CHENNAI: As part of the Pride Month celebrations, the Chennai Photo Biennale foundation organised a panel discussion themed Art+Inclusion to discuss how art could play or is playing a major role in empowering the LGBTQ community.
Among the panelists were Chandri Narayanan, an artist from a collective called Aravani Art Project that embraces the transgender community through art; Jaya, general manager of Sahodaran NGO; activist and director Malini Jeevarathinam, and Trishala from Periferry. It was held at Alliance Francaise of Madras.
“There are certain professions that are associated with certain communities. Likewise, most people think transgenders are only involved in sex work. I have been working in the field of wall art for 2.5 years now and seeing their immense talent over the years, people have started to change their perception lately. Complete acceptance and inclusion will take some time and art is an effective medium to aid it,” explained Chandri Narayanan.
Giving an example on how impactful art can be, Jaya said, “For one of our HIV awareness projects at Koyambedu, we chose the medium of dance and drama. After each dance, we would talk about HIV and it was so effective that 11 people showed symptomatic HIV and seven of them were positive. Art has the power to bridge the gap between communities and ensure that the public listen to what we are trying to convey.”
The panelists went on to discuss how the visibility of transgender people is increasing in popular culture and daily life, but they continue to face severe discrimination, stigma and systemic inequality.
“Many say that people from the LGBTQ community have some mental illness. We are not biologically mentally ill, but the abuse and discrimination that we are going through is certainly affecting us mentally. How can you say we are mentally ill when you are the reason for it?,” said Malini, a member of the Queer community.
The panelists applauded the increasing efforts from NGOs and a few private companies who are coming forward towards creating an inclusive society. This is what gives them the confidence to grow further, they said. Following the discussion, Malini’s film, Ladies and Gentlewomen, was screened, which left a lot of thoughts to ponder upon. Tamil’s first lesbian documentary film, produced by Pa Ranjith’s Neelam Productions, is about love, life and suicide among lesbians. The movie has received numerous awards including the best documentary award in three international film festivals.