Category Archives: Debanuj DasGupta

Notes on transnational Pride!

On June 29th India saw for the first time a nationally coordinated effort to organize Pride Marches across four major metropolitan areas. The news of the first Queer Pride March in New Delhi (the nation’s capital) has made huge splashes on all the major print and net media. The theme in New Delhi was "Global Pride". Some of the slogans read "London, Lisbon, Kolkata", "Global Pride". Images of queers of all kinds (I use the term queer which is problematic in invoking, as an umbrella term for women loving women, men loving men, hijras, kothis and all forms of identity that challenge hetronormativity) marching underneath the Rainbow Flag are all over the net. As a mid-thirties immigrant male of color located in the Midwest, I was prompt to reading it all as a celebration of cosmopolitan queerness that is hand maiden of neo-liberal notions of consumption and individualism.

On second thoughts I am reminded of the in numerous messages, wall notes, updates I have received on Facebook and different Blog-links that has been circulating about these marches. Friends from across the globe has sent messages to each other on Orkut and Facebook. I called my friend of 10yrs after several years and we giggled about the idea of marching in our hometowns next year. I am particularly reminded of a conversation that I was a part of, in Kolkata, 1994 at the British Council between Parvez Sharma (the director of A Jihad For Love)N667168097_980825_2122
, Program Officers from British Council and  a bunch of psychiatrists. Parvez articulated way back then the need for Pride Yatra (Marches  in Hindi) in India. I resonated with the need, yet cautioned that we needed time to organize people for years, and mobilize them for rallies.

India, since the mid eighties have been pursuing a "Liberalization" agenda in both social and economic spheres. The state is now promoting itself as the miracle in neo-liberal economics and a competent ally of the US. It was interesting to see parallel rhetorics of "equality under law" and solidarity with other movements being deployed by South-Asian Queer activists across LA, New York, London, New Deli and Kolkata. The emerging queer critics of neo-liberalism are largely rooted within the framework of sexual rights and at the same time go deeper in their resistance to neo-liberalism.

For instance some of the leading organizers of Queer Delhi Rally are people  involved in struggles of homeless people, survivors of violence and student unions. In New York the South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association has constantly been rocked by issues of regionalism, religious animosities and generational divides. Yet post 9/11 a certain kind of solidarity has emerged with other people of color and labor movements, as a way of surviving a heavily securitized state. LGBT people of color leaders meet regularly with each other as a part of the Audre Lorde Project. For years we have carried posters in support of immigration reform and challenging racial profiling at Manhattan Pride parades.N667168097_983212_5960

"Queer Pride" has definitely emerged as a trans-national organizing sector within South-Asian networks. These networks can be mapped globally across continents, and supra-territorial spaces such as Facebook communities facilitate their exchanges. How movement leaders are framing and strategizing is also fast becoming increasingly global and yet very local at the same time.

Happy Pride!

Survey For and About Families of Color

A note from Lizbeth Melendez RiveraN547264255_319790_4265

Lifting Voices, a survey for and about Families of Color

Dear friends and colleagues, as many of you know Family Equality Council just launched Project Harmony.

Project Harmony is a voice for families of color within and outside of Family Equality Council. As such our mission as a program is to actively raise issues relevant to our combined oppressions, leading us to challenge ourselves and the overall LGBTQ movement on our assumptions and actions; raise and promote an anti-oppression agenda with, for and by our 40,000+ constituent membership, partnerships and programs; promote racial equality and economic opportunities that include, but are not limited to, access to services, maintaining cultural heritage in mixed race adoptions, building community for those in mixed raced families, and to support and work collectively with other local, statewide, and national organizations to address oppression

As part of this project we will be conducting a participatory research initiative which will produce a report on the conditions of LGBTQ-headed Families of Color to guide program creation and capacity building for the Family Equality movement and organizations.

The quantitative part of this project is the Lifting Voices Survey. We would like to encourage you to distribute the link to the survey and promote the participation of your members and colleagues on it!

To fill out the survey please visit: and click on the Lifting Voices Survey Box!!!!!!

