excerpt from a memoir: PK, Cancer & the Tragic Ruts of Time
It is a new month. These days crossing the threshold into a new month is an extraordinary, welcoming experience. Yesterday I heard projections from a University of Washington study: how many U.S. citizens will be killed by COVID-19 by the end of 2020. If ninety-five percent of Americans wear masks and social-distance—223,00 will die. If some social-distance and do not wear masks—398,000 will die. If everything reopens, no mask-wearing and no social-distancing—then 650,000 Americans will be dead. It is a cold July day. Rat-gray Seattle day. This cold—PK and I think is the way Seattle used to be forty years ago. And my garden is gorge. We are amid a world of catastrophizing, and I cannot help myself—I keep entering the state of making art. Today I read the New York Times has decided to capitalize Black but not white. The Atlantic has decided to capitalize both Black and White. I’m with the New York Times camp. I’m serious about white people bowing out for a while. PK and I stride the alarms of social, political, and spiritual disorder as if we will be here tomorrow to tell our stories. She has an incandescent thinking about it—she carries a chalice of hope. For my sixty-fifthbirthday she gives me a book a day—one under my pillow, one in the medicine cabinet, today one under my keyboard. So far six books. She doles out books as if I will be here tomorrow to read all these books. For every book I now bring into the house, I take one book out and deposit it in the neighborhood church’s Little Free Library box on the corner (I love depositing my Jewish and queer books there). The church now has yellow-line strips on the sidewalk—a block long—so people will social-distance while entering the Assumption Catholic Church. Today the Supreme Court passed a ruling that states can be forced to fund religious education using taxpayer dollars (goodbye separation of church and state). I’m not down with this. We must also defund powerful religious zealots.
The artmaking—the trajectory of my artmaking. Yesterday I learned that VW (Virginia Woolf), like me, loved to walk. Every writer has a central artery to a writer. Virginia Woolf is my writer. I read all her books and journals in my twenties. Periodically I open Mrs. Dalloway. Before writing, there was photography. B&W images. A darkroom. Dektol. Stop-Bath. Fixer. With the camera, I shot loneliness and my pictures showed an interest in outsiders. The art world around me detested photography as an art—their disdain of photography pushed me even further to see the world in black-and-white. The gathering of shadows. The necessity of contrast. The darkness of history outweighing PK’s chalice of hope. She is the symbol of brutality and delicacy. Her struggles, her sufferings walk the edge of brutality and delicacy. We have always had a mistrust of people who make the rules—we have always fled from authority figures. Is identity something you take on or is it a construct you pull apart or is it a persona you erect or is it a side you reveal, a laugh you express, a cry you exude, a fashion you wear? The blood we keep spilling, the methods of slaughter that swell from age to age—I know them—I’ve read about them—I’ve witnessed some. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Iyanna Dior. Monika Diamon. Nina Pop. Tony McDade. Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells. Riah Milton. Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau. I’m not a historian but I see the repetition. The same repeating pattern as a villanelle—when the opening line (the beginning) is repeated as the last line of the second and fourth tercets; and the third line of the first tercet is repeated as the last line of the third and fifth tercets; and the opening line (the beginning) and the third line become the refrain (the beginning and the end) that is repeated in the last two lines of the quatrain. The beginning. The end.
Underhum of Unrest and Unease
I stray away from favorites. But when it comes to writers, my favorite, which I have namedropped in this memoir, is Virginia Woolf, and my secondmost favorite is Toni Morrison. Today if she were still alive, I think she would be repeating her words from her novel Beloved—“Not a house in the country ain’t packed to its rafters with some dead Negro’s grief.” My life and my memoir feel as if every hour were a festival of self-reinvention. Writing the past is an exercise of reinvention. The time. The characters who reside beside me. The historical chimes of twentieth-first-century-earthquaking news. The castes. The creeds. The colors. A sense of dread. A sense of near end. I no longer make excuses for my fierce ability to stay alive among the rightward tilt of everything dear to me. Among the underhum of unrest and unease. Yesterday I learned of an author who wrote ten memoirs. Who has the nerve to do that? Shouldn’t she be excommunicated from the canon? How self-indulgent is that to hammer the world with ten books about yourself? I imagine if there were a self-like key on Facebook, she would tap, tap, tap that button every day. The immediacy of finishing this book increases with each summer 2020 day that passes. I don’t make apologies for writing this memoir—and I no longer say excuse me for my existence. Age is a reflector of history. A woman takes on so much horror and regurgitates its out—speaking bitterness, breathing lightness, irrigating the lifeforce. A memoir exhumes these buried feelings.
Fear and insecurity engendering in us create anesthetized members of society. I don’t want to be crossed out by this worldwide calamity. I don’t want to be erased. The writer notices everything. I stare at everything. PK averts her eyes. It is disrespectful to look strangers in the eyes.
Virginia Woolf said about Leonard Woolf that he was the best husband. She called him Mongoose and said, “I have him every day.” I see I have PK every day. Of course, it is true there are things we despise in each other. I must remember to include in these pages all the things I despise in her. The only same physical trait we have is our eyes. We are both brown-eyed. I wear her clothes, but she never wears my clothes. She shaves my neck and cuts my hair. She is the ultimate groomer. She eats brown and white food—meat and white rice. I eat a plate of colorful vegetables and fruits. She doesn’t read books. She reads magazines and all things on the internet. I used to have a key on my diary when I was a kid. That keep-out mantra stayed with me, and I hid my journals from PK. PK has no desire to read my journals. She doesn’t even understand why I keep them. Like Virginia and Leonard, PK believes in the work—like the Wolves, in times of sorrow, she returns to the work. Her father trained her. When she was a kid doing nothing, her father asked her, “What are you doing? If you have nothing to do, I have a list of things for you to do.” Sometimes I hide from her when I’m doing nothing, when I’m reading or writing. PK’s conviction is a utilitarian way of life. The Wolves published books. Virginia and Leonard (Jewish like me) watched the Nazis gain power, and they each went to their respective spaces to write. It was privileged, but I would not be here writing she was my favorite, if Virginia Woolf had not gone to her writing shed to write her thoughts, the things she saw with her eyes—her horror.
Story Swipe of My Life
Words climb on to me. The voice holding together my body and my life. The words tear open the windows of my soul and tunnel a pulse through my veins. I write on white paper with black pen. Today my left cheekbone rests in the palm of my left hand. My words are getting smaller and smaller—the size of the words an eighth of an inch. The solitary rails of my imagination are getting larger and larger. Big sweeps of loss of memory—who is the woman Charlene, I ask myself when I see her name on my list?
Isn’t a memoir a warped storytelling form? Isn’t it impossible to truly write someone’s life as it was? Or do we write as we wish it were—feelings once felt now feelings gone underground?
