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August 12, 2015

A Gorgeous Voice for the Indian Queer: Gaysi Magazine

by Pratika Yashaswi

Gaysi Magazine is an initiative by The Gaysi Family, which initially started off as a blog aimed at members of the LGBTQ community in South Asia. Gaysi was formed in 2008 and it wasn’t until much later, that the idea emerged to preserve the stories that were being told in a more enduring form. “We wanted to bring forth a collection that speaks loudly that being queer is more than one thing. It was important to view queerness beyond sexual orientations and gender diversity.”

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Lovingly, laboriously put together by a dedicated team, helmed by editor Priya Gangwani and creative director Karishma Dorai, the Gaysi Zine was begun to journal queer reality – which still is arguably poorly understood by those who do not belong to it. A coffee-conversation birthed a spontaneously published, self-funded magazine that was initially distributed to a handful of people and organisations known to the creative team. This was in 2011.  The yearly magazine has now evolved into a strong voice for the community, with roots around the country.  It is especially relevant to queers in smaller cities, who do not have access to spaces and events where they can openly express themselves.

The last and 3rd edition, published in November 2014, was funded by an extremely successful crowdfunding campaign that raised more than its 1.5 lakh target amount on Wishberry.

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What makes it more impactful is that the purpose thrives beyond the print .

“Zine 1 pushed us out of our bedrooms and the anonymity of Internet. And things just grew organically from there. We started with Dirty Talk – our open mic event, grew on to creating Zine release events in various cities and just became an approachable, relatable young quirky entity. The events and the magazine have made it more of a rounded voice. They feed off of each other,” says Priya.

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There is no other way to put it. Gaysi Family has a terrific sense of purpose, and the Gaysi Zine appeals to readers across the entire gender spectrum. The optimism of a widely misunderstood minority community, with uniquely Indian struggles is the vibrance in this bold project: even as they tackle issues of violence and severe mental abuse, there is no dramatic self-victimization, and no wallowing in self-pity. Instead, the stories: with their bare-naked honesty are a great read in themselves for any kind of audience. The joy of young love, the pain of lost love, sexual frustration, grief, angst, euphoria are universal conditions; and who doesn’t like knowing they aren’t alone?

“While The Gaysi Zine might be by the queer community, it is not specifically for the queer community. Its intent is to share queer stories with everyone in all kinds of spaces. Private, public, straight, queer, local, global, tolerant, homophobic – it’s meant to be read by everyone,” says Karishma. “Hence, while the initial issues were mildly influenced by some sort of clichéd international symbolism, it has evolved to be more individualistic in style and content.

“We’re trying to give queer a visual voice, and the only way we can do any justice to it is by making sure that the visual voice is multi-faceted. Hence, every issue is different, and not necessarily desi-focused, but more story and narrative-focused. The cover of The Gaysi Zine 3 for example, uses a ‘desi’ setting, but uses global visual puns across the kirana store, mirroring India’s own mix of both global and local influences.”

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Zine 3 is a stunning piece of work. Intimate, with a crumpled coffee-stained scrapbook feel; and modern, with experimental story layouts.

“It’s inspired by any private written space that reflects a stark tone. The typography as you see is quite classic, but has a bit of a modern edge with its lessened height and experimental arrangements. The only thing that is fixed is the grid. Everything around it evolves. The idea was to get a cross between a sketchbook or a journal and an old paperback book.” says Karishma.

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Unlike the previous issues, Zine 3 places more emphasis on the visuals to balance out the text. The way Karishma sees it, “Honestly, the mag evolved because it needed something more than just the content. It had the stories, and it needed a storyteller.”

Karishma, who also goes by Fishead, brings to the table years of experience working with names like Design Temple, Grandmother India and Umbrella Design. She has also designed Gaysi’s posters for their events, which are quite stunning works in themselves, and only raise expectations for those who haven’t yet got their hands on a copy of the magazine.

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Will every issue be visual-centered? Not sure. “We think that each issue cannot be planned around a set of things, but it can evolve to either be text-heavy or visual-heavy depending on what we want to achieve with the content.”  For now, though, the upcoming Zine 4 is set to be a graphic issue. You would see mad comic strips, graphic stories, nudes, sketches, illustrations, and doodles, sketchnotes, graffiti… The intent is to collaborate with varied artists having diverse styles. The way the Zine is evolving – I feel it’d always have a strong visual presence,” says Priya.

They are currently accepting contributions of graphic stories for Zine 4 until the end of September. Past editions can be purchased here.

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1 Comment

  1. Binoy John

    08.12.2015

    Reply

    Brilliant article!

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