Living in a country where LGBTQ+ rights are hardly recognised leaves queer people facing discrimination everyday. While on most days we have no choice but to fight the norms of society and our own personal battles, it’s comforting to have a group of people by your side to help you through these challenges. Many NGOs and communities on Instagram have been extending support to the LGBTQ+ community over the years. Whether it’s politics, healthcare, activism or identity, these folks have you covered. Here’s a list of 20 such organisations and groups that are impacting LGBTQ+ rights everyday.
All India Queer Association
Instagram Handle: @aiqafoundation
AIQA is a feminist, socialist and Ambedkerite non-profit organisation founded by Meghna Mehra after their experience with discrimination as an activist in Delhi university. It supports people from various social groups. Before the pandemic, they facilitated many workshops and events across Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and other places to raise awareness about sexual and mental health issues. Since 2020, they have established a distinct online footing by creating fundraisers, hosting online open-mic sessions and panel discussions. Currently, they also provide affordable therapy options by queer-affirming therapists. Mehra shared with Gaysi, “Through our Empower the Queer project, we were able to help many community members across the country. It wouldn’t be possible without those who donated in our fundraisers during the pandemic.”
Founded in 2010, Yaariyan is an initiative by Humsafar Trust – the oldest community based organisation working to safeguard the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Yaariyan is one of the foremost youth lead LGBTQ+ initiatives based in Mumbai. Yaariyan holds online contests, Instagram live sessions, film screenings, HIV and STI awareness sessions and other friendly and educative events to start a dialogue about the different issues that queer folks might experience. “Yaariyan discussions have provided a safe space for LGBTQ youth to address larger issues that may pertain to their sexuality.”
Born2Win Social Welfare Trust
Led by Shweta Sudhakar, a trans woman, Born2Win works towards empowering the transgender community in Tamil Nadu. They work to educate and provide employment to the community in an environmentally-conscious manner. Every year, they hold the Trans Achievers Awards to actively create role models within the community and encourage other community members. They also held many food donation drives for the trans community during the pandemic-induced lockdowns. They also have various projects on self-awareness, gender advocacy, education and employment. In an interview on their YouTube channel, Sudhakar said they “have given job opportunity for 87 trans people and we’ve seen a lot of success as well as failures because a lot of mainstream jobs support transgender persons for a month or two, but not after that. Even after that, when members of the community ask us for employment, we are working to provide the same.”
Queer Nilayam Hyderabad
Queer Nilayam is a support group for LGBTQ+ individuals in Hyderabad. Co-founded by five passionate individuals in 2021, Queer Nilayam seeks to find solutions for various issues faced by the community and encourage socialisation between queer people. They also launched ‘Queernama’, Telangana’s first LGBTQ+ magazine. Every week they hold meetings for LGBTQ+ folks where they discuss mental health, sexual health and gender. Additionally their hope is to provide a safe space for individuals to connect and socialise. They shared with Gaysi, “We have folks talk about their exploring stories and we have folks who are from the older generation talk about their experiences – younger generations get to learn a lot from them.”
Ya_All is a United-Nations-recognised youth organisation based in Imphal and working in other parts of North-East India. They aim to equip and empower the LGBTQ+ community and its allies through research on health and education. In 2018, they started the ‘Queer Games’ – an annual sports event which was instrumental in mainstreaming the queer community in North East. They also hold training and capacity building workshops for the youth and the queer community. Currently, they are gearing up for Ya_All Fest, where artists from North-East perform to build shelter homes for LGBTQ+ community. “One of our main objectives is to strengthen the peer support system of young people and LGBTI community to disseminate information, access services and voice their rights.”
Aravani Art Project
Aravani Art Project is a collaborative public and wall art project that raises awareness about the transgender community, as well as celebrates friendships between trans women and cis women. Their artworks highlight themes like equality, health and sanitation, language, regional diversity and celebration of gender. They have implemented projects in metropolitan cities and small towns in collaboration with companies, as well as universities and NGOs. If you wish to volunteer with them in any way, you can reach out to them via their website.
They believe “the streets are a particularly important place to do our work, as it is in these public spaces that the bodies of Transgender identifying people attract violence, harassment, social negligence and pressure.”
Transgender Welfare Equity and Empowerment Trust (TWEET) Foundation is an organisation working towards the social and cultural upliftment of trans persons through education, healthcare and legal support. In 2020, during the first wave of Covid-19, they established a shelter for trans men in Delhi. During the second-wave-lockdown they curated a list of various fundraisers and started a shelter home, ‘Garima Grih’, in Mumbai to support transgender people. TWEET Foundation is also actively involved in various cultural events like street plays, drag queen events, talent competitions and sports activities like rugby training workshops and cricket events for trans men. “We provide relief to transgender people living in poverty, and advance and support government schemes and programmes which are transgender-friendly and that seek to uplift the socioeconomic level of trans persons.”
