Drag today must respond to the exclusion of clubs, to the transphobia and femmephobia of gay men, to the respectability politics of our savarna movements. Drag to be drag – exciting, critical, entertaining – must be dangerous. Imagine, drag queens lipsyncing for their lives as the house of patriarchy burns in the background!
আমরা অদ্ভুত /’amra odbhuth’/ ‘We are queer’. And there is now a café in Calcutta for those who know or imagine themselves to be odbhuth/queer: the Amra Odbhuth Café, in which people of various hues gather to talk about, and work on, dismantling identities and transforming them on the ground, at homes and offices, in the streets and markets, on buses and metros.
Before HIV funding oiled and co-opted “queer”, before it re-created and held in place caste hierarchies – Indian collective queer spaces were found in hamams, and bastis, and parks. It was found in villages where the only visible queer was the local (Dalitbahujan) transfemme community. She was the one that poor, Dalitbahujan queer femmes and trans men sought out and befriended and asked for help. Before the globalized repeal IPC-377 campaign cemented the meaning of what queer caste neutrality looks like – it was queer Dalitbahujans who were being beaten, tortured, raped and killed by the police, by the public and the state. While the sexuality rights consultancies and speaking engagements went to Savarna queers, it was Dalitbahujans who arrived in masses and protested police stations and courtrooms, and were lathi-charged, beaten and arrested.