A Clarion Call for Gay Humility!

While the emotions of shame and pride are very familiar in the lives of LGBT people, I often struggle to relate to humility.  And yet having been challenged by First-Nation activists over their exlcusion in POC settings, my women freinds over my own internalized sexism, and poor-homeless immigrant Gays over being an English-educated, middle class "respectable" immigrant, I have learnt to be humble.

Humility is the joy of being divinely human, while acknowledging others right to life, humanity and liberation. The sheer act of being self-reflexive, and in the context of movement building learning to build a movement and win victories that createNv_seattle_2007_046  a momentum towards liberation for all!

In the spirit humility I ask my fellow Gays who are getting married, where do you think your wedding cakes are made? who do you think has been silently laundering your tuxedos and toiling to cater at your wedding ceremonies? and what will our weddings and right to marry accomplish for others?

While May 15th will be marked as the historic day the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of Gay marriage, in a not so publicized dark history of anti-immigrant torture, the news of a french bakery in San-Diego being raided on the same day by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will be recorded. The very wedding cake, an icon of celebration is also a site of severe opression!

While I am happy for those who can finally marry and are being incorporated in to the definition of being human, and equal citizens, I also want to remind ourselves that a vast underclass of non-humans have been defined as "undocumented" "escaped fugitives" and largely unwanted. It is upon whose back, the rights of certain kinds of citizens are afforded.

I am not calling for "Gay Shame" either, because the framing of "Gay Shame" resonates with the on your face, masculinist resistance that several of us cannot afford. Instead on the occassion of Gay Pride, I am calling for Gay Humility! As a movement we need to ponder what is our relationship with multiple movements of struggles? what messages are we sending to the feminist movement, and battered women’s movement as we continue to center homo-normative notions of conjugality in our movement? and doing so which friend of ours is left behind?

As we carry our Pride flags, we also as a movement and individuals need be humble.

Reviving the spirit of Beyond Marriage!

The California Supreme Court has ruled in favor of gay marriage. My friends in the Castro went out dancing to techno music and kissed every god damn cute Gay boy on the streets. In my head IGoldgir2  kept thinking what a long way have we come! the Castro was the sight of radical organizing and now we just want our picket fences and marriage licenses. Donot get me wrong, in the midst of all the horrible news that is circulating on this planet, the marriage news did bring me moments of joy and sense of victory. However the very next second I wondered what does it mean for me? an immigrant brown fag, who lives with his best friend of 12 yrs and shares the meagre economic resources that we can muster up in the wake of rising gas prices!

I ask for all of us to rethink what we desire by applying for the marriage licenses? ask our mothers if they have thoroughly enjoyed the institution of marriage? ask the "Golden Girls" if marriage would bring them any real economic benefit.

Two years ago i was invited to join a collective of activists, cultural workers, academics, funders and attorneys from the Queer movement, and we agreed to publicly challenge the narrowness of the marriage debate, and relocate the entire debate in flexible kinship networks and demanding for an retrenchment of the neo-liberal economic policies, that forces us to imagine the only safety net we can build for ourselves is via marriage. Below find the Executive Summary, and the link to the entire statement.


Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision For All Our Families and Relationships

Executive Summary (click here to read the full statement)

The time has come to reframe the narrow terms of the marriage debate in the United States. Conservatives are seeking to enshrine discrimination in the U.S. Constitution through the Federal Marriage Amendment. But their opposition to same-sex marriage is only one part of a broader pro-marriage, “family values” agenda that includes abstinence-only sex education, stringent divorce laws, coercive marriage promotion policies directed toward women on welfare, and attacks on reproductive freedom. Moreover, a thirty-year political assault on the social safety net has left households with more burdens and constraints and fewer resources.

