Representation of queerness within the Desi community has always been limited. Off the top of my head, I can only name two mainstream Desi queer films, both released post 2019. As a result of this major lack, Desi LGBTQIA+ people, or those questioning their identity, often find themselves isolated, without any comforting media or inspirational idols to turn to.
Experiences like listening to music are supposed to be relatable, and help people feel understood. While this was a privilege unavailable to the Desi LGBTQ+ community for a long time, queer music has now begun to successfully enter Desi spaces, and is becoming more and more common.
Queer love songs, of course, hold a special place within music — security, passion, and happy endings are things that, unfortunately, cannot be taken for granted by queer people. So, here’s a list of queer love songs for the ‘out and proud’ or questioning Desi, to reassure you that everything can and will be okay.
When speaking of queerness and Desi-ness, the legendary Freddie Mercury always comes first on the list.
I Was Born To Love You is a powerful melody written by Mercury himself. From the singer’s passionate vocals to the decidedly rock production that makes the song infectious, the track is classic Queen: confidently queer and unabashedly in love.
Favourite lyrics to cry to: I’m caught in a dream / And my dream’s coming true.
Aish Divine’s The Sex Issue is the title track off his sophomore album released in 2020. The record is a distinct and captivating observation of modern love and sexuality, falling under the genres of electronic and chamber pop.
The Sex Issue is the perfect closing track to this Desi musician’s album. With a decidedly retro, nostalgia-inducing production reminiscent of Queen, and beautifully vulnerable lyrics, the song is easily one of the best on the albums. The bittersweet track revolves around the insecurities and anxieties that come with a relationship.
There is something special, in my opinion, about queer vulnerability: it doesn’t come easy, and hence, is more precious when it does arrive.
Favourite lyrics to cry to: After all the glossy pages / I turn back to you.
An indie musician passionate about queer rights, mental health issues and feminism, GrapeGuitarBox or Teenasai aims to create a safe space for listeners through their music, and have brilliantly succeeded in doing this.
Meant To Be Yours is the first openly gay love song they’ve ever written. Moderately paced, the song is sweet and lovely, and leaves the listener feeling warm and fuzzy. GrapeGuitarBox’s soft voice melts beautifully into the instruments that accompany it.
Favourite lyrics to cry to: You’re the only thing that matters / Other than the things I wanna share with you.
A fan favourite from the well-received Bollywood film, Shubh Mangal Zyaada Savdhaan, this song is brisk and cheery, sung by actor Ayushman Khurana himself. Written by Vayu, the track’s lyrics talk about finding love and contentment, and feeling like yourself with another person.
Shubh Mangal Zyaada Savdhaan is considered to be iconic amongst the queer Desi community — it is one of the first mainstream Bollywood movies to not only showcase a gay relationship, but also show the physical and emotional affection between the protagonist and his boyfriend. Mere Liye Tum Kaafi Ho is a summary of this relationship, of the comfort and security that comes with time.
Favourite lyrics to cry to: Ek aasman ke hum do sitaare ke / Ke takraate hain toot’te hain bechaare.
Coup Jean’s Aloe is a reflection of grief and its stages. With jazz, soul and pop influences, the record is stunning and empowering.
The opening track to this record, Hairfall (Why I Sigh), is perhaps the most beautiful. A delicate tune accompanied by dulcet vocals, the song’s lyrics address gay, unrequited love. It is a touching love letter to all the boys that Jean loved and lost. The song is striking and beautiful, sung with deep feeling.
Favourite lyrics to cry to: You hate when I’m right / I laugh when you do / But teamwork’s essential and so are you.
A silvery tune, Tamil Nadu-based Krishna’s April Rain is calm and soft — fittingly perfect to listen to when the sky is grey, and the first drops of rain hit the ground.
Krishna’s vocals are velvety, and the lyrics poetic. Together, they combine to make a song that is precious and rejuvenates the listener.
Favourite lyrics to cry to: Dance with me in the April rain / Just you and I, with the winds / We will sway.
Mumbai-based Alisha Pais gained attention after being featured on Vh1 Music Diaries. The singer-songwriter’s music takes her listeners through a journey of love and longing.
A raw, powerful track showcasing Pais’ husky vocals, Like The Rain skillfully captures queer longing, as Pais boldly declares her complex feelings for someone she has just met.
Favourite lyrics to cry to: You think you’re something / Well, you’re something else.
Heartbreaking and poignant, Chitthiye revolves around coming to terms with one’s sexuality, and the acceptance from society that Desi queer people still have to fight for.
While it may not count as a love song, the lyrics make the powerful love between the two partners evident. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, released in 2019, was one of the first queer mainstream Bollywood movies. Starring Sonam Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao, the movie holds a special place in the LGBTQ+ community’s heart.
Favourite lyrics to cry to: Kitne bechain hote honge / Chhote chhote nain rote honge / Sehme-sehme jaagte akele / Tanha saari raat sote honge
Originally from North Carolina, Somaya is a musician currently based in New York. As an openly queer artist, they hope to encourage inclusivity and vulnerability in all spaces.
A pop ballad with simple and gorgeous lyrics, Safe makes the listener feel warm and fuzzy. The song is honest and moving, as Somaya sings about a person who is their safe space, someone who makes them feel okay in a world that is falling apart.
Favourite lyrics to cry to: You make me believe I can only go higher.
R&B singer Raveena’s Honey is luscious, and characteristically magical. With her silky and soothing vocals, the song is a dreamy listen, one that takes you to a whole different world.
The track beautifully captures the comfort that Raveena feels with her partner, and illustrates how precious a connection like that feels.
In the last few years, Raveena has become an icon amongst the Desi community for her ethereal music, and gorgeous representation of marginalised communities.
Favourite lyrics to cry to: Spoonful of sugar / My cup is fuller when you’re there.