Interview : Apphia Kumar, BOAF

In 2008 I remember cribbing about the lack of social-lezzing in Mumbai city. Or most metro cities for that matter. Gay men were out and about but for desi-lesbians it was a sad story. But there is God (yes yes you Atheist folks can shrug your shoulders, I don’t care!) and thankfully a lot has changed since then, especially with the decimalization of IPC 377.

And it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to Apphia Kumar, one of the founders of Pune’s happening Queer support group, Birds of a Feather.

BOAF A little brief;

Birds of a Feather is a support group, and not a commercial enterprise. They aim at bringing people together, forming a community and establishing a foundation for the Queer folks in Pune. BOAF is visible, assuring its members a complete secure, safe place for meeting and socializing. It is also about bringing the Queer community together with the parts of our society that are Pro-gay.

And now without any further ado, here’s the rocking Ms. Apphia Kumar…

Tell us about yourself….

I’m young and restless, just the right amount of crazy, a bit old fashioned and unconventional at the same time.

Hmm that sounds yummy (no distractions…focus MJ)….so what brought about the concept of Birds of a Feather?

Growing up in Pune, I thought I was the only queer person here. When I went back to Bangalore in April 2009, I pouted and whined about the lack of a queer community here, and a delicious dyke told me to quit whining and do something about it. At the same time I met a cute boy in at the Bangalore Queer Film Festival – turned out he was a Pune boy and knew a whole bunch of people here. We decided something needed to be done about the invisible and bland queer life here and did something about it.

Any challenges you faced or continue to face while bringing about the creation of this group?

It is always a challenge to let people know that we’re a safe space, we’re family and that you can come get drunk around us – we won’t mind the hetero-slander.  Being Pune’s first visible face to the Queer Community we didn’t know how people would react to us. But Pune is a small city, and friends help each other out. That’s what happened in our case. Word of mouth really worked in our favour. We’ve now almost doubled in size and have a healthy reputation.

With decriminalization of 377, what changes have you noticed w.r.t to society’s acceptance of the queer community & among the queer community in general.

Newspapers love putting the word “GAY” on the front page. It sells. On the entertainment & hospitality front, nothing much has changed. People have always been welcoming of our community. The straight allies now say, oh we’ve never had a problem with you’ll. The closeted now consider coming out. The out, are well… living life Queen Size. And the homophobes…? We argue a bit more, only now we have the freedom to love irrespective of gender, and it’s not punishable by law. I should tell you though, Section 377 hasn’t been read down yet. We still have a long way to go for us to have equal rights in this country.

Getting a little personal here…how has your family dealt with your sexuality and your work in the queer community?

My sexuality is not up for debate, vote or discussion in my family. We don’t even talk about sex. Last time I checked they didn’t have to deal with who I played nookie with, I did (And, boy did I!!) As far as my coming out and being active in the ‘visibility’ aspect of the queer community in Pune – Lines of communication are open. My sister has always been supportive and my mother doesn’t talk about it, but is slowly accepting that this is my life.

Mums….they always know…don’t they?! Okay now let’s get to the fun part….

There is a pre-conceived notion that Homosexuals cannot be Monogamous. What is your take on this?

What nonsense! If you want to be monogamous, you will be. It is every individual’s choice not to fuck around and be loyal. It is every individual’s responsibility to respect their partners in a relationship and the margins of that commitment. This is irrespective of orientation. This ‘pre-conceived notion’ is a rumour, is completely false and just a ruse some people use to justify the actions they aren’t necessarily proud of.

And now comes the most important question; Are you single & ready to mingle?

Yup.

Wow what an awesome coincidence, I am a mingling single too. Let’s exchange numbers then, what say?

On a serious note though, we would like to congratulate Apphia & the entire BOAF gang for their fantastic effort and wish more power to them. And those interested in the joining the BOAF clan, can do so via Facebook.

About the author

MJ

Now 30, 100% shudh desi lesbian. Likes living large, and on the edge. Dislikes stagnation, fence sitting and hypocrites. Lives in a bubble of joy, with occasional lapses into drama queendom. Currently nursing a massive crush on actress Chitrangada Singh (kind of eerie, her resemblance to the late Smita Patil, don’t you think?). Aspires to build a fully functional support system for the Gaysi community in India. And most importantly, top the 'Hottest eligible desi-lezzie' list one bright sunny day.