Meanwhile, the LGBT movement has recently focused on marriage equality as a stand-alone issue. While this strategy may secure rights and benefits for some LGBT families, it has left us isolated and vulnerable to a virulent backlash. We must respond to the full scope of the conservative marriage agenda by building alliances across issues and constituencies. Our strategies must be visionary, creative, and practical to counter the right’s powerful and effective use of marriage as a “wedge” issue that pits one group against another. The struggle for marriage rights should be part of a larger effort to strengthen the stability and security of diverse households and families. To that end, we advocate:

Ø   Legal recognition for a wide range of relationships, households and families – regardless of kinship or conjugal status.

Ø   Access for all, regardless of marital or citizenship status, to vital government support programs including but not limited to health care, housing, Social Security and pension plans, disaster recovery assistance, unemployment insurance and welfare assistance.

Ø   Separation of church and state in all matters, including regulation and recognition of relationships, households and families.

Ø   Freedom from state regulation of our sexual lives and gender choices, identities and expression.

Marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship, and it should not be legally and economically privileged above all others. A majority of people – whatever their sexual and gender identities – do not live in traditional nuclear families. They stand to gain from alternative forms of household recognition beyond one-size-fits-all marriage. For example:

·     Single parent households

·     Senior citizens living together and serving as each other’s caregivers (think Golden Girls)

·     Blended and extended families

·     Children being raised in multiple households or by unmarried parents

·     Adult children living with and caring for their parents

·     Senior citizens who are the primary caregivers to their grandchildren or other relatives

·     Close friends or siblings living in non-conjugal relationships and serving as each other’s primary support and caregivers

·     Households in which there is more than one conjugal partner

·     Care-giving relationships that provide support to those living with extended illness such as HIV/AIDS.

The current debate over marriage, same-sex and otherwise, ignores the needs and desires of so many in a nation where household diversity is the demographic norm. We seek to reframe this debate. Our call speaks to the widespread hunger for authentic and just community in ways that are both pragmatic and visionary. It follows in the best tradition of the progressive LGBT movement, which invented alternative legal statuses such as domestic partnership and reciprocal beneficiary. We seek to build on these historic accomplishments by continuing to diversify and democratize partnership and household recognition. We advocate the expansion of existing legal statuses, social services and benefits to support the needs of all our households.

We call on colleagues working in various social justice movements and campaigns to read the full-text of our statement “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision,” and to join us in our call for government support of all our households.

Violence is your middle name

A battered rose sits on my desk
People have walked and stamped over it
I had to send my heart away to the ER
I walk around with a heart made of rubber and polymer
I often have to clean out my rubber heart, since blood collects on some of the valves

" You are a pathological liar"
Bitter Twisted words from men who were once brothers!
"Have you been telling people I am HIV+?"
"You are lucky I did not call immigration on you"

Twisted words are always meant to hurt
Are you happy now?
Yes my heart is now made of rubber
Yes my brain is numb from shattered dreams and ideologies

White washed joys and sanitized TV dinners are my get aways

This is what you intended right?
To Tear apart another brown bother?
In my pain I remain numb!
I have forgotten I am alive
Do you remember that we flew kites and chased bugs once upon a time?
Do you remember teaching me how to cook Lamb curry?
Do you remember tears and bollywood over rum and Vodka?

Or those were just moments from within the Matrix
A single push of button..
that was just an illusion

I believe VIOLENCE is your middle name Cycle

Breaking boundaries of ritual, religion and sexuality.

Celebration1_2South Asian culture has historically been replete with multiple representations of gender and sexuality. Desire is often worshiped in many Hindu and Sufi traditions, and from temple carvings of Khajuraho (in Central India) to the presence of Hijras ( often conceptualized as third sex, third gender in India) to the modern pop and Bollywood flirtations with androgyny, gender, sexuality and desire is an intrinsic part of South Asian cultures. Yet our history has been fraught with struggles for women’s emancipation, gay, lesbian and Hijra rights and long standing silence on issues of HIV/AIDS.

