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Tanuvi Joe

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LGBTQ Rights Activist Harish On His Pet Family Who Helped Him Sail Through Rainy Days

  • IWB Post
  •  August 24, 2019

Listed in the world pride power list as one of the 100 most influential LGBT people in the world, Harish Iyer is an activist for LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, a life coach, and now a politician, who hopes for more inclusive future for India.

As we chat with him, he gives us a closer look into his world with his pet children and how he uses his past experiences as a compassionate bridge to reach out to others who suffer from pain and isolation in the community . Excerpts:

Your mom was always your support. What was it like when you came out to her?

I first told my mother, I think I’m gay. She wasn’t supportive in the beginning and to give her a better understanding of what it means to be gay, I fixed up an appointment for her with a psychologist. But then next day, I told her I know I’m gay. I said, ‘I’m ready to marry a girl of your choice if you’d want me to, but before that just answer one question. If you had a daughter, would you be okay with her getting married to a gay guy?’

LGBTQ Activist

She understood what I meant, with tears in her eyes, she hugged me. She did ask me to keep a secret but, naturally, it just couldn’t remain a secret.


Director Onir’s ‘I Am’ and Ranadeep Bhattacharyya and Judhajit Bagchi’s Amen’ had been inspired by your life. Why didn’t you choose to act in them though?

The filmmakers are very close friends of mine. They’re my soulmates. ‘I Am’ is inspired by Ganesh Nallari’s life, as well. I was supposed to play the character in ‘Amen,’ but it’s really traumatic to live the past experiences of your childhood again and so I backed out. But yes, it is my dream to play myself in a film one day.

LGBTQ Activist

The lives of lesbian and bisexual women are less discussed and addressed in LGBTQ+ dialogue. Do you think this makes their journey to reveal their true identities more difficult?

Every man in this country speaks from the seat of privilege. The privilege of gender, of being a man, the understanding that you belong to a certain social, societal class and that you belong to a religion of the majority.

But if you are a Dalit Muslim woman, who is disabled and also a lesbian, imagine the layers of discrimination she needs to go through in a country like India where women are still struggling to attain their rights.

That’s why initiatives like ‘Gaysifamily’ and ‘Umang’ are important when it comes to providing safe spaces for women to voice their feelings and opinions. The moment men become aware that equality is not a favor for women but rather a right they deserve, everything will change.

LGBTQ Activist

Who was your support system through tough times in your life?

My dog was my support system. He used to always listen to me and lick my tears. That actually gave me hope that I could find people who also would listen to my story and not be judgmental. From the age of seven till I was 18, I had been raped. It was my dog whom I spoke about the abuse for the first time. Animals are my lifeline.

Yes, I’ve seen your Instagram. It’s filled with pictures of animals. Are they all your pets?

Yes, yes! I have a dog named Sonia along with two cats called Krishna and Shiva. They had different names before, Tux and Milo, but my grand mom doesn’t like cats, so I gave them divine names. Hopefully, she will see them differently now. (laughs). If there is a God, he lives in all beings. Right?

Absolutely! So how does your day go around your pet family?

When I wake up in the morning, I first take my dog for a walk. Then once I come back, I attend to calls and messages throughout the day. These are usually crisis calls from survivors of child sexual abuse. Sometimes, I also get calls from the friends of LGBT people who want to help them out and also from people who are still in the closet. This time, my pets are all around me. They sense the pain and share support.

I love writing, so whenever I get time, I write a few articles too. Then I go for my recording at the radio show. When I come back, I’m busy attending calls till three in the morning. I would love to dedicate more time to animal welfare, but instead, I spend most of my time around humans.

What is your way to relax?

Oh, I love grooming my cat. Sometimes my dog causes me stress. (laughs) Sonia sleeps only when I play meditational music. She hops onto my lap and falls asleep.

Work calms me down. It’s an irony that what stresses me the most de-stresses me. But after I listen to what people have to say, they feel so much better and thank me which reinforces my faith and hope in humanity.

LGBTQ Activist

You’re also a radio presenter for ‘The Gaydio Show.’ One song that you love playing on repeat.

(sings) ‘Pehla Nasha, Pehla Khumar.’

Is Bollywood ready to sing about LGBTQ+ rights?

I’m sure Farhan, Kalki, and Aamir would be game for it.

If you had to write a book, what would its title be?

‘Live Life Queen Size,’ I just made it up. (laughs)


This article was first published on October 21, 2017.

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