Queer folks from Northeast find a home in The Chinky Homo Project

Narratives originating in northeast India seldom find representation in mainstream media. It is such exclusion that gives rise to the gatekeeping of important stories of this community.

Published: 10th February 2022 07:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th February 2022 07:39 AM   |  A+A-

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Image used for representational purposes. (Photo | U Rakesh Kumar, EPS)

Express News Service

Narratives originating in northeast India seldom find representation in mainstream media. It is the result of such exclusion that gives rise to the gatekeeping of important stories of this community. Gender and religious minorities from this region are further deprived of any opportunity to amplify their voices. Understanding the need for sub-communities from the northeastern parts of India, many organisations have come together to carve out a space for their members. An initiative dedicated to the queer community within this region is The Chinky Homo Project. Launched by Kumam Davidson (33) from Moirang, Manipur and Pavel Sagolsem (35) from Delhi in 2018, this project seeks to explore, document, and archive narratives of queer Indians so as to create a space for the underrepresented people of northeast India to express their queer identity and voice their struggles.

EXPRESS ILLUSTRATION

Documenting narratives 

The Chinky Homo Project has been documenting the experiences of queer Indians from the northeast and sharing these through their blog and website. The idea is to “generate dialogue and create peer support for queer migrants from the northeast”. Both Davidson and Sagolsem rely heavily on informal conversations with community members to gauge their experiences. “The Project attempts to establish solidarity with different groups, organisations, and collectives to begin with, and establish collaborations. This is an earnest attempt to bring out the heterogeneity of the queer movement in the region and also to build strong ties with local mobilisation and movements that have already been there in each sphere,” the co-founders share in an email interview. Prior to the pandemic, their team would organise meet-ups to engage with members of the community. Following the pandemic, their process of documentation is now facilitated through WhatsApp and email. Self-reflection and narrating personal experiences also play a key role in developing this project. The stories of community members shared on their social media accounts are usually self-documented. “In our documentation and archiving process, we take cognisance of the role of the storyteller no matter what the language and medium of expression is. The storyteller takes charge of what, how, and in what style the story is told. Most importantly, the stories are told from their own context and lived experiences, and that captures their cultural, ethnic, linguistic identities,” they share. The multiplicity of views and experiences “serves a purpose in setting the ground for diversity and intersectionality to get reflected”.

Last year, in order to mark, Lesbian Visibility Week 2021, the team unveiled the ‘Yes We Exist Campaign’ in partnership with other organisations that are pursuing similar work. The campaign is an attempt to make visible the lives and stories of queer women from northeast India.

Starting conversations
Retaining the words ‘chinky’ (a derogatory term used to address someone of Chinese descent; the usage of this ethnic slur to address people from the northeast is derogatory and punishable by law in India) and ‘homo’ (an offensive word that is the colloquial abbreviation for homosexual) in the name of this initiative is, as the founders make it extremely clear, in no way an attempt to reclaim these words. Their intention, however, is to design a platform for conversations that have for long been sidelined. “We do not intend to reclaim the words ‘chinky’ and ‘homo’ because the usage, meaning and implications of the words are not the same across the spectrum in the community from different regions. To use the words a general marker of identity politics would be a sweeping generalisation of different experiences of northeast queers. And that would be a grave mistake and it defeats the vision, agenda and purpose of the Project,” conclude the founders.



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