Mehfil-E-Queer: Narrating stories of resilience

- March 20, 2024
| By : Idrees Bukhtiyar |

The March 16 festival offered a platform to queer individuals to come together for story-telling sessions, and engage in fun and therapeutic activities

REVEALING THEIR LIVES: People of the community narrate their stories to each other

Saurabh (name changed) , a member of the queer community, has been fighting discrimination for years. 

“We are from a community, which is not accepted by our parents and society. We have been facing challenges like discrimination, lack of acceptance and equal rights for no faults of ours,” he says.   

Saurabh, along with 15 other members of the community, were part of Mehfil-E-Queer organised by Keshav Suri Foundation (KSF) at Lodhi Gardens on March 16. This is for the first time that KSF has organised such an outdoor programme which includes story-telling sessions, fun and therapeutic activities. 

The topic was ‘Queering the Breath’ with Mehfil-E-Queer providing a platform to queer individuals to come together, share their stories and celebrate identities.

FOOT TAPPING: A dancing and singing session was also conducted during the festival

“The aim was to get together, tell our stories, share our pain and strengthen our hopes and talents,” says Saurabh, who works as mental health counsellor at KSF.

He says that people maintain a negative mindset about their community, which leads to lack of acceptance. 

“We too are humans, have same blood running in our veins. So, why this discrimination against us. Acceptance by society and later self-acceptance remains a challenge. This is causing problems like mental trauma which sometimes leads to suicide,” he asserts.

Imran Khan, another member of the community, says that he is suffering as a Muslim from the LGBTQIA+ community. 

“If you are Muslim and queer, your life is hell. I always have a fight with my parents over this matter. But they don’t understand that it is natural and I can’t do anything about it. They, in fact, refer to Quranic verses saying that this is wrong,” he says.

WORKS OF ART: Individual express themselves through painting

Khan revealed that he discovered his attraction for people of his sex seven years ago. 

“But heterosexual people only want sexual relations. They don’t support you emotionally. So, you can understand how tough it is for our community to enter into a relationship, get married and have children,” he explains his dilemma.

Adding more to this, Karthik Chopra, another member of the community, says that he was looted by some people that he believes were not transgender people. 

“I came across a few men through Grindr app for a casual hook up. But it turned out to be fraud. They looted me of my cash and wallet that had my IDs. Having relationship is a challenge for our community,” he says.

Siddhant Rai, a transgender person who was also the part of Mehfil-e-Queer, says that he has been facing bullying since childhood. 

“I remember I was called by names like Chhakka or Hijda (eunuch) during my schooldays. I am human too. What straight people feel about the opposite sex, I feel the same about the same sex, so what is wrong in it,” he says.

“I had a female body but a male mind inside me. I have faced many challenges over wearing of clothes as I used to wear male clothes. In 2021, I got the transition done from female to male through a surgery. I also got married to a woman I have been dating for the last 10 years,” says Nikhil Gupta, a transgender person.

Kusum Chauhan (name changed) says that he started wearing his aunt’s heels some years ago. “That’s when I felt different about myself and experienced a transition inside. I am not afraid of doing so,” he says.

“LGBTQIA+ community have always been neglected and denied their basic rights. The struggle is so bad that we spend a significant part of our lives trying to earn an identity for ourselves. The society sees us in a very different way, bullying us and using wrong words against our community,” says Anjali, a peer councillor at KSF.

Keshav Suri, founder of Keshav Suri Foundation and Executive Director of The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group says that Mehfil-E-Queer was more than just an event. 

“It was to celebrate the power of unity, understanding, and love. Our invitation extended beyond the LGBTQIA+ community members to allies, friends, and supporters who believe in fostering a society built on acceptance and inclusion. Through heartfelt conversations and shared experiences, we delved into topics ranging from LGBTQIA+ community awareness to the importance of positivity, mindfulness, and emotional well-being,” says Suri.

“It is a call to action, a rallying cry for continued progress and advocacy. Together, we strive to break barriers, challenge stereotypes, and uplift voices that have long been marginalised. Through education, dialogue, and unwavering solidarity, we plant the seeds for a future where love reigns supreme, and every individual is empowered to live their truth,” he added.