Engendered a three day multi-disciplinary art and cultural festival to be held at the Lincoln Center between April 18th-20th is precisely going to delve into these contradictions. Conceived and presented by Nayikas Dance Theater Co. (New York’s only resident feminist Oddissi dance company) along with the Indo-American Arts Council, the festival will showcase works of over forty South-Asian performers from across the world, including panels featuring long time LGBT rights activist Urvashi Vaid, queer filmmakers such as Sohini Ghosh and Harjant Gill. (

The festival director Myna Mukherjee says "Gender and sexuality continue to have a fraught relationship
with the intimate, the familial, the sacred, the ritualistic, the religious and the cinematic — all fragments of a cultural conversation that still needs to find its voice. At its heart, this festival is part of an attempt to find, listen to, and add to this voice, and take it to communities and audiences that have not heard it before".

The festival will feature the first all male Oddissi dance ensemble Rudrakshya, who use a dance form traditionally performed by women in temples of India, to bring to light the divine manifestations of the androgyne. Among the highlights of the events is a solo performance by one of India’s most
protean dance pioneers, Astad Deboo, and excerpts from New York’s Rajika Puri’s recent production, Devi Mallika: A Garland of Goddesses. Washington, DC-based Daniel Phoenix Singh’s Dakshina Dance Theatre Company will present a blend of Bharat Natyam and modern dance movements to explore themes about
gays and lesbians. Aparna Sindhoor will perform with her Navarasa Dance Company Bharat Natyam items and also the marshal art choreography called Kallaripayattu. Nayikas has created a show of its own. Called Veiled/Unveiled, the danced and spoken word piece explores ‘the ambiguities and contradictions of pardah
system’ across South Asia. Chutneypopcorn

Perhaps one of the most controversial panel will be the closing plenary entitled "Women Speak on Geo-Politics, Identity, Desire and Power-Structures" on Sunday April 20th featuring controversial feminist author Taslima Nasrin, whose novels drew virulent opposition from Islamic radicals in India and Bangladesh, and legendary actress  and dancer Mallika Sarabhai (perhaps you remember her as Draupadi from Peter Brooke’s Mahabharata), who in recent times has faced severe opposition from Hindu nationalists. The panel will also feature prominent queer theorist Gayatri Gopinath from the American Studies department at NYU, along with Bharati Mukherjee and Shamita Das DasGupta (author and anti-violence activist). Facilitated by Debanuj Das Gupta himself,the panel will disrupt the patriarchal, hetronormative hegemony of global geo-politics. Mallika2

There is also a queer film festival component showcasing latest cutting edge queer cinema from South-Asia on Sunday. Noted gay film-maker Harjant Gill will screen his film with lots of male nudity involved for the viewers pleasure called "Milind Soman Made Me Gay"

The festival has already received tremendous amount of press coverage, including a four page cover feature in the largest circulating South-Asian newspaper India Abroad. BBC and MTV is also covering the festival.

If you are seeking to discover the colorful images, paintings and musical feats of South-Asia that celebrate, challenge and create newer non-western modes of expressing queerness, and creating a relationship with the Divine. This festival is a must see for you.
For schedule and tickets visit

The Goddess Dance

Kali2 Let love die at the altar of pain
Let pain reign supreme in every cell
Cell division germinating into newer and newer pain
Pain so deeply seated, that I have successfully gone numb

My heart lies scattered at every check post and borders
Patriot Act and National Security has sealed my fate
Chemicals and silicon are safe and sanitized

For it is on the ashes of past does the goddess dance
And for the first time fear,pain and joys of the past lay burnt, ashes flying away to mild summer breeze
I my dear friends am a liberated soul

I cram T tests and globalization theory
The thumping of my lungs to the mid afternoon jog flushes dirt out
and may love, strength and joy enter my very soul again

Fresh salty Nebraska precum will quench my thirst
Goofy smiles, freshly cooked chicken curry with Carl
Off beat movies with Eddie
Long conversations over crackling cell phones
Sisters far away and yet so close

Together we wash pain
and dry ourselves in the mild spring sun

It has been a long winter
Let summer cum!

On unusual intimacies

20080324_deb_2 "Kurt K is a relationship Deb, I don’t care what you say! A very unusual relationship" My friend Carl tells me, as we sit across the coffee table on a lazy Ohio Sunday evening. I silently smile and sip my herbal tea.