The story swipe of my life, an absoluteness of watching. I watch the words climb onto me. Barefoot they trek across my skin. I no longer hunt for them. I am a magnet of words. Other people have friends. I have roped sentences, knotted sentences, clasped paragraphs of atomic syllables, vowels enjambed into word-lines. The story swipe of life. Its lore diminished. Its reserves exhausted by the memory loss of age. A bitter fidelity. The luck of one’s life. There is an immigration lottery of 15 million people who long to come to the United States. Only 100,000 are chosen. Our German friend, Kerstin Marx, was picked. How broken-hearted are the women and men, the other 14.9 million not chosen? Why are some chosen and some left to live the destined lousy swipe of life?
I am obsessed with plastic. I no longer—after the cancer—drink water from a plastic bottle. There is a chemical in the making of plastic that is cancerous. It has a scientific name: Bisphenol A (BPA). I use plastic folders for my words. My manuscripts and writings are placed in plastic folders and notebooks. After the chemo, I usually wear a scarf around my neck. Any wind on my neck must be covered up. My neck, since the cancer, is like an Achilles heel. But he was a warrior. I am everything but a warrior.
Traces of thought come to me when I read books. Helen Macdonald is training a hawk in her book H is for Hawk. Helen forms a fist and feeds her hawk meat. She must become invisible. I, too, would choose the superpower of invisibility over flight if given the choice. The bond between hawk and woman will form if Helen feigns invisibility. The power to connect with the hawk is formed only by watching and feeding the bird with a leather jess over its head. In my twenties, photographing through my camera lens, I was an invisible person with the Nikon pressed against my skin.
I survived anything the world threw at me. As does PK. We are survivors, not warriors. Our physical shells are different. I am the crab. I hide invisible inside my brittle shell. I can be stepped on at any time on the beach-sand of my existence, but my absolute hiddenness keeps me safe and faithful to the marrow of my love for PK. Her shell is the skin of a dragon, the stealth armor of a samurai. I lie—she is part-warrior. The horseshoe crab has blue blood. Humans have red blood. The horseshoe crab has existed for 450 million years. We humans are a mere speck in time. Horseshoe crabs indulge in a sexual orgy tearing out each other’s eyes and arms, and we humans drain one-third of their blood for drugs like morphine and antibiotics. We source their surviving blood so we can live on and on.
On December 14, 2006, Charlene Strong’s partner, Kate Fleming, age forty-one, was killed in a flash flood in their Madison Valley basement, trapping her inside the house. At the hospital Charlene, was not allowed to see Kate, her partner of nine years, until an out-of-state relative gave the hospital permission. (PK’s acupuncturist, Sofina Lin, wants her patients, Charlene and PK, to meet. That’s why Charlene’s name was on my list.) The day I learned I had cancer, I wanted to get married. I wanted PK to be with me as I navigated the medical system. That day—on December 6, 2012—after being together for thirty-four years—we were issued marriage license #357 in Seattle.
Geri Gale is writing a memoir titled PK, Cancer & the Tragic Ruts of Time—a lesbian love story of forty-two years. She is a Jewish-American married to a Japanese-American and lives in Seattle. Her books include: Patrice: a poemella, Alex: The Double-Rescue Dog, and Waiting: prosepoems (Dancing Girl Press). Her poetry, prose, and drawings have appeared in ang(st): the feminist body zine, Sinister Wisdom, Poetry Pacific, South Loop Review: Creative Nonfiction + Art, Bayou Magazine, Under the Sun, and other publications. www.gerigale.com
Sumedh was born in Mumbai and lives there. He works in the financial services sector and enjoys his work. He has started writing recently. He is a serious birdwatcher and likes to travel in pursuit of “lifers”. He has also started learning Hindustani vocal music in the past year.
pronouns: he/him I identify as QUILTBAG (bi/pan), neurodivergent (anxiety requiring multiple hospitalizations/GAD/SAD/depression/suspected by a number of mental health professionals of being on the autism spectrum but not tested because “the tests are expensive and you’re too old for the treatment methodologies to do anything”), and disabled (arthritis since 1992, now walking with a cane over 90% of the time/chronic bloodborne cellulitis resulting in multiple multi-week hospitalizations/heart attack). [New! Improved! Now officially listed as disabled by the U.S. government as of 3Mar2020!] Now fall into the “older” category (50+). Adopted and entirely unfamiliar with my (birth) family history.
On a random, summer morning I dream of the cherry blossoms Blooming a glorious red; The idyllic summer of ’09, The day we met. Salty heat, the sweaty pillows, The pattern of a drop of dew On the misted glass windows I trace. Fingers intertwined, Clocks stopped ticking time When clinking glasses, we drank Desires from each other’s blood, Toasting to an eternal love. Two girls, we trod golden waters- Our barefoot, evanescent fantasy Lived another summer morning.
Hands held, dreams spun Beneath a green forest glade. Pearl eyes bestowed a warmth, You even put sunlight to shame. The cascading summer song- Bees abuzz, our whispers meld; God’s creation, intricate spider webs. We talked, planned, dreamt about The city we longed to escape. Red circles on shadow maps. The rich taste of sour grapes Enriched with the sweet dates- Senses on sultry evenings sated. Nostalgia of tarnished memories- An oppressive, balmy melancholy- On random, summer mornings I remember again, once beloved; The smile lost in tears Abundantly hated.
Now a forest of skeletal trees, Tangled branches, fallen leaves. I scratch through the rotten fungi. Futile attempts to reach our beach Where once we searched for shells To ornament dream catchers- They’re too small for dreams Spanning utopias. You and me Replaced by ‘Debauchery!’ ‘Abnormality!’ Peering eyes hold hope ensnared. The hot winds of summer nights Knock off my Juliet’s pebbles- They never reach my window.
Poison lost, the dagger broke, Even the words of poetry eloped. I curse this fledgling sorrow I never chose. Beneath autumn’s dusky gloom, Cherry blossoms no longer bloom. When verse finally caught up, Man’s syllables failed, Man’s spaces quailed; The enormity of our love they Could never accommodate. I have nothing left to say, My summer ran out of time. My thoughts are left behind With those random, mornings Of ’09.
Our Forgotten House
I want to live in that house Where we built windows Up in the walls of the sky. They opened to the purple And pink clouds that poured rain- Satisfy the thirst of my parched mouth. I have been screaming too long, too loud, I have been running and crying, I have been dying, dying, dying. This rage can only be doused In the water from our house.
The mirror in our house Still stands in that corner- Golden gilding, cracked And tarnished. We left an imprint Of our dreams on the white fog- Drawn in unsteady hands of youth. Two girls ensconced in seven-feet Of gossamer veil, the lace enough To shield the blissful brides. Fake weddings, no grooms in sight. The mirror in our house Still reflects the innocence, Our naiveté and passion, the belief That at the end of the journey We’ll find our truth.
Across the picket fence, With its chipped white paint, The railway track still lusts After a rusted freedom. Buried in the soil, it still runs Over hills, crossing borders To our secret place. Our meadows and fields Where once we planted flowers Hoping to one day cover our scars. But there is no beauty in my wounds. Our dolls lie in mangled mounds- Twisted necks, broken faces, Limbs torn across serrated bones. The blossoms turned to stones, No one left, no bouquets to catch; Our ships have run aground.
