Being queer in India means dealing with a unique set of challenges every day. Not adhering to norms isn’t really well received in a conservative environment. And if you stand out in a crowd because of your physical appearance, life is a whole different ball game in India. To mark Pride month 2020, we are putting the focus on the LGBTQIA+ community to make their voices heard and fight the discrimination they face on a daily basis.
In our continued endeavour to give a platform to queer rights activists, we spoke to Maya The Drag Queen about living in a transphobic and homophobic society, making a political statement through drag, and more. Read on for excerpts from our interview with her.
Q: How has growing up in India impacted your journey towards embracing your gender identity and sexuality?
Maya: Growing up as a queer, cis man was very difficult for me because we live in a very patriarchal, conservative society. A lot of people bullied me… It was a struggle, honestly.
Q: Why are gender specific pronouns so important? What do people need to know about using the right pronouns?
It is really important because it is about one’s identity. You need to know a person’s pronouns before addressing them because you should not be misgendering a person… You should keep asking people what are their pronouns, and they will definitely tell you.
Q: What avenues should we be looking at to support the community?
Other avenues you need to look at are educating people on different platforms about the LGBTQIA community and also talking more about stories from the community and say that they are also people like us.
Q: Has life been better for the community since homosexuality was decriminalised?
It’s not like it has been very rosy for all of us. Transphobia and homophobia still exist in the society. With the lockdown, a lot more people have been displaying homophobia and transphobia. So it’s really important for people to be educated about the various aspects of the community. They should understand us and just know that we are humans.
Q: For someone new to the concept, what is drag?
Drag is all about shape shifting. It’s all about telling people not to take life so seriously. It’s about dressing up and expressing yourself. A drag queen is a man who dresses up as a woman and goes on stage for entertainment purposes. Drag kings are women who dress up like men on stage for entertainment purposes.
Q: So tell us about Maya, how did you shape her from Alex?
I’m a theatre kid at heart, and I love performing. My dream is to go to Broadway some day in New York and perform. I got into theatre around 2011, and I moved to Bangalore in 2012. But whenever I was going for auditions, people were always saying you’ve got a very feminine demure (sic), you’ve got a very thick Mallu accent et cetera et cetera… So I said why don’t I turn them into my strengths? And that’s why I thought I’ll do more research and I found a movie known as Mrs Doubtfire where Robin Williams plays as a drag queen. I was like if Robin Williams can do it, I can do it too. And that is how I started drag.
Head to All About Eve’s Instagram to watch our full interview with Maya The Drag Queen and explore more content focussed on Pride month 2020.