Sonzal Welfare Trust
Sonzal Welfare Trust is a non-governmental organisation based in Kashmir, founded by LGBTQ+ activist, author and academician Aijaz Ahmad Bund. Started in 2017, the organisation advocates for the rights of the transgender community who are further repressed in the conflict zone. For legal recognition of trans rights, they have filed various PILs to provide relief and shelter to the community. They have set up Self-help groups and made mental and sexual health services more accessible to the community. In an earlier interview with Gaysi, Bund said, “In my experience, mental health remains an unattended issue. That is why Sonzal’s goal was to prioritise mental health and make it accessible. We integrate our mental health interventions with our rehabilitation programs to encourage holistic psycho-social development.”
Sappho for Equality
Sappho for Equality is a forum based in Kolkata that challenges the patriarchal and hetronormative systems of society. They provide counselling services, helpline numbers, library facilities as well as internships and research provisions to the LBT community. They run sensitisation and awareness programs with students, police and medical practitioners. Their resource library, ‘Chetana’, allows students to access a repository of books and films on gender and sexuality. In September 2020, they established shelter homes for LBT people who were victims of domestic violence. Sappho for Equality also holds ‘DIALOGUES’, an international video and film festival annually. It focuses on themes of equality, justice and identity within the LGBTQ+ community. “DIALOGUES believes that cultural activism is just another tool in the larger struggle that, many of us are in, towards justice and dignity.”
Born out of the lack of queer spaces in Gujarat, Queerabad is an Ahmedabad-based community space for queer folks founded by Anahita Sarabhai and Shamini Kothari. Before the pandemic, they facilitated in-person ‘Ask What You Will’ sessions once a month. It became a space where queer people could anonomusly ask questions about coming out, societal acceptance, sexual well-being, homophobia and the like. In 2021, they started ‘Queertine Friday’ sessions where they discuss pandemic anxieties, the Trans Bill, queer poetry, queer parenting, privilege and other topics. QueerAbad released their own eccentric zine called ‘Tilt’ featuring poems, artwork and photographs exploring the themes of menstruation, identity and queer experiences in small towns. In an interview with Verve magazine, Anahita Sarabhai – the co-founder of QueerAbad – shared, “This platform also helps the community to interact with each other in interesting ways and share experiences that are starkly different or disturbingly similar across the board. There is a severe lack of representation in mainstream media.”
Keshav Suri Foundation.
Founded after the strike-down of Section 377 in 2018, Keshavsuri Foundation hopes to create an equal and discrimination-free society for the queer community. They work to create avenuues for the queer community by empowering them through job opportunities, holding sensitisation sessions with companies and enabling discussions on emotional well-being. The organisation is actively associated with ‘It Gets Better India’;together they hold cultural events and create a space for queer folks to share their stories. The group also launched ‘Kitty Su’ – an LGBTQ friendly night club which has been instrumental in cultivating drag culture in India.
The founder, Keshav Suri, shared with Gaysi that “in the last three years, the foundation has made strides with our various initiatives and programs such as livelihood building, access to education through scholarships and fellowships, making mental health services available for the communities, and creating workspaces diverse & inclusive. We hope to continue and expand our areas of work to uplift these communities across the country.”
If you are an ace person living in India, you’ve probably noticed there are very few spaces where you can connect with individuals of the same identity. In 2014, ‘Indian Aces’ was launched as a facebook page by Dr Pragati Singh to provide a platform to the asexual Indian community. Over the years, the reach of the group has grown beyond Facebook posts. They hold workshops, group discussions and crash courses on topics related to gender and sexuality. They also launched ‘Platonicity’, a speed-dating event for asexual and aromantic people to find potentail partners. During ‘Asexual Awareness Week in 2021, they fascilitated ‘Pan-ACEa’ – a conference on asexuality within the context of Asian countries.
“Indian Aces has changed the landscape of the Indian queer community by radically but gently introducing asexual idenitities into the purview. We have impacted lakhs of people indirectly and thousands of them directly. The A in the LGBTQIA+ has been mainstreamed after years of hardwork and perseverance.”
Nazariya: A Queer Feminist Resource Group
‘Naazariya: QFRG’ is a non-profit organisation based in Delhi that supports queer women and trans persons. They sensitise organaisations about gender and sexuality-based discrimination and provide them with resources that enable them to create safe spaces for the LBT community. They have a varied collection of resources focused on breaking stereotypes about the queer community and providing ways to make spaces more inclusive. They also run a helpline, provide free counselling, run a skilling centre for trans persons and do advocacy and casework for the LBT community who face violence within and outside their homes. “There are only a few mental health practitioners who are queer and trans* friendly. Even during pre-pandemic times we felt the constant need to connect with each other, listen to, express our loneliness, fear, anxieties, losses and the pandemic has only exacerbated this need. We run a peer-counselling helpline and provide professional mental health support to people across the LGBT*QIA+ spectrum.”
Nazariya LGBT is a Youth Group founded in 2017 by students from Delhi University that brings together the LGBTQ+ community and straight allies to create safe spaces on college campuses. The group holds workshops, sensitisation campaigns across their social media platforms and participate in on- ground events and protests. Post pandemic, they facilitated a Queer Art Fest, Gay-lentine’s Day and Virtual Pride March. “We believe that in order to achieve justice and equality, the queer movement needs to be a lot more inclusive and accessible. We must provide a platform for the religious minorities, intersex, gender non-conforming, tribals, Dalits, disabled, and many others who are often erased or overlooked by the mainstream queer movement.”