I want to return to the Oakwood desk in the house Where my father’s watch In battered leather still counts The time and wait till My breath runs out. I want to go to that house And lie down in the arms Of my mother’s chair and cry For the rustling wind we heard In the glistening corn fields, The cries of the orange canary That visited our window sill. I want to lie on my bed, Where we stole our first kiss, Before I say good-bye To our forgotten house.
Shailee, 22, is an English literature student from Delhi University, India. A budding poet, her work has appeared in AANI- The Voice of IITRAA, M.Etch Newsletter, Miranda House Magazine (2018-19). She is interested in pursuing academic research in the field of gender and sexuality through the lens of Queer theory and Post-colonialism. She seeks to examine themes such as queer love, queer belonging and identity within the Indian space through her creative work.
The drive up the ghat road took nearly two and a half hours. From the verdant plains, now lush and gleaming after the monsoon, the winding road rose steadily over 7,000 feet to the top of the Nilgiri Hills. Edward had not been up this road or back to South India in over twenty years, not since he graduated from the Anundur International School. The exotic scenery evoked a flood of memories, and the opulence of the vegetation amazed and delighted him once again, a profusion of eucalyptus trees, cypress and acacia, and the occasional blooming jacaranda tree heavy with its purple blossoms.
It would have been a lot cheaper to take the bus from Madurai, but Edward opted for the comforts and safety of a taxi. During the long ride he reflected on how his life had unfolded since he had departed as a young man ready to conquer the world. With some satisfaction he noted that he had done well for himself; a successful business in Chicago gave him the means to live a comfortable life and to travel now and then.
He had arrived in Madras, now known as Chennai, ten days before. The main reason for the trip wasn’t really to sight-see, or even to visit his former school, but to spend some time with his old school friend Mack. Foremost in Edward’s thoughts were Mack’s most recent e-mails: their cryptic and despairing tone had alarmed him. Edward had thought of making this trip for a long while. His friend’s condition induced him to finally book the flight.
They had stayed in touch all these years. Mack’s real name was Roger, but somehow the nickname had stuck after an ambitious production of Macbeth in their senior year. Mack had earned a teaching degree, then returned to India. He was now the school’s English teacher and in charge of the drama productions. He was good at that sort of thing.
The taxi drove through the main gate of the school compound and stopped in front of the office. Since the school term had ended a few days before there was no one about and the office was closed. The driver, who had been quite chatty and amiable on the drive up, suddenly demanded more rupees, actually double the amount that had originally been agreed upon. Edward had been more than reasonable in their negotiations and had added on a generous tip, but still it wasn’t enough. He knew better than to attempt to reason with the man. With a wave of his hand and a few choice words, whatever he was able to conjure up from his now very rusty Tamil, he dismissed the irksome driver. “Nee kettavan!” he shouted, “tallipo! – You are a bad man, go away!”
He found Mack’s residence, a small bungalow, in an obscure corner of the compound. Mack was waiting for him at the front door.
“Eddie, old boy, varnakam–welcome!” They embraced and held each other for a few moments.
“It’s been a long time. Just look at you, you’re as lean and athletic as ever!”
“India has a way of keeping us in shape; it’s the amoebic dysentery diet.” A look of genuine concern came over Edward’s face and Mack was quick to clarify. “Well, not really. I haven’t had a bout for a while–knock on wood.” He brought Edward through the tiny vestibule and into the living room. “You’ve put on a little extra padding, I see.”
“Life in the big city will do that to you,” said Edward with a sigh. “And I don’t have the Nilgiri Hills to run around in.”
“You’ve had a long trip. How was the ride up the ghat? Don’t tell me you were crazy enough to take the bus!”
“It was fine; not a thing has changed. Even the same chai stalls are still there. And the obnoxious drivers are as enterprising as ever. My taxi guy tried the old shakedown, but I told him to get lost–I still remember some useful words in Tamil.”
“Yeah, all that time we spent bumming around in the bazaar finally paid off!” They both laughed.
While they were talking Mack had taken Edward’s backpack and steered him to the guest room. “This is it. It ain’t much but I think you’ll be comfortable. It’s an improvement over the bunk beds in Eberling–remember those? The old dorm is still there, still in use, but the furnishings have been upgraded a bit. Did you know that we now have a computer lab?”
“Even at the top of a mountain in South India life doesn’t stand still, eh?” mused Edward.
They went back into the living room and Mack’s bearer, Murugan, soon brought a pitcher of frosted nimbu pani. Mack carefully filled two glasses. “To you, old friend!” he said, lifting his glass in tribute. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
“Here’s to friendship!” countered Edward. He hadn’t had a glass of spiced lemonade since he left India. But there was a noticeable kick to the drink this time. The nimbus had been spiked. “Gin? Where did you get it?” Procuring good quality liquor was not easy in this country. Many states were dry and alcohol was almost impossible to buy legally.
“Oh, connections–someone who knows someone in the bazaar. Grease the right palms and you can get just about anything here.”
“Let’s hear it for good old-fashioned corruption!” said Edward with mock enthusiasm.
“So, how’s life in Chicago?” asked Mack.
“Well, there have been some changes,” he said, dropping himself onto the settee. “Since Janice and I divorced I’ve had to readjust to living alone again. Getting married was a mistake, the biggest of my life. What was I thinking?” He looked pensive for a minute, staring into space, then turned to Mack. “Maybe I should have stayed here with you.”
Edward uttered that last statement so straightforwardly that Mack looked surprised. He said nothing in response, but allowed a trace of a smile.
“And how are you getting on here?” continued Edward, attempting to sound as casual as possible. “Life must get pretty dull, especially when the term is over.”
“I always try to make the best of things, but it does get mighty lonely up here on this mountain. You ready for another nimbu?” Edward held up his empty glass and Mack doled out the last of the pitcher into both their glasses.
“I met a nice British guy on the internet and we spent the winter vacation at a resort in Thailand. Since Bryan lives in Singapore it’s not all that far for him. He’s a stock trader––and you know those bastards are just swimming in money! He could buy friggin’ Singapore if he wanted to.” Pause. “Not sure if I’ll see him again, though.”
“And there’s nothing like a visit to the Taj Mahal once in a while to lift the spirits!” Edward’s touch of sarcasm lightened the mood. They were planning to travel north together in a few days. “By the way,” he continued, “how are the theater productions getting on? It was the thing you always loved the most.”
“Oh, they’re okay. It gives me something to do in the evenings, but my heart isn’t really in it anymore, ever since the incident last October. I wrote you about that, I think. I was the chaperone for that hike, you know. It wasn’t my fault, but still, I wonder if I could have done something different. It was such a freak accident…the boy…” His voice trailed off.
