Gaysi – an amalgam of Gay + Desi (Hindi word for people from South Asia) – is an online and offline safe space originated in India for the LGBTQ+ community. Originating as an online platform for queer Indian people to share their stories and voice their opinions, Gaysi or The Gaysi Family soon ventured into offline gatherings with their annual Zine Bazaar, open mic events, workshops and talks, meetups and bar nights. ‘Built by queer people, for queer people’, Gaysi is possibly one of India’s most well-known and powerful platform for the community.
The forum has stuck around for more than a decade, enticing contributors from across the globe to write about anything and everything queer. A plethora of articles make up their blog, ranging from didactics on sexuality and gender, reviews on LGBTQ+ themed books, series, music and movies, interviews with notable queer personalities, to personal stories penned by people of the community, and a motley of fictional stories and poems. Curated content is presented with staggering visual treatments and illustrations, a unique factor of Gaysi that elevates the impact of these stories.
While Gaysi continued to expand their online reach, they delved into offline events in 2012 with the inception of Dirty Talks – an open mic event for the queer community. “We chose to do an open-mic event because we find that it is what most closely relates to the Gaysi Blog” read their website. Throughout the years, they have successfully presented ten editions of Dirty Talk with hundreds of turnout featuring the likes of Ankur Tiwari, Imran Khan, Konkana Sen, Kalki Koechlin, Sorabh Pant, among others.
Meanwhile, in 2011, they published their first Gaysi Zine – a self-published print magazine with compilations of fictional and non-fictional stories for queer desis. As the zines gained momentum with the release of multiple volumes that explored a variety of themes such as mythology in their zine “For the Love of God” and horror in “NORMAL”, Gaysi further organized the Gaysi Zine Bazaar.
Zine Bazaar is a hub for creators and consumers to devour art and stories under one roof. Exhibitors from India (established and new independent artists) display their diverse works of art – comics, narrative illustrations, posters – to scores of people who can also avail workshops during the Bazaar. Experts from graphic and literary worlds lead the closed door, one-on-one workshops. So far, Gaysi has organized three editions of their Zine Bazaar, two in Mumbai and one in Delhi.
In addition to Dirty Talks and Zine Bazaar, Gaysi hosts bar nights and meetups for the LGBT folks, a couple of times a year. Among Gaysi’s many memorable events, their 2×2 Bar Night to commemorate the first anniversary of the scrapping of Sec 377 is one that is fondly remembered, along with after Pride Parties, or even to celebrate Halloween. Early in 2020, in the month of January, they also organized Flick It! – a queer badminton tournament, in association with Queer Aazadi Maidan – during Mumbai’s Pride month, as well as trivia nights, quizzes and workshops, in a continued effort to provide safe spaces to the marginalized LGBTQ+ community in India.
When the world halted its outdoor operations altogether owing to the coronavirus pandemic, Gaysi managed to triumphantly shift its activities entirely online, thanks to their predominant origin on the internet. Adapting quickly, Gaysi took advantage of Instagram’s livestream feature and started the series – Gaysi Live. This weekly series offers a platform for individuals to educate themselves about mental health, queer businesses, the gender and sexuality spectrum, as well as activism and inclusivity – generally hosted by notable members of the Indian LGBTQ community. Apart from the informative parts of these lives, Gaysi also features queer musicians, naming this segment ‘Isolation Chill Session’; they also conduct poetry readings, drag performances, songwriting tutorials, queer literature discussion with authors, and much more!
Museum of Queer Swipe Stories was also launched by Gaysi in affiliation with Tinder (a global online dating app) during this period. By collecting stories and experiences from submissions, Gaysi aim for this initiative is to show glimpses of, and further normalize, queer love stories.
Last year, Gaysi celebrated their eleventh “birthday” since its inception with friends and supporters. Their presence is a stark reminder for individuals who are questioning their identity, to ensure no member of this flourishing community is ever made to feel alone. Gaysi will continue to be a space for queer people to meet each other and embrace themselves.
Feature Image Via Gaysi.