Disbelief gripped Samarpan Maiti, as the presenter called his name out loud. Donning a purple checked suit, he walked up to collect his trophy, amid thunderous applause and cheers. Maiti had won Mr Gay World India 2018 and it was a moment overloaded with emotions and apprehension.
Maiti, who is awaiting his doctoral degree from a reputed institute in Kolkata, stumbled upon a modelling career after his close friends coaxed him into getting in shape and then try his hand at the glamorous career. For Maiti, pageantry was the next step in order to make his mark and bring about a change for the LGBTQIAA community.
While the LGBTQ movement in India, popularised by events like the Pride March is mostly an urban phenomenon, Maiti wants to see the rainbow flag flying high in rural parts, as well. Currently, he is researching about the unique problems faced by socio-economically backward people from the LGBTQ community. During his visits to villages, he often comes across men struggling to figure out their orientation. He counsels them to own their sexuality confidently. Now that he is a popular figure within the community, many gay men from villages find comfort in sharing their dilemma with him.
Like 75-year-old Lakshmikanto from West Bengal, who identifies himself as “Laxmi” found a friend in Maiti, as he listened to him and educated him about homosexuality. “Lakshmikanto loves to identify himself as Lakshmi. He is around 75. He doesn’t even know his exact date of birth. Doesn’t know what is gay, bisexual and what is IPC 377. What he knew about himself that he liked only men and he wanted to settle with a man and still now society thinks it as something very vile. He was talking about the burning problems of old gay people, the negligence from others, loneliness and all these issues.” (sic)
Maiti decided early on that the only way to give voice to those invisible and facing discrimination every day is to make himself visible. However, with Nitasha Biswas representing India at Miss International 2018, Joyita Mondal becoming the first transgender judge and K Prithika Yashini as the first sub-inspector in Tamil Nadu state police, the community is surely creating waves with their achievements.
In spite of being recognised on a national platform and making an actual contribution, tackling the naysayers is still a continuous battle. Confessing that a majority of the population is still skeptical of the community’s contribution and relevance, Maiti said, “There’s a long way to go, and more potential waiting to be discovered. You know, a large part of the society has not accepted me, but I am sure they will, in future. But, we won’t get acceptance from the society by isolating ourselves or just blaming their mentality, rather we can win them over by showing our love, concern, and care for social crises.”
Maiti believes that since the laws criminalising homosexuality is up for review, there is still scope for the community to reclaim its rights. “I consider it as a one-step advancement for gay rights in India. In spite of the societal pressure and moral politics, SC’s response to the petition filed by the LGBT community is a positive sign. At least the court is thinking about securing the fundamental rights of every citizen, which the Parliament failed to recognise. I am not sure what will be the decision but it’s still a ray of hope for the LGBTQIAA community.”
So, what happens now that Maiti has won the title? “I want more support from everyone for the betterment of the rural LGBTQ community and secure a place for those adolescent village kids, who are confused and under a lot of social pressure. I will continue my work for the betterment of the geriatric population in the LGBTQ community, who face continued neglect. I will definitely raise all these issues at the world pageant.”
Also Read: Is the average Indian youth homophobic?