They finished off the rest of their drinks and went in to dinner. They chatted about this and that, how India was changing, how the town was overrun with tourists, how poor the monsoon had been. After a delicious meal of biryani, various curries, chutneys and sliced mangoes they moved back to the comfort of the living room. Murugan brought a pot of steaming sweet chai. His lanky frame was lost in the baggy, well-worn, white cotton trousers and jacket that was his unofficial uniform.
“Sahib is vanting anyting more?”
“No. Thank you, Murugan,” said Mack. “You can leave us now.” The old servant bowed and shuffled off.
Mack and Edward caught each other’s eye and chuckled, enjoying a moment of shared bemusement. Soon they were laughing uncontrollably and wiping tears from their eyes. Murugan had sounded like someone straight out of the Raj, like a servant in the days of Queen Victoria.
“He still calls me ‘sahib’–can you believe it?” said Mack, with a renewed spasm of laughter.
They relaxed in front of the fireplace where a blaze was now beginning to crackle with some liveliness. It warmed the room and scented the air with a hint of eucalyptus. The distinctive fragrance conjured up a rush of pleasant memories for Edward. The locals collected the fallen leaves from the surrounding forest and boiled them down to extract the oil. It was a scent Edward would always associate with Anandur.
The conversation turned to the theatrical productions they had been involved in. Both Mack and Edward had been avid participants in school theatrical performances. Mack had real flair and talent for the stage. He usually landed the lead roles; Edward was only too happy to play the secondary ones.
Edward got up to examine the items on the mantelpiece. There was a Shiva Nataraja, a fine gilded Buddha in the Tibetan style, a hand-painted view of Anandur Lake, a color photo of Mack standing next to a well-tanned young man on a palm-fringed beach, no doubt in Thailand. There was one other framed photo. Edward picked it up in order to examine it more closely. It was a cast photo from what appeared to be a production of The Pirates of Penzance. “Who’s the good-looking kid with the blue eyes? From the costume I would guess he’s Frederic. Am I right?
“He was. Not much of an actor, but really dedicated. Very serious and quiet.” Mack went suddenly silent. When he continued his voice was barely audible. “David. His name was David. He was the one who died in the accident.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
“No, it’s okay. I’ve never really talked about it, but I think of David every single damn day.”
Mack got up and went over to the sideboard. He picked up a bottle of Scotch whiskey and two glasses. “Join me for a nightcap? It’s really good stuff, from the duty-free in Bangkok.”
After pouring the drinks there was another long pause. Then Mack went on. “I was there, you know, when it happened. We were hiking down to Pambar Falls, where the natural water slide is.”
“I do remember that,” said Edward. “It was always a fun place to go despite the knee-breaking hike to get there.”
“Right,” continued Mack. “It’s downhill all the way for hours. I was asked to chaperone for the senior class. We were about halfway down, hiking along a narrow footpath with a steep drop on one side. Everybody was ahead of me, I was bringing up the rear. I could see a few of the girls with David, laughing, just joking around. They had just turned to continue on and he was about twenty feet in front of me. I think he was waiting for me to catch up to him. David’s copper hair glistened in the sun; I remember that very clearly. For some reason he took a step back; I guess he didn’t realize how close to the edge he was. He teetered for a moment, grabbed some branches with his left hand, but they didn’t hold and he fell backward. It all happened so fast, but it was like in slow motion at the same time. I saw the look on his face at that moment. He looked surprised. Not scared, just surprised. I ran to him as fast as I could, but he had already hit the bottom, an outcropping of rocks. The girls screamed hysterically. I didn’t know what to do. It was almost impossible to get down there, but somehow I did. I think he must have died on impact. At least, I hope so.” Mack lowered his head for a moment, then continued. “You know, the strangest thing was that he had a smile on his face. That beautiful angelic face, and he almost looked happy. The rest is a blur. Cell phones don’t really work up here. We had to gather everybody together and hike back up to Anandur. I don’t even know how or when they retrieved the body, but they did. The entire school was in shock. David’s parents flew in from Kuwait where they were living. It was all too horrible, too fucking horrible.”
“I had no idea how it happened,” said Edward. “I can’t imagine what that was like for you.”
There was another long pause and then Mack went on, “The school didn’t want anything about it to be made public; that’s why you didn’t read about it in the alumni news. The accidental death of a student makes for really bad publicity. No school wants that.” He downed a glass of whiskey and poured another. “I have replayed that scene over and over in my head a million times. There’s another thing I remember: in that last second, before he went over, his right arm went up, as if he were reaching out to me to save him. But I couldn’t save him. If only I had been closer, if only I could’ve gotten to him in time, if only, if only…”
“You can’t torture yourself like that. It was out of your control. It happened. That’s all there is to it. I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah. It happened. I was a total mess after that. It took me months to get myself together again. When I wrote you I didn’t want to go into the awful details.”
They talked for a while longer, about more mundane things, like what they would do the following day. They agreed that Mack would give Edward a tour of the campus, followed by a hike around the lake. Edward took his leave and headed for bed. He slept fitfully. Sometime after midnight he became aware of odd sounds coming from the living room and got up to investigate.
He found Mack kneeling in front of the settee, one hand clutching the framed photograph to his chest, and the other holding an empty glass. Mack raised his head, revealing cheeks streaked with tears. He looked utterly forlorn. Edward knelt down next to him, put his arm around his friend’s shoulders and kissed him gently on the forehead. Extricating the empty glass from his hand, he put it on the side table, next to the now empty bottle.
John Mueter is a pianist, composer, educator, translator, and writer residing in Kansas City, Missouri. His short fiction has appeared in many journals, including the American Athenaeum, Lowestoft Chronicle, Halfway Down the Stairs, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Simone Press Publishing and The Corona Book of Ghost Stories; poetry in The Bombay Literary Magazine, The Literary Nest and the Haiku Journal. His website is here.
One Monday morning, we decide to call in sick to work & wake
before dawn to go see the sun- rise. We walk into the night, no
cars speeding along the highway, no neurotic neighbor walking
her cat & her dog. We sneak through the tear in the fence
to reach my favorite orchard, the one rife with ripe peaches
& plums all spring and summer long. You settle on the grass below
while I twist fruit free from a tree, toss you a peach to eat while
we wait for the sky to turn purple then pink. We lay down our heads,
happy to feast on our peaches & look up at the bright stars.
When they begin to fade, I say I love this & hear the rustle of earth
as you turn to face me. What? I think of the time I wanted to die
& you brought me flowers. The world. You smile, turn toward
me enough to drop a kiss in the crook of my elbow, move
up my curve of shoulder. The sky turns honey-colored, like skin
in the summer. I love you, you say, & the first morning birds sing
their songs. You stand up, hurry off out of fear, maybe,
but presumably to better see the view. I follow, peeling
my thighs from the dew-damp grass that surely leaves crisscrossed
lines on my bare thighs. I reach out for your hand as you watch
the sun come up through the fruit trees and pines. I watch
the way your face brightens with the sky.
