Walking the ramp to freedom
In the aftermath of the decriminalisation of homosexual sex by mutual consent last year, corporate houses and fashion brands have been bending over backwards to promote a spirit of inclusiveness. On April 6, several sponsors came together to organize the Second LGBTQIA Feronia Fashion Night in Colva, Goa. The event was held at a tastefully built hotel, which was one of its key promoters.
Feronia was a Greek goddess of freedom, who liberated slaves. In naming their show after the goddess, the organizers were suggesting that the LGBTQIA community of today is as much of a victim of oppression as the slaves of yore. Their well-meaning intention, of course, was to change this reactionary way of thinking. As they intelligently put it, “Feronia does not promote coming out. When it comes to gender and sexuality, we believe there is no closet.” The organisers emphasised that all the models who participated in the event belonged to the LGBTQIA community.
However, most of them were gay men. A few described themselves as ‘transgender’ or ‘androgynous’. Lesbians were conspicuous by their absence. It took considerable courage on the part of the models to allow themselves to be ‘outed’ by the organisers. Some of them were possibly not out to their families, and this could land them in a soup, as it happened in the past when some gay men and women were spotted on television at pride marches by their orthodox parents. They were then severely punished, at times prompting them to end their lives. As such, all the models at the Feronia event were from outside Goa, the majority of them being from Mumbai. One of the models I spoke to, who did not wish to be named, admitted that while his folks knew he was participating in a fashion show, they did not know that it was an LGBTQIA fashion show. If they found out, all hell would break loose.
There is a certain look that fashion models all over the world are supposed to have, popularised by television channels like Fashion TV. They are supposed to be tall and slim. The models at Feronia were no exception. Almost all of them were six-footers or near six-footers, with wafer thin waists. Some were so thin that they looked positively anorexic. Or positive and anorexic. The designers who dressed up the models were fledgling fashion designers like Padmaraj Keshri, Anurag Gupta and Ravi Vanra, from different parts of India. Some were student designers from assorted fashion schools in Gurgaon and elsewhere, with outfit names like Poise Personified. Sadly, the big names in fashion design, such as Wendell Rodricks who lives in Goa, were missing at the event. Sameer Soni, who essayed the role of a gay fashion designer in the film Fashion, was invited to be the chief guest for the event. In between the show, he was called on the ramp to offer his comments. He lauded the fashion models for their “attitude” and said that seeing the confidence with which they carried themselves, his own heterosexuality made him feel insecure.
However, he fell into a familiar trap — he referred to his heterosexuality more than once. This was a different kind of insecurity. Was he worried that since he was the chief guest at the show, the audience would think he too was gay? Especially since he had played the role of a gay fashion designer? But so what if they did? They weren’t going to proposition him! Besides, some might legitimately ask why a professed heterosexual had been invited as chief guest to an LGBTQIA fashion night. In any LGBTQIA event, it is quite unnecessary for anyone to specify that they aren’t from the LGBTQIA community themselves. Once, actor Aamir Khan made the same mistake in his Satyamev Jayate TV show. To me, this amounts to homophobia.
It is like a Brahmin specifying at a Dalit rally that he (or she) is a Brahmin! It also amounts to what we call “us-ing and them-ing” or discriminating between the self and the other. A polished middle-aged couple got talking to me at tea after the event. They were intrigued by the fact that all the male fashion models who participated in the show were made to highlight their feminine side. This was evident not only in the clothes that they wore, but also in their body language — they had limp wrists and exaggeratedly swung their hips as they walked the ramp. “You are not like that,” the polished middle-aged couple said to me. “Why do all gay men have to be shown as effeminate?” The couple were one hundred percent right. Both the fashion industry and Bollywood are notorious for stereotyping gay men and women. A gay man is inevitably a pansy. A lesbian is inevitably butch. My intention, though, is not to nitpick.
The Supreme Court judgement of September 2018 that made India only the 26th country to decriminalise homosexuality was just the tip of the iceberg. In order to change mindsets and make life truly liveable for all our sexual minorities, which today includes not just lesbians, gays and transgenders, but also asexuals, pansexuals, demisexuals and skoliosexuals, we need a variety of events to take place from time to time. These include debates, seminars, newspaper and magazine articles, books, TV serials, films, college and university courses, as well as popular events like the fashion night. Hats off to the young team of volunteers who worked night and day to bring people to Goa in the summer heat to make the show a success. As Soni said, his one regret was that there were not as many people in the audience at the Beach House Hotel, as he would have liked to see. Let us hope that the next time round, there is twice the number of people
Source : Pune Mirror