KhushDC Queer South Asian Bookclub

KhushDC

I came across a fantastic monthly event connecting Queer South Asian literature and community.

KhushDC evolved with the two founders Atul and Yassir met by chance in New York during the 25th anniversary of Stonewall.

They wanted to create a similar group like SALGA, but for the DC community. So in 1994, KhushDC launched!

I vaguely remember (please KhushDC members and please KhushDC members correct me if I’m wrong) there was a listserve on e-groups (before yahoo groups bought them out), and I know that’s how other Queer South Asians connected during the Web 1.0 era.

For those bookworms out there, they have a monthly bookclub! It’s open to anyone, and it’s global too. For March, they are reading “Blue Boy” by Rakesh Satyal.

For many of us who have felt like we didn’t belong, books offered us an opportunity to explore faraway lands, get lost in a story, inspire our imaginations.

Please take the time to read their guidelines. Have fun.

Happy reading!

Book Club Guidelines:

  1. This space is open to all.
  2. This space is trans-affirming space, so please honor people’s names and pronouns.
  3. You do not need to read the book to join the book club conversation
  4. Be mindful of the space you take, giving others the opportunity to partake in the discussion.
  5. Be mindful about your own explicit and/or implicit biases, such as (but not limited to) ableism, anti-blackness, biphobia, casteism, internalized racism, misogyny, transphobia and religious biases.
  6. Be respectful of others and their opinions. Agree to disagree.
  7. Respect each other’s privacy

2008

It was a weird time for the South Asian LGBTQIA+ and the greater Queer community in California.

On the one hand, we rejoiced at America electing its first Black President, but on the other, “No on Prop 8” was losing ground.

Trikone had campaigned tirelessly to educate the South Asian community and all communities. We were in this together.

Trikone is a LGBTQIA+ South Asian non-profit organization, it was founded by Arvind Kumar and Suvir Das. The original newsletter “Trikon,” kicked off in Jan 1986.

Which then evolved into a full-fledge magazine catering to the Queer South Asian community, for many years.

Prop 8 was brought to the table to the California voters whether or not the LGBTQIA+ community would be allowed to continue to marry their soulmates.

I remember being at a San Francisco Hotel with my dear friend Poonam, it was a very sombre mood. My mother was working for the elections at the time, bless her heart, she even called me around 9pm to tell me, even though “No on Prop 8” was losing there were still plenty of votes to be counted, we’re losing in San Francisco.

It was the usual suspects in SoCal, that sealed our fate. We had lost. But like generations of LGBTQIA pioneers from all spectrums of the community, we weren’t going down. We were determined to be heard, watching the protest video above on Market Street, it brought back so many memories of beautiful souls I connected with.

At the time, I was doing these weekly video blogs with Stone Darth. So we created this channel that, in some ways, may have been far ahead of its time; we wanted to create an inclusive space for lesbians and trans men.

We witnessed some unsavoury behaviour between lesbians and trans men. Bigotry and just not being kind. It annoyed me; it was bad enough we had to deal with mainstream kicking our communities down for decades, but when there’s inner conflict within the Queer umbrella, that’s the time when dialogue is needed.

Stone Darth came up with Lick Your Gender; I thought it was fantastic. It wasn’t putting our content in a narrow scope; we knew our objective, creating solidarity between our communities through playfulness, humour and compelling narrative.

I think we tackled all three, but sadly all good things had to end. But it’s fun looking over our content.

2008 brought us Milk, a biography of late San Francisco openly gay Supervisor, Harvey Milk, who was gunned down and killed along with Mayor George Moscone.

The killer was former Supervisor Dan White, who had resigned, but after getting a call from a KPIX reporter, he decided he wanted his job back.

He claimed he had no intention to kill Milk or Moscone, but he made it a point to sneak in the basement to bypass the metal detectors.

It was a crazy time for San Francisco if you’re not familiar with the history; a few weeks before the slayings, the Bay Area was shaken to its core by the brutal killings in Jonestown.

A religious fanatic, Jim Jones took his congregation into the heart of Guyana to build a “greater paradise”, but Jones had a sinister twist lurking behind this “greater paradise” initiative.

Several San Mateo residents rallied around Congressman Leo Ryan, begging him to go and investigate what was going on in Jonestown.

Ryan empathised with his constituents; he took the future Congresswoman Jackie Speier and reporters to Jonestown to investigate.

While a facade was put on that everyone was happy, a brave congregation member passed Congressman Ryan a note that he wanted out of Jonestown. Ryan acted swiftly and saw through the facade.

But sadly, that sealed his fate. Ryan and others were shot and killed at the tarmac; Speier survived. And over 900 members were forced to drink cyanide; Jones’s henchman shot anyone who tried to escape.

And just a few weeks later, as Moscone was weeping at Leo Ryan’s funeral, San Francisco wept for Moscone and Milk.

While my generation fought against Prop 8, which would take away the rights of LGBTQIA+ to marry, in Milk’s time, there was a similar proposition, Prop 6.

That would ban the LGBTQIA+ community from teaching the kids. Similar propositions were passed around the country, led by Anita Bryant and her crusade to pray away the Gay.

Thankfully unlike Prop 8, Prop 6 didn’t pass.

We eventually got there, though, but let’s not forget there are other people in our community across the world who still can’t express their love; in some cases, it could be life-threatening. So we have to continue fighting, educating, and reminding others love is love.

I can’t forget the tireless effort everyone made and continue to make; I’m grateful Stone Darth introduced me to the “flip video” to document this critical time in our community.

I know I’ve gone deep into history, but I think it’s important to highlight things, to spot these connections. We’re doomed to repeat it if we don’t learn from history.

I leave you all with this last video and words of wisdom from the late and great activist and poet, Ifti Nasim. I miss you Ifti.