The Whole Truth of Coming Out of the Closet | Robot Hugs Comic

Originally published on Everyday Feminism and re-published here with their permission.


(Trigger Warning: Use of transphobic slur.)

“Coming out of the closet” is big part of our lingo and understanding of the LGBTQIA+ experience. But do you know about the many different meanings of being “out” for different people?

This comic breaks down what the concept of the closet really means, and shows how cis and straight people can help dismantle the forces building closets around our identities.

With Love,
The Editors at Everyday Feminism

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K is a Contributing Comic Artist for Everyday Feminism. They are a Canadian, non-binary, genderqueer, peoplequeer, mentally ill, critical feminist robot. They are the artist and writer for Robot Hugs, a twice-weekly webcomic about (among other things) gender, identity, feminism, mental health, and cats. In their spare time, they provide peer education and workshops on negotiation, consent, and identity. You can follow them on Twitter @RobotHugsComic

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BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival Online for Free

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Stories of peer pressure, love, marriage, schools, siblings, friendship, passion, protest, cycling, and activism wrapped in to five beautiful short films made by a group of gay, lesbian and trans filmmakers. Now online for free. For the first time ever, in partnership with the British Council’s fiveFilms4freedom project, five short films from BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival are available to watch online, for free, worldwide. Click here to watch and click here to read more.

On a related note, there are a set of films being brought down to the Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan Chennai by three curators from Germany. They will present works addressing various kinds of conflict around issues of nationality, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, family history and migration. They look into which cinematic languages are appropriate to show case stories of conflict and how cinema might shape our understanding of conflict. Everybody is welcome and entry is free. Here is the poster – (Event on Facebook)

identity and conflict einvite

The reinvention of Hindutva

 by Arvind Rajagopal


Whatever your political views, the spectacle of a populist upsurge confirms the vitality of Indian democracy, whether that upsurge is for the Aam Aadmi Party, or for Narendra Modi and the BJP. But populism is not democracy.

From the context of comparatively stable political loyalties and predictable electoral results, we now have elections where a relatively small number of non-committed voters can swing outcomes decisively and reward parties with disproportionate victories. Victorious parties may thus claim a mandate for their programs based on seat majorities as if these represented popular majorities, though they seldom do. Similarly, party ideology may be modified to appear more widely acceptable. For example, Hindutva, the ideology of the Sangh Parivar, is changing into Hindu populist politics. There is a new relation between publicity and politics here, one that makes older political distinctions inadequate.

Criticism of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as being anti-Muslim has been muted of late because the BJP is supposed to have moved beyond its Hindu ideology, by adopting a more inclusive and developmentalist stance. In fact, the BJP’s transformation of its Hindu nationalist ideology into Hindu populism has allowed the party to further some of its old aims in a new and relatively uncontroversial way. At the heart of this success is Hindu populism’s claim to be the product of democratic procedure, and to express the will of the majority. But a ruling party without a single Muslim Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha, in the second largest Muslim country in the world, is choosing to interpret its majority in a partisan way.

Hindu Populism in international context

The term populism refers to a kind of political reasoning where popular mobilisation serves as its own justification. As such, populism can support liberal, revolutionary or even authoritarian forms of government. The political theorist Ernesto Laclau has argued that populism can emerge with a democratic fervour and end up installing dictatorships, as has happened across Latin America. In the U.K., Margaret Thatcher remade the Tories as an authoritarian populist force, winning over Labour Party supporters and refashioning Conservative ideology to have mass appeal. Somewhat similarly, in India, the BJP redefined Hindu identity as both aspirational and nationalist in the face of new challenges from caste democratic forces. As late as the 1980s, many experts used to dismiss the chances of the BJP based on its tiny vote share at the time, and its more upper caste leadership, but the party has clearly changed.

The party’s populist transformation has been assisted by the explosive growth of the media. The mediated spectacle of the crowd affirms and reinforces the motives for participation, whether in a demonstration or a political rally. For the media industry, today’s spectators will be tomorrow’s consumers; investment in populism seems to make good business sense. Mass gatherings used to raise law and order concerns; today such events present opportunities for astute political strategists.

