free when we are able to share our love and experiences with others. We also get to talk to new people and learn of their lives as well. We feel humbled some of them write to us to ask for advice. Overall, it fills us both with warmth, that our visibility could be a drop in this ocean of change.
the biggest issue that leads to bigotry and homophobia was the lack of awareness. And often, ‘the issue is that people are afraid to ask questions about sensitive topics; they fear backlash and unpleasant reactions.’
Those who are conflicted about their sexuality or orientation have a platform like yours to ask questions. What were your personal journeys like?
May: I realised that I was gay when I was 18. Well, actually I started to notice it when I was 16. But it took me a while to come to terms with it. From that moment on, I’ve travelled on a path to who I am today. For over 6 years, I struggled with speaking about it to friends, a closeted, abusive relationship. And as a result, my mental health suffered. I came out to my parents last year, but not much has changed since. It’s a good thing sometimes, but I also wish that they’d go through the process openly and ask me questions. I’m fortunate because they’ve accepted me regardless of where they stand in their own process of acceptance. I’m grateful for the friends and family I have, and the countless people who showed faith in me and supported me. I only hope that I can do the same, if not more, for someone else.
April: I didn’t know I was gay until early 2017 because as a child, I felt an attraction towards women and ignored it. Because there was no one around me who felt similarly or even told me homosexuality is completely normal. I dated men for about 7 years of my life until I found out that the feelings that I ignored wouldn’t simply go away. It took me ages of self-discovery to get here. I came out to my friends and family and I’ve been lucky enough to have such a beautiful support system. Since we are privileged enough to be visible, we should use it for the benefit of whoever needs it. And all our projects have been little attempts to make this world better for everyone.
What do you hope to achieve through The Queer Question in the long run?
May: I hope to be able to make the page publicly more accessible to more people soon. With The Queer Question, we are in conversation about how we can reach out to more people from the community. Especially for those who may need this more than the others. We want to continue doing what we do. But also expand into more things so that we can maximise visibility for the community. I’m looking forward to doing more and also working with other people.
April: At the moment, we are busy answering all the questions we have got over the past few months of our existence. We definitely want to create something out of all the research we have been doing to make it more accessible than it is to people.
If you would like to send in your questions write to them on their Facebook page here.
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