Gaylaxy published Ashley Tellis’s column Time for the Queer Movement to Deal with its Shit. A few people wrote in, informing about the various efforts undertaken by queer individuals and groups in Chennai. Their response to Ashley Tellis’s post has been published below.
Queer Community was not silent
I’m Sri Krishna, an engineering student from Chennai and I’m writing this not as a reply or a message to oppose what Ashley Tellis had written, but to let you guys know that the queer community was not silent but resilient to what Chennai had to go through over the horrifying week of floods. I started to work for the relief work, not as a part of the queer community, but due to my civic responsibility and humanity. I began work on this in collaboration with the Tamil Nadu rescue forces from the first day of the floods. I had been accommodating people at my home during the incessant rains that happened two weeks prior to these devastating floods, much before Diwali. Thanks to my family for accommodating people.
Being gay didn’t stop me from working with police and the National Disaster Response Force(NDRF) for rescue operations. I worked closely with almost all the groups across the city without consideration to any ideologies, religion or any other constraints. To be precise, I was working with the Dravidar Kazhagam and the Ahobila Mutt, just to tell you how diverse the help was. Not only me, but also various others from the queer community helped in coordinating efforts through Facebook, Whatsapp etc. To be honest, maybe Ashley thought the queer community in Chennai was silent because the queer individuals involved in the relief work never considered themselves queer at that point, but they were one among the victims, feeling their pain as everyone else and trying hard to brave the devastation as a fellow ‘human being’. Not just the Chennai queer community, but people who reside in other countries such as the USA, UK and various other parts of India had made prominent contributions towards the relief materials.
Many people pitched in to support not only the queer community but the people of Chennai, working in badly hit areas such as North Madras mostly. People worked continuously, braving all the obstacles. They cooked food day and night to get it packed and delivered to those in need. We never stopped loving our city. Orinam, Nirangal, Sahodaran and other forums have been working to help the community people who have been badly affected as well. Some were working closely with a lot of relief groups and supplying materials in their vehicles. They did not confine their operations to human beings alone. Some worked to help animals such as pets and cattle that were hit hard during the floods. They worked tirelessly to bring back the city to normalcy and to its usual charm. The article by Ashley Tellis was very articulate and was really venting out certain anger, but prior research about what has been happening would’ve been really appreciated.
–Sri Krishna Ananthan
LGBT community home and from abroad helped too
The recent floods have touched everyone across caste, creed, sexuality and gender. And when we reached out, we made sure we don’t discriminate or distinguish one from another.
In our own little way we have all been supporting and those who live far away have ensured their financial support to the larger community, despite the larger society being divided on 377. I don’t want to term them “pink dollars”, but the LGBT community from overseas has contributed to over 30% of financial help that was routed through me.
I, along with a team of like-minded people (I never bothered to ask them if they are gay or straight) took care of cooking, organising help, distributing relief material to conducting medical camps systematically. We even took media to the affected areas to write about their plight and get additional hands and support.
As gay men representing the LGBT community, we react differently when we come across denial of basic human needs and see widespread suffering. The limited perspective of the author doesn’t give the right message.
– Chandra Duraiswamy
People have contributed individually
I do appreciate the overall point being made by Mr. Tellis, which is that those of us who are queer and middle/upper class need to question our own privilege, get out of our single-issue bubble, understand the links between oppression based on sexuality and gender and that based on class, caste, religion and other identities, and work in solidarity across struggles for social justice. Point well taken.
However, with reference to the specific example of Chennai flood relief, I suspect that the author may have formed his opinion based primarily on the information that he accessed on social media. This, I submit, may be limiting.
Several LGBT people have been involved in the general flood relief in Chennai and surrounding areas since the start of incessant rains. They have been organising and cooking in community kitchens, transporting people and supplies, and connecting individuals in need with resources (doctors for health camps, medicines, food, and temporary shelter). They have also been assessing damage, cleaning up sumps in which potable water was contaminated with sewage… the list goes on.
They have been doing this work not just in the “comfortable” middle-class localities,but also in the areas of northern Chennai, the district of Cuddalore, and other hard-hit areas where individuals of non-dominant class/caste reside. Incidentally, the very individuals who organized a panel on coming out were on the frontlines of relief efforts in subsequent days.
Many of the individuals have been doing this work in a personal capacity, and not as part of their affiliation with any LGBT-specific group or collective. Some are students. Some are working professionals. Some are engaged in sex work. Some are part of formal LGBT groups, others volunteer with informal groups, yet othersare not part of any group. They may not fit the description of what Mr. Tellis considers “the queer movement”, but nevertheless they are amazing people, doing incredible work, and happen to be queer and/or trans. And they are among my heroes.
I’ve witnessed numerous, and have been a part of a few relief efforts by queer individuals or groups during the floods apart from the trans* relief operation that’s currently underway, that did not have a queer tag to their/our effort.
– Felix Suganthan