Queers on Instagram Reels isn’t just about expressing queerness publicly, but also about reinventing and reinforcing identity in a very relatable way, urging the close-minded among us to think again. An example of the effects of the Reel/TikTok revolution would be the skyrocketing “bimbo supremacy” and obliteration of the “cool girl” persona.
With the constant questioning of existing ideologies and lifestyle choices, our generation is bringing about new narratives into the mix. Much can be said about Instagram’s community guidelines, but we manage to creatively work our way around it – fighting back for the right to voice our opinions, and truly understand (and represent) “culture”.
The traditional way of disseminating important information has been redefined by the Internet and social media, where the most philosophical and unreachable of jargoned concepts is now accessible through meme-ing and slang language. We are aware that TikTok, while India allowed it, helped many non-mainstream Indian queers and content-creators reach large audiences – especially queer folks from rural and lower-economic backgrounds.
Thanks to IG Reels, India’s dispersed queer community is able to continue to connect and show love through digital, pink hearts – algorithm be damned. Queers are wearing their hearts – and their full lives – on their screens, using what they feel inside as a medium to express their look (and outlook) on any given day.
So, we asked some folks- How do reels work as a form of expression for them?
“Hi, my name is Vee. I am from Delhi. I am a transgender male model and content creator. My pronouns are He/Him. Some of you may even know me as just an awkward boi who makes videos in his room and is secretly a golden retriever.”
For many, Instagram has become a persistent medium to express what they feel. To his surprise, Vee found it liberating and encouraging emotionally to be more confident of his gender identity and how he wanted to paint himself. He also saw an eventual shift in the way he perceived other things.
“I used to equate being a transgender to being masculine or simply putting myself in a box that deemed me more likely to be called as a man. But this new form of content creating on IG widened my horizon. I started wearing makeup, donning dresses and skirts which quite honestly I would have never ever worn because I always wanted to fit into a very certain masculine image of society. But now, all I can say is, creating reels has helped me so much to get in touch with my femme side that I have always been so afraid of but now I own that side of me and I am grateful for this.”
“I happen to be a YouTuber from Delhi and I love creating content.
Yes! The name is girly but the face isn’t. I’m not a boy. I’m a woman. I don’t mind being called by any pronoun as long as people use it respectfully. However, my preferred pronouns are She/Her.”
Her content is generally community-centric, teaching children about the LGBT community, her followers about rape culture, and more. To her, creating and sharing community-based content and shattering myths make her feel responsible, powerful, imaginative, and essentially free.
“I think it’s a step towards a positive change and making people aware about the existence of those who have always been ignored by society. The concept of gender and sexuality is wide, and differs from person to person. I think it’s high time that we let people decide who they are and respect them for their choices instead of berating them because they are ‘different’.”
Ashrey is a Fashion Design student at NIFT, Kangra. He is originally from Gurgaon. He loves reeling make-up looks, styling sarees with dhoti-kurtas and, as his bio states, breaking stereotypes through fashion.
The three core elements Ashrey stands by are androgyny, vintage vhic and aestheticism. Embodying all three, he experiments with the contemporary and traditional, serving out-there make-up looks for days!
“Posting about genderless clothing or androgyny isn’t the only thing that liberates me, it’s the response that I’ve got from my audience as well. I honestly never expected such good feedback. Posting on Instagram has uplifted my confidence about myself and my skills.”
Atulan and Divesh (@honey.imm.home)
This adorable couple resides in Mumbai. @honey.imm.home is that junction on IG where their lives meet. Their content centers around dance and travel, collaborating with brands and recreating reel trends. The account almost appears like the lovers’ journal of their beautiful lives.
“We started @honey.imm.home thinking of it as nothing more than a fun space to create content that we & our friends would enjoy. Soon, the amount of love and attention we received evolved [into] this space to share our life & experiences as queer artists and individuals.
As the platform turned into the “nation of the reels”, we decided the indirect impact we had on our audience, and hence decided that anything that goes on should be relatable & reliable. We started making reels that not only captured the attention of our audience, but also left them with our perspective on being a queer artist from the industry & how we’d look at not just empowering, but also normalizing the LGBTQ community and its people!”
Alexander is a student of English Literature from Ambedkar University Delhi and is a model with A Little Fly in Bombay. He loves posting funny reels imitating South Delhi aunties and mostly talking about the most absurd and entertaining aspects of Indian reality TV shows.
“I try to make my Instagram as authentic as possible, so I want to create funny content but also at the same time make sure that that content resonates with me.”
Like many, Alex too had a difficult time last year. He resorted to IG reeling recently and found himself spending a great amount thinking of ideas, highlighting the drama that shows like Bigg Boss carry, and more. Quarantine has been very rough on India-based queers because, as it is, we do not have as many outlets as the West. Staying at home surrounded by family 24/7 for months is suffocating because you don’t expect to be heard or seen; it could mean impending doom at times. Times like this, we want to turn to something – the voices of our own, the voices that speak our tongues and sing to our souls.
“On a personal level, I’ve found Reels a quick and easy way to bring topics around gender and sexuality to everyone in a fun, light, and interactive way. I want to start making more educational videos which are quick and short, captions are very informative but people often don’t read entire captions, so Reels are an easier way to educate my friends and followers.”
Teya is a makeup enthusiast, model, poet, an avid advocate for gender rights and an all-around creative person.
The liberty a reel provides is casual and freeing, where one needs to rely on their own imaginative caliber – which when applied strategically will summon a striking, indelible experience like Teya does.
For her dynamic-doll style and sassy persona, reeling serves as a vessel of expression. She describes it as a “rewatchable place” that shows the “natural progression of her creative outlets – music, video editing and aestheticism” in general.
“As a queer person, I think so much of what I want to put out in the world is multi-disciplinary; videos let me express myself so much more than just an image and a caption.”
Parna is from Karnataka and has a great, growing follower base: one that loves watching her (re)create trending reels. Their content contains relatable and funny queer content that becomes a medium of interaction between them and their audience.
Their journey, while consistent, hasn’t been easy like for many other queer content-creators.
“It’s been so hard staying closeted for a real long time, and I’ve grown up with a lot of homophobic people. I studied in hostels and people had their own stereotypes where they like to frame everyone in it.”
“I’ve been the rainbow sheep of the family, and I finally decided to come out of the closet, and social media became a platform that made me feel more confident about myself and my sexuality. There are a lot of people who spread positivity through reels and videos about the LGBTQ community, it’s sad that we’re still fighting to make people normalize LGBTQ. But, kudos to all of those creators making content to support and stand for the community.”