When you scroll through Rishi’s Instagram (@the.chick.maharani), you get a sense of how warm, elegant, and strong he must be as a person. Rishi was outed by a neighbour at a young age of 14. He has come a long way to become the person he is today. He is an activist for LGBTQ+ and Dalit rights. He is funny, insightful, and brave. He uses his platform to educate people about queer issues and also talks about the political issues going on in our country.
Q. Why did you decide to become an activist for LGBTQ+ rights?
When I was in depression, I felt like giving up, but then I realized that there is no point in taking my own life because life for others will just move on, so I decided that I should stay here and create a change. I thought that I should be that figure for others, which I never had when I was struggling.
Q. Do you think your journey to self-acceptance would have been easier if you hadn’t been outed?
It is kind of a tricky question because if I wouldn’t have been outed, I would have never initiated that conversation with my parents. On the one hand, it put me in a terrible situation, and on the other, it awakened my survival instincts. I had to not only accept myself but also stand up for my identity. However, I think that it should never happen to anyone.
Q. How do you think we can move on from bounding ideas of what is considered masculine and feminine?
To move on from this narrative, we need to erase the binaries associated with gender. We need ungender things and events associated with our lives. We need to stop looking at things from the perspective that they belong to a particular gender.
Q. What do you think can be done about the queerphobic content being telecast on national television?
We need to take initiatives. We have to track down such content and report it. We need to call it out and write letters and petitions to information and broadcasting ministry to take action on such content. There needs to be a message out there that queerphobic content will not be tolerated anymore.
Q. How do your Dalit and Gay identities intersect?
It is extremely exhausting and draining, to say the least. When you are a minority within a minority, you are always in a constant state of fear. I am pretty bold about my sexuality but my caste is that soft corner that easily triggers me whenever I see or read something casteist. Queer spaces themselves are pretty elitist and exclusive, they are not ready to talk about intersectionality, and honestly, it disheartens me. I finally decided to raise the issues on my own but, by doing so, I received backlash from the people who followed me. Although my morale does go down at times, I feel that raising a voice against this is really important to create safe spaces.
Q. How can the current ‘mainstream’ queer movement be more inclusive to those in the margins? What can we do better?
The current queer moment needs to realize that they face struggles because of the fact that they are being oppressed by a queerphobic majority. Similarly, there are other minorities who are being oppressed by different majorities. Standing up and supporting each other against our fights will create more safe spaces. It will sensitize people and make the queer movement more open and inclusive. The mainstream queer movement is currently extremely elitist, casteist, classist, and is mostly led by cisgender men. This needs to change, more queer Dalit, queer Muslims, transpersons, underprivileged queer persons should be given spaces to speak up.