Until recently a category such as Hindu populism was hard to imagine. But Hindu nationalism has reinvented itself, combining pro-business policies with the rhetoric of lower caste empowerment. Today nationalists can claim that capitalism and democracy are thriving in India.

While this is an important achievement, it is also in part, the result of a Cold War era strategy of the U.S., which saw India as a frontline state in the battle against the Communist threat. The Cold War’s end, as we know, signalled the defeat of Communism. Religion began to become much more influential directly thereafter in many parts of the world. However, U.S. governments had historically tended to regard religion as an ally against “godless communism.” It was also seen as a stabiliser in the transition to modernity. No surprise then that influential studies conducted regarding the RSS by U.S.-based scholars regarded it benignly, as an ascetic form of socialism, as Gandhian volunteerism, or as Hindu revivalism. Their stoking violence as a means of organising Hindus was thus ignored, and the martial character of the organisation was seen as ornamental to essentially pietist tendencies. Violence was ignored because it pertained to local issues, while the optic these scholars brought was shaped by U.S. concerns during this time. Further, Hindu nationalists were reassuringly anti-Communist. They did not appear to pose any threat to U.S. interests.

Beneath this perception was a long-standing assumption that religion could not be politically viable. The post-Enlightenment separation of church from state had led to the belief that religion did not have a place in modern politics.But religion in India has had a different history, and that has unavoidably influenced the shape and direction of modern politics.

Those wishing to promote Hindu identity had a problem that was the reverse of Enlightenment-era Christianity. They first had to assert the existence of a common religion and create the sense of a shared identity that was, at best, weak. For example, Hindus historically did not all share what was supposed to constitute a religion, such as creed, deity, ritual, or text. During the colonial period, however, Hinduism gradually became codified and subject to juridical intervention. It also became a means whereby lower castes claimed public rights they previously did not have.

The limits of Hindu populism

After a long hiatus, amid the political crises of the late 1980s, Hindu identity began to be used openly again, and yielded electoral dividends in electoral campaigns. It helped win the small but decisive “non-committed vote,” as L.K. Advani called it, boosting the BJP’s share of seats exponentially. Political Hinduism has grown since then, aided by the Congress’s decline. Then how is Hindu politics different from any other religious politics?

In the Hindu tradition, reality is beyond words and the truth has no essence. There is, in fact, no religious doctrine as such to challenge. Hinduism as conjured for the political process today surpasses dialectical materialism; it is the most expansive ‘philosophical system’ conceivable. In such a context, the category of religion presents an opportunity rather than a problem: to be “Hindu” is an artefact of publicity rather than an expression of ancient mores. It is no surprise that Arun Jaitley has stated that Hindu nationalism is an opportunistic issue for the BJP, a “talking point” rather than a core ideology.

The electoral process has sanctioned a new language of political theology for the BJP. In his Madison Square Garden speech in New York, Narendra Modi referred to the people as sovereign and their verdict as divine. He declared: “Janata Jan Janardhan.” But Janardhan is not a secular term for “ruler;” it refers to Lord Krishna. Electoral success provides the supreme redemption in this understanding, negating merely juridical verdicts. It implies divine power in the figure of the elected ruler, who is like the king but sanctified by a formal democratic process.

Political authority is the end towards which this new kind of religious identity is created, applicable across caste groupings that not long ago were excluded, prominently the former Untouchable castes that constitute about a quarter of the population. No previous party has come to power by excluding Muslims so completely. Meanwhile the situation of Muslims has steadily worsened over the last 30 years.

The exclusion of Muslims from political visibility is accompanied by the increasing political visibility of Dalits. The new basis for Hindu unification is the exclusion of Muslims, alongside the formal subsumption of Dalits. The register of exclusion shifts in the process, from untouchability to invisibility. Media expansion enables more coordinated and extensive forms of exclusion than were previously imaginable; political dynamics have both anticipated this development and furthered it. If Hindu populism is to deepen its democratic character, these are issues for it to reckon with.