AS THE TAXI TAKES ME HOME,
I look out at all the lights and think of your bright eyes, the way they fix
on me every time we wade out into the lakewater. The rain drums
against the roof of the car, spatters against the window, blurring
the storefront signs I’ve memorized. The night is dark—a gentle reminder
that there’s so much we still don’t know. But I know that the rain makes
these lights look like comets, brightness streaking across the sky.
Maybe that sounds clichéd or romantic, and maybe it is. But it’s these city lights,
the way they shine in the showers, that remind me that this world is more
than its downpour.
Despy Boutris’s writing has been published or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, American Literary Review, Copper Nickel, The Journal, Colorado Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. She teaches at the University of Houston, works as Assistant Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast, and serves as Editor-in-Chief of The West Review.
This is going to be my third funeral this week. I never knew I could grieve so much, but what else do you do when your friends and everyone around you seems to be dying? When I walk around the Castro district now only a few years into the ‘80s, all I feel is sadness and the fear of being the next one to die. You can almost imagine death trolling the San Francisco neighborhood looking for its next victim. Death is doing quite well for itself with an instrument better than a scythe. It now has AIDS.
Of course, the Castro clones are still out there. Still cruising in their tight t-shirts and Levi’s showing off all of the goods no matter the weather. I guess no matter what’s going on, some guys will always want to get laid. I think the guys are going to the gym more and more to make sure they look healthy. It seems that if you even sneeze these days you might become a sexual pariah.
I start getting dressed and put on the same black suit again. I had to buy it when guys started dying. I never needed it before that. I came to San Francisco after college, the year after Harvey Milk was in the news for getting elected as the first openly gay supervisor. I could have stayed in Houston with its little pocket of gay bars, but I just had to come here. I had to be a part of a city that could do something so amazing. That certainly wasn’t something that could ever happen in Houston. It’s only been a few years since Harvey was killed, and I’m afraid the exuberance of that time died with him.
I look in the mirror and adjust my tie. I brush my mustache a little and see the dark circles under my eyes from all the crying I’ve been doing this week. I run a comb through my dark brown hair and make sure the center part is perfect. I still want to look good at the funeral.
My throat hurts a little more than yesterday and I feel even achier. Probably just the flu. It is October.
Maybe I’m just tired from not sleeping much. Haven’t been to the bathhouses much. Haven’t gotten any action for a while. Too afraid and too busy going to funerals. I can’t have gotten it. Just can’t.
This is a special funeral too. It is for Miss Holly Jackson. Well, Harold, but he used to perform and host a show at The Elephant Walk bar as Holly. Sometimes her good friend Sylvester would stop by and perform some songs, except Sylvester would actually sing and not just lip-sync to Donna Summer and Ethel Merman.
When I get to the funeral home down in Colma, there is already a huge crowd waiting in the lobby outside of the chapel. Some of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are there. They’re wearing sequined nun’s habits that go to their knees, showing off their hairy legs and black combat boots. They’ve got full white make up on with little red circles of blush on their cheeks. Their beards and mustaches are trimmed neatly. They look as fabulous as ever. Seeing them brings a smile to my face on such a somber occasion.
This was not going to be an ordinary funeral. It was for Harold after all.
I look around for the deep husky voice and smile seeing Sister Florence waving her beefy arm, making her necklace with oversized plastic pearls swing around her neck.
Florence could always bring a smile to my face. Out of drag, Sister Florence was Frank, one of the first people I met after moving to San Francisco. We had slept together once, and once was enough for the both of us. We had decided we were much better friends than lovers.
“Hi!” I say. I walk over to her and give her an air kiss on both cheeks. “What are you guys doing here? Was Holly secretly a Sister?”
“She wasn’t a Sister. She always said she couldn’t handle all of our outrageous makeup.”
I laugh. “What does that mean? Her eyebrows were arched higher than your six-inch heels. And she loved all that glittery purple eyeshadow. I think being a Sister meant having only one outfit. Her closet must have had more of Holly’s clothes than Harold’s.”
Sister Florence laughs and then snorts a little. “Holly used to let us come and collect money at her shows for funerals and cremations.”
“Who paid for this funeral? Harold didn’t have very much money.”
“It was his grandmother. She’s already sitting inside.”
“I didn’t know he was in touch with his family at all. I thought they were all fundamentalist Christians who thought he was going to hell.”
“Harold was lucky to still have someone in his family who didn’t totally reject him. I haven’t spoken to my parents since I left Wyoming ten years ago. What would they say if they saw me now.”
Sister Florence raises her hands to the sides of her face and flutters her eyelashes that must have been an inch long.
“I’m sure they would think you look fabulous,” I say.
“Right. If they don’t spit on me or try to beat the gay out of me first.”
“Oh no,” Sister Florence says. “Not you too, Steve.”
“It’s nothing. I think I just have the flu.”
“Harold thought he just had the flu, and after a month he was in the hospital with pneumonia, and now we’re here.”
“I’m fine. I’m sure I’m fine.”
“I hope so. I’m not sure how many more funerals I can go to. It’s starting to seem like something I have to do every day now. I’ve gone through so many tubes of white makeup for these funerals. I’m not sure I can afford it anymore.”
I hear the murmur of the crowd around us get louder. This is the largest funeral I’d been to in quite a while. I guess that made sense since Holly Jackson had become quite a fixture of the local drag scene. It also helped that Harold was just someone that everyone wanted to be around.
“I think it’s time to go inside now,” I say.
“Steve, I worry about you. I don’t want to lose you too. It’s spreading so fast, and they don’t even know what causes it. God, they can’t even tell you you’re sick until it’s too late, and even if they can tell you, you’re still dead.”
I wrap my arms around Sister Florence and pull her tightly to me. I whisper in her ear, “Frank, you’re going to ruin your makeup.”
He pulls me a little tighter.
“I love you, Steve. Why didn’t we ever work as a couple?”
“Your dick was too small.”
We hold our embrace for another a moment. “Let’s go inside,” I say.
Sister Florence walks back to the other sisters, and I walk to the entrance of the chapel. Inside, all of the pews start to fill up. Some are in black suits like me. Some wear faded denim jackets. Pompadours and bouffant hairdos pepper the crowd. I see that some of the men had black lesions on their necks and faces.
I take a seat at the end of one of the middle pews. Other people file in and take their seats. Some nod or wave when they recognize me. Up at the front, there is a large picture of Harold smiling. His cheeks are beet red in the photo and he’s been caught mid laugh. He looks so happy. The photo was taken at his birthday party last year when he turned thirty. He had been so upset about turning thirty. He was afraid he was going to be too old to ever find a lover. But we had had a great time at his apartment that night drinking and dancing.
In the front pew on the right, there is an older woman in a dark gray jacket with a matching pillbox hat. She looks so out of place amongst all of the men in the room. In fact, she seems to be only one of a handful of women, not including any of the men dressed as women. She sits by herself in the pew. The Sisters walk in and stand along the wall on the right.
After everyone is seated, it suddenly becomes eerily quiet. The seriousness of the occasion finally takes over a room filled with drag queens in garish makeup.
