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Lavanya Bahuguna

Blogger-in-Chief

Artist Poornima Sukumar On Reclaiming The Streets To Eliminate Trans & Homophobia In India

  • IWB Post
  •  May 17, 2018

May 17 is observed as International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia to coordinate international events that raise awareness of LGBTQ+ rights violations and stimulate interest in LGBTQ+ rights work worldwide. To commemorate the day, IWB has teamed up with activists and artists who are working for the welfare of the LGBTQ+ community.

We asked them to throw some light on the matters they think are the least talked about in India when it comes to empowering the Gender Minority. With their help, we’re trying to get access to the insights that only the community people have and give them the right coverage.

In 2014, IWB happened to meet this beautiful artist from Bangalore named Poornima Sukumar, who often initiates campaigns to make the presence of LGBTQ+ people more noticeable in our society. Her NGO Aravani Art Project is a collective movement that empowers the Transgender Community through Visual Arts and socially inclusive experiments.

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We phoned Poornima to understand how, through her art projects, she’s fighting Homophobia and Transphobia around her. Excerpts below:

We’ve repeatedly expressed our love for the way you reclaim the Indian streets where the Transgender community often faces discrimination and harassment. How victorious has this project been so far?

The project ‘Meri id… Meri Pehchan’ was positively received by common people and artists from all over who joined us to add colors to our mission. With these huge murals, we want to document the confusion, dilemma, and happiness the Transgender community experienced before and after they were recognized as a third gender in India. As human beings and civilians of a democracy, they couldn’t enjoy their identity for the longest time. How unfortunate. I simply want to express our mutual pleasure through these portraits.

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We remember joining your team while you were in Jaipur painting the town red! There was so much to learn from.

Thank you. In fact, every city we went to, we could feel the warmth of the local people, especially the youth. I believe that as we become less phobic to them, these minor communities grow more confident of themselves.

Exactly. Here, we also spotted many transgender people with paint brushes to support your team.

I’ve some super amazing Trans friends who often support the initiatives taken by Aravani Art Project. Also, before we visit any city, we invite the local Trans communities to meet and support us. The more the merrier!

Our third project: we pushed our boundaries and walked into Dharavi. The outside world’s presumptions about Dharavi were given a #realitycheck when we were welcomed by the most warm group of #people, children, endless cups of free #chai and unconditional #love . . We celebrated the people from various #communities and our #togetherness in this project. The project did not have a theme per say, but this #photograph , in all its shapes, colours and form – has done the rounds in many countries across the globe. Thanks @ankurjdhv 📸 . . We are completing two gorgeous years of #art #togetherness and community love! Over the next few days we will be sharing excerpts from all the projects we’ve done in the past two years. . Sit back, support and spread the love!❤🌼🌺 . . . #instagram #transgenderpeopleofcolour #together #equality #fight #continue #newyear #newbattles #colourporn #art #community #poetry #words #collage #gratitude #support #love #nogender #stopdiscriminiation #endstigma #wallart #art #artforall #artivism

206 Likes, 3 Comments – Aravani Art Project (@aravaniartproject) on Instagram: “Our third project: we pushed our boundaries and walked into Dharavi. The outside world’s…”

Considering the kind of discrimination the LGBTQ+ community faces in public, its people begin to distance themselves from other genders. How do you help them become self-assured and more positive? 

That’s right. I, personally, push my friends to take public transport more often so they get rid of the inhibition within. Recently, when some of us planned a foreign trip together, we experienced a crazy ride getting the paperwork of the Trans friends done. Nevertheless, the struggle was compensated when the officials respectfully addressed my friends with pronouns they identify themselves with. The positive change in our system is slowly manifesting.

We will be here today and tomorrow, painting, conversations and lots of myth- breaking! . #Repost @iihs_in (Indian Institute of Human Settlements) ・・・ The @aravaniartproject will be at #CityScripts from 16-18 Feb to paint a mural at #IIHSin. And you can be a part of it too! . The mural titled “Avalu, Avanu, Ethararu / Her, Him, Them”, aims to question the language we use to describe ourselves and others. The Aravani Art Project aims to empower the transgender community by creating consciousness and well-being through art and social participation. . . #gender #politics #language #transgendercommunity #socialsustainability #sustainableliving #humanrights #mythbreaking #bendstereotype #enddiscrimination #transvisibility #bangalore #love

150 Likes, 10 Comments – Aravani Art Project (@aravaniartproject) on Instagram: “We will be here today and tomorrow, painting, conversations and lots of myth- breaking! . #Repost…”

What tips do you have for straight people who want to extend their love and support to the LGBTQ+ community?

My only suggestion is to be friends with them. Don’t fear or hate them. All they seek is love and hey, it’s never too bad to have an extra bunch of friends who are certain to ‘trans’form your life!

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Lastly, what has been your learning?

Having friends from the LGBTQ+ community has helped me become more compassionate as an individual. Having lived in their company for the longest time, I was able to recognize the typical human tendency within us of blowing up our petty issues. I’ve learned that moving your consciousness a little towards the betterment of those in need is the best you can do for self-growth.

My love and respect only gets deeper each time I realize how challenging it is to simply follow your heart. Every single day is a beautiful learning about strength, struggle and unconditional love. So blessed to constantly have powerful women around me. To all the men and women, men who want to be women, women who want to be men, men who want to be men and women who want to be women… May you celebrate every single day of your existence. ❤💙💚💛💜 . . #transgenderpeopleofcolour #respect #dignity #love #humanity #people #humanrights #womenforwomen #community #peace #instagram #womensday #celebrate #equality #lgbtqi #queer #blessed #stories #portraits #womenpower #existence #identity #thuglife #power #feminist #proud

109 Likes, 6 Comments – Poornima Sukumar (@poornimatravellingsukumar) on Instagram: “My love and respect only gets deeper each time I realize how challenging it is to simply follow…”

(Picture source: Aravani Art Project)

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