This piece has previously been published in The Hindu Op-Ed and the Communalism Watch blog. Arvind Rajagopal is the Professor of Media Studies at New York University.

We are South of India

via Enna Da Rascalas

Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, English (with subtitles). Just 4 minutes 18 seconds

In eighth standard geography classes, we were made to practice drawing rivers, mountains, and colour all the states on blank physical and political maps of India. Suddenly one day, we had to learn to draw Chattisgarh and Jharkand because they weren’t printed yet. (Reminder: I must learn to draw Telengana)

My naivety of understanding this map of the country I was born in to and therefore belong to, has taken a lot of reading, travel and conversations to fade away. I used to think Madrasi was a compliment and words like Mallu, Golti were non-offensive. I was after all born in a Madras that became Chennai. I didn’t realize until my Malayali friends, Telugu friends, Kannadiga friends, and friends from the rest of Tamil Nadu were also called Madrasi. I felt they were robbing my identity. Well, I thought a lot of stupid things like this about Kashmir, Bihar, the North-east of India and the rest of the map. We are usually taught such naivety and are encouraged to maintain it. It’s like how so much of the world believes Africa’s a country.

I don’t know if more south Indians watch this song and laugh, or if actually people up north are watching this video and understanding We are the South of India… not Madrasis all padoses… I hope more of the latter is happening. Nevertheless, this is a kick-ass song created by the Stray Factory monkeys of Chennai, that must travel far and wide.

Enjoy, share, and subscribe to them here.

sam pc.

Is your experiment time travel?

by samyuktha pc.

*

Forty kilometres,

one foot after another, another one of mine,

in front of one foot, then another foot of mine,

it only takes one lakh and twenty thousand,

one foot after another, my foot after another,

walking away from my two-storey-two-TV house,

to the nearest nuclear power plant.

Uranium and Plutonium, however travel faster than me.

 

Three continuous days of rain,

and the one road that envelops my house,

it’s empty plots on either sides,

now are filled with water, knee-deep,

so one foot after another is a bit hard to count,

beautiful crabs and snakes distract me.

Then why would I want the main road,

where the buses speed in plenty?

 

“Leptos Pirosis”, someone warns me,

from inside the tiles of the house,

“Elephantisis”, I thought. “Dengue”, they say.

“SARS was many years ago”, a friend knocks my head,

“TB just might be your fate.”

“No cancer is not out of fashion.”

 

Forty more kilometers to go,

one foot after another, my foot after another,

Six hundred and ninety four kilometers,

one foot after another, my foot after another,

one foot after another, my foot after another…

phew…

one more nuclear power plant!

 

Thyroids and bladders in danger,

invisible half-lives floating around.

My stomach has been crying for days,

“Take me away from all of this,”

it craves.

 

Constitutions and nations too hard

for my four chamber stomach to mulch.

In a week, I’d be sitting

in colorful camps by governments

to scan irises,

deploy vaccines,

run emergency drills,

copy fingerprints,

build barbed wire fences,

maybe even shave our heads.

Biometric bullshit

inside my house, inside my head,

inside inside yours and mine,

inside every tube and cell.

 

Just that this is not new,

reaching this cow a little too late,

when parts of it just fall away,

inside its breath, inside its balance,

inside its sexual common sense,

not able to place any foot after another.

The cow and I stand still.

 

It takes a cold glass of buttermilk,

some prolonged sleep, and no other humans

asking it questions. Then, they, my organs, agree with me.

On this planet, third away from the sun,

maybe no longer the only one with life or diamonds,

(believed to be rare), we shall be our next dinosaurs.

 

Like the rusted seas of years ago,

now the iron we swallow,

Like the ice age remnants,

that NY uses to reach high skies,

Like the million histories, we each,

try to convince each one of us, individually,

each to be convinced, maybe that those

planes can’t crash down on

all of this and more.

No, we will all go.

 

Not together. Just disappear.

You will remember me for a few days.

Remember the post-mortem details,

and the new incinerator that burnt me up,

maybe even a biometric unique i.d.

but how would you know

how my mind decayed…

for everything we release

is invisible now.

*

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