Founded in 2007, ‘Sahodari Foundation’ is one of the oldest Tamil-Nadu-based organisations working with the transgender and non-binary communities. They provide scholarships, counselling sessions and skill development programs that economically empower the community. The ‘Thoorikai Project’ and the ‘Red Wall Project’ are two art projects launched by the foundation to cultivate a space for the community to process and express their struggles. The art exhibition sensitises the society to acknowledge the trans and non-binary communities, and the funds raised from the sales can financially support them. “The aim of the project [The Red Wall Project] is to give a voice to the victims, encourage them to speak about the injustice done to them, seek justice for the victims by bringing their testimonials to the public and media and protest against violence against transgender people.”
Founded by Vishal Pinjani, ‘Abhimaan’ is Kolhapur’s first LGBTQ+ support group. They initiated social media campaigns, raised awareness about HIV and safe-sex practices, facilitated discussions on body image and even started a virtual job fair for the community. A lot of their content is in Marathi and Hindi, making the space more accessible to people from the community. They also collaborate with other LGBTQ+ organisations like ‘Humsafar Trust’, ‘Indian Aces’ and the like to cultivate a space of support for the community in Kolhapur. “Abhimaan is an organisation in the city of Kolhapur, Maharashtra geared towards empowering the LGBTQIA+ community and providing emotional support to people struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. We welcome people regardless of where they fall on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. The organisation was established by a group of like minded community members who were and will always be dedicated towards securing a better future for the Rainbow people.”
Sweekar – The Rainbow Parents
Sweekar was founded in 2017 by parents of queer folks who have accepted their children’s identity. They hope to support other parents who are struggling with acceptance. Coming out to the family can be challenging for many individuals – not many feel accepted instantly. This journey can be smoother if parents find a space to talk about their questions, fears and anxieties without fear of judgement. Sweekar holds workshops with parents to familiarise them with the different shades of their child’s queerness. After the pandemic, their events have shifted to the virtual space which has allowed more parents to join the support group. “Sweekar also engages in various other activities regarding diversity and inclusion, such as giving interviews and writing articles in press; taking part in TV debates; talking at mainstream institutions etc. to help dispel prejudice. The group also participates in events of LGBTQIA+ community, like the Pride Marches, seminars acceptance meets, Film Festivals and in PILs against injustice meted out to the community, thereby expressing support and solidarity and inspiring children as well as parents to come out.”
Vikalp Women’s Group
Founded in 1996, Vikalp Women’s Group is one of the oldest Gujarat-based NGOs working in rural and urban areas to support the queer community. Initially, the organisation was specifically working for women’s rights, but with increasing government interventions in the domain of sexual health and the protests that followed the release of the film ‘Fire’, the organisation decided to include gender identity and sexuality in their domain of work. They started a postbox where people who identified as queer could write anonymous letters to them and, through it, find other folks they identified with. Currently, they are working on issues of gender dysphoria and acceptance of sexuality, creating small economic support groups, providing shelter to same-sex couples who have eloped, starting a sensitisation dialogue with the family of queer people and advocating for the Transgender Protection Act. Maya Sharma, who has been working with the organisation for over two decades, said, “Abhi jo TG protection act bana hai uske teheat bhi bohot saara kaam kar rahe hai — facilitate the whole process of getting your TG card and then move on to getting your male gender card or non-binary card; that also involves doing a lot of advocacy, awareness raising work within the community and with the officials concern.”
‘Umang’ is an LBT support group under ‘The Humsafar Trust’, based in Mumbai. They provide legal aid and counselling sessions and hold various events for the community like Queer Premier League and Palentine’s Day. They run a helpline and also facilitate ‘Pankh’, an LGBTQ+ themed film festival. They also partner with other organisations across the city to promote and participate in the events facilitated by ‘The Humsafar Trust’. “Our services include mental health counselling, legal support, community support and events. Umang organises monthly events for the LBT community. We have workshops, social events, get togethers and games – called ‘Chill Outs’ – meetings with no agenda!”
Mumbai Seenagers is a group founded by Dr. Prashad Dhandekar to support homosexual men over the age of fifty. While there are many spaces for young LGBTQ+ individuals to navigate their sexuality with the support of a community, that is not the case with older gay men. Many of these men identify as bisexual, gay or asexual and have not fully come to terms with their sexuality, are often married and/or feel extreamly alienated. A group like this, where you’re safe to voice your struggles or experiences, becomes extremely significant. Mumbai Seenagers holds workshops, participates in pride events across the city, and holds informal online and offline meet-ups. In an earlier interview with Hindustan Times, Dr. Prashad Dhandekar said, “It is wonderful to see a large number of online and offline avenues for young gay men opening up in Mumbai. However, older gay men have their own battles to fight and most of the time, they are fighting alone.”