I have always had unusual relationships! Ones where the boundaries between sexual, spiritual and emotional intimacy are often blurred. Some move on to become sisters, and we spend hours of free cell phone minutes between Akron, New York or San-Francisco. Some choose to become brothers, doing brunches and drinks on weekends, as we text each other our daily updates. And then there is Mr.K! always emotionally unavailable and yet so effusive and sexually drawn to me.

We cruised each other at a restroom in my school twelve years ago. I was 22, and for the first time in my life thousands of mile away from my ma and baba (mum and dad in Bengali). I had read about Superman being tall, white, blonde with blue eyes. In my world Kurt K is my superman! One who saved me from the drudgery of being a foreign student in a medium sized city in Rustbelt USA.

"What do you get into?" I had nervously asked him. His naughty blue eyes twinkled as he replied with his goofy smile "Well I am into kink!". The rest is history my dear friends. From frat bats to leather paddles, from gag masks to tight ropes we had used it all and done it in every possible corner of his house. Yet we were never boyfriends! I fantasize him as one, but never made a move. I knew I was never going to live in Akron, and there was a plethora of lovers waiting for me in New York. And over my eight years of colorful sex life in New York, I have not felt the same physical comfort and trust with another man!

We have become friends over the years. Spending time after our play dates, sipping Scotch and tonic or home brewed beer. He tells me how amazing our trust level is, and how much he gets excited to see me. I ask him about his current boyfriends, "You know I would like to meet him one day" I say. Such is the nature of our intimacy.

Undefined, unchartered! And yet I know millions of Gay/Queer/Trans men are on this path with me. Together we are creating a whole new world of love and desire.

Cartographies of Friendship and Home

By Debanuj DasGupta

Ohio_2India_map_3My heart lies in between Kolkata (previously Calcutta), New Delhi, New York, Wyoming, San-Francisco and Akron. I have travelled across continents, and states, cities both large and small in search of building my/our queer home. The journey has been rough, challenging, painful and at the same time filled with joy.

I am a gender queer fag-boi raised at the intersections of Hindu Liberation Theology, Jesuit pursuit of knowledge and Marxist understandings of altering power structures. Needless to say growing up as a femme fag-boi was a challenge in Calcutta! I found my spirit thriving in readings of Swami Vivekananda, Goddess Kali and a firm belief that the divine is expressed through our social actions. As an out Gay activist in India, distributing condoms at public parks, I have resisted being beaten up, sexual assault and blackmail phonecalls. The key was and still is not doing this work alone. In the midst of riots and poltical upheavals, I found a circle of friends, some of whom I still keep in touch with. Kali_7

Marx_3 My home is built across borders and boundaries. Nation-states and passports, race and class stand between me and my family of queer divas, and yet we keep coming back to each other over and over again.

My home is also filled with pain of having lost friends to suicide, AIDS and personal meltdowns. Nothing hurts more when I look back and yearn for the touch of my beloved friend who I lost over political meltdowns. And yet I continue to believe and thrive in queer friendships.

This blog my dear friends is an invitation to my home, heart and brain.


Selfrefl6_3Debanuj DasGupta is a gender, sexuality and social justice activist whose work has spanned over 15 years and two continents. In 1994 s/he founded the first HIV/AIDS prevention program for Gay identified men and men-who-have-sex-with-men in Kolkata, India. SinceFrancis_xavier_3_5 relocating to the US Debanuj has been deeply involved with anti-violence, LGBT liberation, immigrant rights and HIV/AIDS movements. Debanuj is the past Co-Coordinator of the National People of Color Organizing Institute for the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce and has served on advisory boards of the National Network for Immigrants and Refugee Rights along with the the South Asian Health Initiative at NYU. Debanuj was awarded the prestigious New Voices Fellowship by the Academy for Educational Development in 2006, He also keeps a personal blog at Speak Up Now.

He makes his home in between Akron,OH and New York City. 

This is his first posting for the Gay Wisdom Blog!