The older woman stands up and walks slowly to the podium. She has a dark mahogany cane she uses for each step. Her gray hair is tied back in a chignon at the nape of her neck. She has a matching gray skirt and low-heeled black pumps. She looks so small and frail.
The woman speaks in a voice full of strength that belies her appearance.
“My name is Miriam Danvers. I know that most of you don’t know me, but I am Harold’s grandmother. Harold was born in Toledo, Ohio to my daughter and her first husband. He was such a good boy. Whenever he would come to my house when he was a little boy, he always wanted me to play my old Ethel Merman records. He just loved those old records. I couldn’t understand it then, but now standing here among all of you, I understand.”
Chuckles fill the room.
“Harold came to see me before he decided to leave for San Francisco. He was afraid of leaving everything he knew and all of his family. I told him that he had to leave and find people like him. He was never going to find happiness in Toledo. By that time, Harold’s father had died, and my daughter had married a minister who idolized Jerry Falwell.”
Hisses fill the room.
“I am of a different mind than my daughter and her husband who abandoned Harold after revealing he was a homosexual. Harold was my only grandson, and I just couldn’t leave him alone.”
She pauses for a moment, trying to fight back tears.
“Harold wrote to me after he moved to San Francisco and told me about his friends and his first job at a camera shop. When he wrote about feeling like he had made a family of his own here, I didn’t understand. I look at all of you here today, and I am so happy that Harold had all of you in his life. When I found out that Harold had died, I knew that I had to come out here and see the place and meet the people that had brought him happiness. I want to thank all of you for coming today and being there for my Harold.”
Miriam walks back to her seat. She pulls a handkerchief from her purse and dabs at her eyes. I look around the room and see plenty of people rubbing their eyes, maybe remembering their own families. I wipe my own eyes. How I would have loved to have this woman as my grandmother. When my own grandmother found out I was gay, she told my parents that I needed to get psychiatric help. She said shock therapy would do wonders for me.
The Sisters then walk up to the front of the chapel. Sister Florence speaks: “Rather than do a prayer or sing a hymn for Harold, or as known to many of you, Holly Jackson, we are going to sing one of his favorites. I think it’s a fitting tribute to what Harold and Holly brought to our lives.”
I think for sure they are going to do Gloria Gaynor, so I am surprised even though I shouldn’t be when they start singing “You’re the Top”. Miriam looks like she is enjoying the performance, even swaying a little bit. Maybe she remembers the Ethel Merman version rather than this one sung by a bunch of burly men dressed as nuns. There is a little bit of giggling at the line “But, baby, if I’m the bottom, you’re the top.” I’m not sure Miriam gets the joke, but I’m sure everyone else in the room does, especially if they had slept with Harold or had heard stories of Harold’s exploits.
After the song is over, other people walk up and tell stories. Funny stories, heartwarming stories, but mostly stories that make me think that a really good person has been taken away from us far too soon. I feel a little warm, and I feel my forehead moisten. I wipe my brow and then walk up to the podium to take my turn.
“Hi everyone.” I stop for a moment and take a deep breath. “I met Harold working at A Different Light bookstore. His first day, he came in wearing a denim jacket with rhinestones all over the shoulders. I asked him why he had those rhinestones there, and he said in that high-pitched midwestern voice of his, ‘I love to sparkle.’ After that we became fast friends because who doesn’t love to sparkle? We had a lot of good times together, and also a lot of dramatic times because you know how Harold could be with each new boyfriend who didn’t live up to his expectations.”
I stop and lick my lips.
“Last year Harold turned thirty and at his birthday party last year, someone played a record by Madonna. Harold hadn’t heard of her before that for some reason, and the first thing he said upon hearing her was ‘Girl can’t sing. Last we’ll ever hear of her.’”
Laughter fills the room.
“I feel really sad today but also really mad because we’ll never get to hear more from Harold. I’m really mad he’ll never lip sync ‘I Will Survive’ to me again. I’m mad he’ll never make me laugh again. I’m mad that some stupid disease killed him and is killing my friends and no one seems to care but those of us dying.”
I hear a few amens and uh-huhs from the crowd. Then I start coughing for what feels like an eternity. When I finally stop, I see the crowd staring at me with fear in their eyes. Frank gives me a worried look from the back. God, I hope it’s only the flu. I’m not ready to die. I know Harold wasn’t. None of us should be dying so young.
I look down at my trembling hands and then over at Miriam who gives me a nod of approval and a smile of encouragement. Tears stream down my face as I continue.
“I hope we all remember how much Harold loved life and how much he loved bringing joy to people. None of us know how much time we’ve got, and now it really seems like we don’t know. It could be sooner than we ever imagine. I know it was for Harold.” I pause to see crying faces. “I hope that with whatever time we all have left that we live our lives with as much panache and freedom as he did.”
I wipe away my tears, put my left hand on my hip and raise my right hand to the ceiling into Holly Jackson’s favorite pose. “Like Harold always said, ‘Sparkle, darling. Sparkle.’”
Jonathan Ochoco was born in the Philippines, grew up in Houston, Texas but has called San Francisco home for over 20 years. A lawyer by training, he works as a compliance officer for a global investment management firm. He is a Pushcart nominated writer with stories published in The Arcanist’s Ghost Stories, Descansos: Words from the Wayside (Dark House Books), Gathering Storm, Ellipsis Zine: Four, and several anthologies. He is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and UCLA School of Law. He lives in San Francisco with his husband and two dogs and enjoys curling (the ice sport) in his free time. Follow him on Twitter @mrochoco.
S turned into boxes. White and green.
The people at the post said, “starch-white only”
Like satin, like the smell of my widowed grandmother –
Who had an indeterminate friend or two.
S turned into boxes. Fair and square.
Her worn-out flippers, her sold out lamp –
Repurposing, repeating in oblivion. The way
One keeps a saucer, tastes the drifting tongue.
S turned into boxes. Large and small.
She never made plans with me; only
The green moss on the hostel-wall knew how to –
Leave trace, occupy and forbid.
S turned into boxes. Alive and dead.
The warden assumed on her behalf –
Struggling sunflowers, at utmost ease. As easily –
Was it a case of love or woe?
Fluid Tenses from the Past
Eurydice turned into roots,
Faltering in the wake of the sun;
Like this scalpel-print, like red,
Like wounds, like the season of rain.
As briefly as photos succeed,
And all images wait until, the night
Was such. The five-inch thick wall
On which the spiraling bottle-gourd hung in
Your home, you had read a series of Greek myths
Subsiding fast as the days passed.
We had just-enough space to dance
In the middle of the dingy corridor
Heading daintily to your father’s.
I tried too. Free from the burden of proofs
Over a field where I was never present
But you were, in the smell of pine-corns and the water-flow.
In the harrowed allies of a riot-clad rail station –
I tried. But they killed us in sleep.
The graveyards are beautiful in snow.
