Beyond bemoaning the homophobic politicians in a country as large and diverse as ours, where are the positive voices that champion queer issues? Where are the candidates who rise above the din to shine a light on issues that matter to all of us?
Enter Pink List India, India’s first list of Lok Sabha candidates supporting LGBTQ+ rights.
Created by Columbia graduate Anish Gawande, designer Smriti Deora and Devina Buckshee, this list aims to highlight candidates beyond high-profile superstars like Shashi Tharoor to recognise lesser-known but deserving politicians who have braved the relatively homophobic political climate to come out in support of queer causes.
The list mentions candidates from smaller constituencies like Jan Adhikar Party’s Pappu Yadav from Madhepura, Bihar, who voted in favour of Tharoor’s private bill to scrap Section 377.
“Think of The Pink List as an archive that can be challenged, questioned, refuted, and built upon. The possibilities are endless.”Anish Gawande, co-creator of The Pink List
As the website says, “Eventually, we need to build a network of politicians across party lines to make queer issues a political imperative. Because our fight does not end after 377.”
Trailblazers: If Elected, They Could Be India’s First Trans Politician in the Lok Sabha
Four trans people, including Radha, an independent candidate from Chennai South who is contesting the Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu on 18 April, and one intersex candidate, could make history if they win!
Here are the four other trailblazers, each already a first in their constituency.
Dalit activist Ashwathi Rajappan is the first openly intersex candidate contesting in the Lok Sabha elections from Ernakulam, Kerala, while 26-year-old Sneha Kale is the first transgender to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Mumbai North Central.
Jatin Mummy,44, from Maharashtra Devadasi Niradhar Mahila Sanghatana wants to represent the Jogati Kinnar community in Parliament to give them and their issues a voice.
Finally, Chirpi Bhawani from Delhi’s Chanakyapuri is a social activist from the Kinnar Akhada who is the Aam Aadmi Party’s first transgender candidate.
Beyond the Urban Bubble: Queer Allies from Rural and Smaller Constituencies
From leaders of rural constituencies like Raju Shetty of Hatkanangle Maharashtra, representing the Swabhimana Shetkari Sanghatana party, to candidates from regional parties like Biju Janata Dal’s Pinaki Misra from Orissa or TMC’s Arpita Ghosh from West Bengal, there are many undiscovered politicians rooting for trans people.
The list then says to us that diversity, queerness and queer support run deep across India and therefore queer rights need to be a political issue. It shows that real change is possible by leveraging support in non-metros by politicians who take a stance and still win elections.
Our politicians are the people’s representatives, so it is worth highlighting the political allies who are supportive of these causes.
- 01/02(Photo Courtesy: The Pink List)
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“There is seemingly genuine support for queer and trans rights – like from Shiv Sena MPs who have nothing to gain (in the form of liberal brownie points) from supporting LGBTQ+ issues.”Gawande
“The real groundwork for queer rights lies in educating those who are already allies,” he adds.
Queer Support is Not Reflective of Complete ‘Wokeness’
The Pink List reflects the contested terrains of Indian queer and trans politics.
Some have dubious records on caste, religion, class, and even across the spectrum of gender and sexuality.
These are public utterances, and each need to be probed and questioned, and holistically looked at against other public stances to determine a candidate’s ideological beliefs and wokeness.
Public support on queer issues is only one indicator – this list has thrown up some fascinating ideological deviations that need to be now analysed.
“There is a disconcerting alliance between pro-LGBTQ+ and pro-Hindutva politics that reflects a worrying form of homonationalism.”Anish Gawande
Finally, there needs to be more research on a politician’s stance on other marginalised identities, across different areas of caste, class, gender.
- 01/03(Photo Courtesy: The Pink List)
- 02/03(Photo Courtesy: The Pink List)
- 03/03(Photo Courtesy: The Pink List)
To make an informed choice, Smriti Deora, co-creator of the list adds, “As a first time voter, the list presents a platform to individualise candidates and their views on LGBTQ issues, not defining them by their parties. This is just the first step to raising awareness of many issues related to diversity & inclusivity.”
Eventually, there is a need to create a queer caucus in the Indian Parliament and across levels of electoral politics that allow queer and trans rights to become electoral issues.
And The Pink List is a start in that direction.