Jigisha Bhattacharya is an aspiring author-thinker based out of New Delhi, India, currently teaching literature in the OP Jindal Global University. She has previously studied in Presidency University, JNU, and enjoyed working on her research in Tübingen and Berlin, Germany. When not dabbling in the arts of dissecting literary and cultural works on and off the classroom, she continues to struggle with non-fiction and poetry. Some of her publications can be found in the following links at The Indian Express, FirstPost, The National Herald, Critical Collective, Hakara Journal, Akar Prakar, Sahapedia and others.
Authentic and alternate: LGBTQI+ Writing in india and the rest of asia submit your creative writing, read proud, write proud
The pride movement took off in the 60s and 70s. With it, came forth magazines and publications that would come to archive voices, experiences, and the social change. Words poured here, insights shared, norms questioned — until the written word began a movement of its own. These glossy print editions or stuffed newsletters were building an informed consciousness, driving home one key idea: that LGBTQI+ rights were unequivocally human rights.
It’s a different century, a different decade. What started as a dribble has emerged into a sea of change. Progress has varied across continents and socio-cultural discourse. Asian society, in particular, has been steeped in political dissent. Ideas about gender identity and sexual orientation continue to be misunderstood; fluidity and freedom to love treated with disdain; and religious/cultural doctrines misinterpreted.
Stray too far from binary gender standards and one would be treated as deviant, an anomaly deserving punishment. Nations like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia have a formidable record of homophobia and transphobia – where many activists have been jailed and worse, killed.
But the movement towards equity and inclusivity hasn’t lost steam. In the last decade, magazines, zines, newsletters, and independent websites have emerged to shape the LGBTQI+ discourse in their own voices. These publications are cultivating a sense of community and safety, educating and informing the public consciousness, giving a platform to creative expression, and destigmatising a conversation that warrants a place in civil society. ‘Love is love is love’ becomes a rallying cry, a resilient beam, and the ultimate truth these publications swear by.
Here is a list of independent publications — zines, magazines, websites – that are representing the LGBTQI+ voice with luminosity and valiance. The idea of pride has never been more accessible, democratic, and inspired.
By Saumya K
The Bombay Review Estd. 2014 | New York / Mumbai
Call for submissions! While not a dedicated queer magazine, The Bombay Review also publishes LGBTQ+ themed editions.
We are now reading for Volume III: Fiction, Poetry, Essays, Art, Reviews. Solicited entries are paid $50 per contribution. Submission details here.
What would the comic scene look like with female representation? How do you create heroines? Thus formed a platform to voice observations from South Asia through graphic storytelling by womxn, LGBTQ+ and queer communities. Its anthology, Bystander, features 50+ artists, illustrators, designers, and writers from 13 countries, and is the first splash as they make waves in graphic storytelling, inspiration, and creativity.
Founder:Aarthi Parthasarathy, Aindri Chakraborty, Akhila Krishnan, Garima Gupta, Janine Shroff, Kaveri Gopalakrishnan, Mira Malhotra and Pavithra Dikshit Theme: Gender, geography and borders, identity, and inclusion Social Media: Instagram, Website, Twitter, Kickstarter Format: Multimedia, zines Year launched: 2016
“An ever-expanding group of creators, we work on self-authored projects and zines. Kadak means strong, severe, sharp — like our tea.”
Launched in 2007, Outrage Magazine is the only LGBT webzine in the Philippines. It constructs a safe space for the Filipino queer community and LGBTQI allies to express and assert their voices. The publication also conducts workshops and researches concerning the community’s interests.
Pitch ideas to: email@example.com Editor: Michael David C. Tan Theme: Minority issues, gender and sexuality, identity politics Genre: Features, profiles, personal essays Social Media: Website, Twitter, Instagram Format: Online Year launched: 2007
“We believe that LGBTQI voices need to be heard, particularly when mainstream media does not treat our issues the right way. And so we bring these issues up.”
Burnt Roti Magazine
The magazines delves into representations of young womxn, South Asian womxn and queer womxn. Its third issue will look at anti-blackness in South Asian communities and will feature five mixed ethnicity creatives. As an archive of experiences and stories, the magazine hopes to destigmatise conversation around sexuality, mental health, and issues relating to the self. It also curates a directory of South Asian creatives for hire to showcase and encourage talent.
Editor: Sharan Dhaliwal Theme: Gender and sexuality, women’s rights, mental health, identity and representation, colourism, racism Genre: Interviews, short fiction, essays, reviews Social Media:Twitter, Website, Patreon, Instagram Format: Online Year launched: 2012
“We do not want to offend, we just want to give opportunities to those who are otherwise cast aside in the world of writing.”
Galylaxy was born out of a need to fill the lacuna of queer voices showcasing their triumphs and stories in India. The e-magazine is an archive of stories that impact the diversity of voices and a platform to campaign for queer visibility.
Send ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org Editor: Sukhdeep Singh Theme: Gender, sexuality, identity, civil rights, current affairs Genre: Personal essays, features, news stories, more Social Media:Twitter, Website Format: Online Year launched: 2010
“…we are still trying to bring out new facets, voice evolving concerns and simultaneously learn about the fascinating diversity of the queer community.”
Gaysi is a portmanteau of ‘gay’ and ‘desi’, two things that are still blending in the broader culture. It regularly publishes stories online for, by, and of the South Asian queer community to nurture social expression. Anything from text, graphic to interactives. What started as an online forum turned into a print magazine, the Gaysi Zine, in 2011 in the hopes to expand the reach of the queer movement as widely as it can. The publication is a movement in itself — a melange of love, art, and resilience.
Editor: Sakshi & Jo Theme: Gay rights, LGBTQ+ voices, queer perception and Indian cultural norms, pop culture, gender and identity Genre: Opinion, personal essays, fiction, graphic novels and comics, poems, reviews, news stories Social Media:Twitter, Website, Instagram Format: Online blog and print Year launched: 2008
“Our stories will be written for those who still believe that they are the ones who are different.”
Fifty Shades of Gay
FSOG’s novelty lies in its mission: to destigmatise all that India hides in time-honoured taboos. It encourages conversation on the likes of family planning, safe-sex practices, LGBTQIA+ identity and stories — often treated as conversational pariahs in the social context. The website documents stories, encourages conversation by putting up factsheets and FAQs, and has a helpline for personal support.
“Fifty Shades of Gay believes in a fair and equal India where everyone can achieve their full potential, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The Varta webzine is a part of Varta Trust and was launched as a campaign to encourage dialogue around gender and sexuality. As a multilingual publication, it weaves together the diversity in the Indian landscape and helps them access stories of and from the LGBTQ+ community. The Trust conducts training, research, policy and media advocacy under its banner.
Board of Trustees: Pawan Dhall, Kaushik Gupta, Madhuja Nandi Theme: Gender equity, sexual identity, diversity and inclusion, identity and expression, health, human rights, environmental issues Genre: Personal essays, interviews, critical commentary, reviews, poems, fiction, travelogues Social Media:Facebook, Website, Twitter Format: Webzine and online blog Year launched: 2012
Queer Chennai Chronicles
QCC is imagining the queer community through a regional lens and distilling it through the world of literature. The literary forum held Chennai’s first queer literary festival, organises an independent film festival, published a book, and launched its bilingual e-zine, paalputhu pakkangkal. It is looking for voices that can help bring out a queer-centric narrative.
Founders: Moulee C and Violet LJ Theme: Gender, sexuality, social and cultural expression, LGBTQ community, anti-caste values, racism Genre: Fiction, poems, art, non-fiction, reported features Social Media:Twitter, Website, Instagram Format: E-zine Year launched: 2017
A digital magazine of NGO TARSHI, In Plainspeak is a dialogue between people in the global south about sexual and reproductive rights. It started as a print publication in 2005 and has since evolved into a webzine, with discussion and knowledge creation around socially-vetoed topics. The bilingual zine brings out two issues with a unifying theme each month. Like TARSHI, it is creating a safe, inclusive, and sexually-affirming discourse.
Founders: Anisha Dutt, Radhika Chandiramani, Shikha Aleya Theme: Sexuality, social stigma, awareness and perspective, reproductive rights, disability, sex work Genre: Interviews, reviews, personal essays, non-fiction, fiction, poetry, short films, podcasts, artwork and illustrations Social Media:Twitter, Website, Facebook Format: E-zine Year launched: 2005
“…highlighting how sexuality intersects with various aspects of our daily lives.”
As a queer zine, Scripts lives up to empowering the queer female voice and much more. The publication was launched as a campaign by Lesbians and Bisexuals in Action (Labia) Collective, a watershed organisation in LBT activism in India. The publication along with the autonomous, Bombay-based collective has weaved a space for cultural and creative expression. It cultivates multiple conversations around social justice and queer identity.
Editor: Unknown Theme: Gender, sexuality, social justice Genre: Fiction, poem, personal essays, comic strips, illustrations, social commentary Social Media:Twitter, Website, Facebook Format: E-zine Year launched: 1998
The website is the digital arm of a grassroots collective started by queer men in Tamil Nadu. Orinam is all about inclusivity, as the ‘o’ rounds in the luminous spectrum of gender and sexual orientations. The website is a one-stop shop for resources, advocacy material, archive of protests, and also houses the blog, Our Voices. It regularly publishes stories about the LGBTQIA+ community, their allies, and social interaction in Tamil Nadu.
Theme: Human rights, LGBTQIA+ representation, gender and sexuality, South Indian diaspora Genre: Personal essays, poetry, fiction, articles, podcast, interviews Social Media: Website, Twitter, Facebook Format: Online Year launched: 2006
“Hues may vary, but humanity does not: This line stresses the notion of sameness across difference, or unity in diversity, a cornerstone of India’s national aspiration and basis for the LGBTIQA+ struggle for equality.”
Sappho for Equality, an activist forum for lesbians, women, and trans rights, is inspired by the Greek lyric poet. It is of little wonder then that its bi-annual publication would be rightly titled Swakanthey, or “In her own voice”. The bilingual six-page newsletter is published in January and June every year, and is an articulation of LBT expression and advocacy of their rights. It is distributed across the hallowed halls of Kolkata International Book Fair each year.
“In Our Own Voice is a movement by itself both in the field of sexuality rights in India and little magazine in Kolkata.”
The Bangladeshi social discourse beams with strict gender roles and heteronormative ideals. As LGBTQ+ movements gain momentum at the grassroots, Roopban has cultivated a legacy of courage. It made history with its first-ever print magazine advancing their mission of “freedom to love”. The founders of the autonomous body were assassinated by extremists as they campaigned for gender diversity. Yet, the movement has been relentless in its struggle. The magazine has evolved into an online community blog that explores gender and sexuality in a society in transition. The archive published a queer poetry book in 2015, Roop Gonti, and a collection of letters from the LGBTQI+ community, Iti Roopban, is expected to be released soon.
Theme: Gender and sexuality, violence, social oppression, identity politics, human rights Genre: Essays, opinions, poems, personal narratives, photos Social Media:Twitter, Website, Instagram Format: Print and online Year launched: 2014
“We believe that we must come together as a community, build strong networks, and create platforms to voice important issues relevant to the advancement of the Bangladeshi LGBT+ community.”
Equality has been described as the first archive of LGBTQI+ lifestyle in Sri Lanka. Launched under the NGO banner of Equal Ground, the quarterly magazinefurthers its mission of ensuring socio-cultural rights and political equity in Sri Lanka.
Mail for contributions: email@example.com
Founder: Rosanna Flamer-Caldera Theme: Human rights, LGBTQI+ representation, gender and sexuality, civil society, legal aid Genre: Personal essays, interviews, reviews, poems, short stories Social Media:Twitter, Website, Facebook Format: Online blog Year launched: 2016
“Our goals are to make the lives of LGBTIQ persons in Sri Lanka meaningful and free from stigma and discrimination.”
A bi-monthly in Singapore, Element is dubbed as the one-stop shop for the Asian LGBTQ+ community. It delves deeper into the gender diverse narrative — featuring stories about lifestyle and personhood of queer voices across Asia. It is also Singapore’s leading men’s magazine.
Pitch ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor: Noel Ng Theme: Asian LGBT community, lifestyle, fashion, LGBT rights, personal grooming Genre: Features, interviews, news stories Social Media: Website, Twitter Format: Online Year launched: 2013
“It brings the Asian gay community together with contents that are closely associated with their lives.”
The queer community in Bangladesh is in the midst of a menacing social movement. As a queer cultural organisation, Mondro describes itself is the first and largest queer archive in Bangladesh. It directs attention towards the spectrum of gender, non-conformity, and fluidity. The archive includes resource creation, online blog, and advocacy tools. In August this year, it launched its first webzine in Bangla titled Thahor, which translates to contemplation.
Theme: Gender, sexuality, queer identity, conflict, social oppression, activism, violence, gender discrimination Genre: Personal essays, non-fiction, videos, illustrations, poems, short stories, translations, interviews, reviews Social Media:Twitter, Website, Instagram Format: E-zine and online blog Year launched: 2019
“Recognize and give space to Bangladeshi queer lives that are forgotten and erased from dominant history.”
South Asian Today
The autonomous organisation has one aim: to pass on the mic to South Asian women and non-binary individuals. And it does that with ingenuity and passion, using multimedia tools like videos and podcasts to create and engage. The inspired storytelling hopes to reflect the diversity of the South Asian subcontinent.
Editors: Dilpreet Kaur Taggar and Tanja JV Singh Theme: Identity and gender, health, and reproductive rights, popular culture, South Asian diaspora, socio-political issues, racism and caste Genre: Videos, podcast, personal essay, interview, social commentary, poetry, photo essays Social Media:Twitter, Website, Facebook Format: Blog and newsletter Year launched: 2020
“As an inclusive space, our goal is to solidify diversity within our own communities and pass on the mic to those who have not been given enough chances to tell their stories.”
Some more web zines and magazines: Upcoming / Recently established