Friday, October 31, 2008

"AIDS Sutra" - An Anthology



Writing on AIDS in India is like creating a rich tapestry of human stories from the complex every-day. This is precisely what the book AIDS Sutra, released this October in the US, promises to offer. It is an anthology of stories on HIV and AIDS in a country that is gripping with this epidemic at all levels. The book features a foreword by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, an introduction by Bill and Melinda Gates and essays by 16 contributing writers including Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, William Dalrymple, Sonia Faleiro, Shobhaa De, Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi, Nalini Jones among several others, each of whom spent time in the field exploring one aspect of the Indian AIDS epidemic. I am on my way to BORDERS to grab my reserved copy. I will update this space soon. In the meantime, to read the editorial reviews, click here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

OUT in Thought and Action

A little update. I will be serving on the first ever Advisory Board of the LGBTQ organization at my University. I believe the advisory board will provide the LGBTQA students-on board, a forum to debate and discuss issues of concern to our community. I also believe that this will give the students and other academic members at large, the agency to devise and employ measures that could help resolve some of the challenges in broadening the public understanding of alternate sexuality.

The strength of the student body in one of the top and most gay-friendly Research Universities such as mine is its diversity, and this is represented in both student composition and their inter-disciplinary scholarship. While the latter is often a matter of academic interest, the former for most part is not, and this is where problems, opportunities and issues arise. In most Campus settings, students don’t always get to live with people of their own choosing. As such, many find it difficult to deal with anything lesser-known or “alternate” - especially if this concerns sexuality. In situations such as these, they are also more likely to express fear, which becomes most difficult to address when expressed in spaces otherwise perceived to be most safe – classrooms/studios, seminar rooms and university housing.

It is imperative then for all of us from within our community to start sharing our concerns, begin telling stories from our personal experiences and continue talking to each other about issues that need to be addressed. Only then would we be able to make well informed arguments and devise strategies toward shaping a better and a more tolerant tomorrow. This is precisely where I see myself contributing and how I see myself benefitting from this new opportunity. I hope with the rest of the group on-board, we are able to continue in our efforts towards shaping an environment inclusive of one and all.

Cheers!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

HIV and OUTreach

Next year, I will be volunteering my time as an HIV-test counselor at the Uni. Health Service. It is now well known that HIV counseling and testing programs have helped people learn and deal with their HIV status better. My interest in the testing program is to help extend this much needed awareness through emphasis on prevention and care, and to address the general misconceptions about HIV risk through counseling and guidance. I am particularly concerned with how the social-self of an individual is affected in the broader dynamic of HIV infection and AIDS.

But let me share with you how it all started. I began learning more about HIV disease after watching a student documentary on sexuality and HIV few years ago. The real-life film entitled "Summer in my Veins" (1999) explored the complicated dynamics of secrecy and revelation around the protagonist’s onetime unsafe sexual encounter with an HIV-positive gay man. Through this, it documented the role of HIV testing and counseling in the "coming-out" process of its protagonist; and weaved together health, social and financial issues concerning this disease.

The film was an eye-opener. I followed it up to know more about the film-maker Nishit Saran, the then student at Harvard. My search led me to this foundation, The Nishit Saran Foundation started and run by his parents in the memory of their brilliant son who soon thereafter, lost his life in a tragic road accident in India. The Foundation today, works in the areas of education, provides support to filmmakers and offers counseling and guidance to parents of LGBTQ identified individuals in India.

It is always heartwarming to hear of stories of human support, love and outreach in a world yet to be fully accepting of "alternate sexuality" [sic], HIV and AIDS. For all this and much more, the efforts of Nishit's parents are truly worthy of recognition and praise.

Monday, October 27, 2008

GLBT History Month 2008


October is the GLBT History Month here in the United States. It is the month that highlights annually the achievements of 31 GLBT individuals whose work outshined and gave society new ways of thinking and looking at the world. For more information on each of the icons, click here.

The following are a few of the 2008 icons whose work and words make you think...hard:
"In the past, people were born royal. Nowadays, royalty comes from what you do." (Fashion Designer, Gianni Versace)
"The hardest thing I ever did, coming out, turns out to give me a reputation almost instantly for honesty and courage, which any politician would kill for." (Politician, Sheila Kuehl)
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world." (Anthropologist and Author, Margaret Mead)
"We have the chance to be role models for other gay folks who wanted to play sports but never felt good enough or strong enough." (9/11 Hero, Mark Bingham)
"If AIDS had taught us anything, it was that we must be true to ourselves if we are to survive." (Founder of NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, Cleve Jones)
"Prejudice tolerated is intolerance encouraged." (Actor, playwright and screenwriter, Harvey Fierstein)
"I wear my uniform at every inappropriate moment to remind people of gays and lesbians who have to serve in silence in the military." (Military Officer, Margareth Cammermeyer)
"When you’ve seen prejudice, you understand that we aren’t finished, that we’re still perfecting this American experiment." (Activist, Anthony Romero)
"It is important to allow people who want to be positive contributors of our society regardless of sex, race, creed and gender to reach their human potential." (First transgender member of a national legislature, Georgina Beyer)
"The world should be striving to make all its members secure." (Playwright, Tony Kushner)
"The job of the architect today is to create beautiful buildings. That's all." (Architect, Philip Johnson)
"The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world. That's what poetry does." (Poet and Activist, Allen Ginsberg)
"Living and dying is not the big issue. The big issue is what you’re going to do with your time while you are here." (Dancer and Choreographer, Bill T. Jones)

To read more, visit the GLBT History Month website.

About

This blog is built around what I call the socio-sexual debate, meaning the simultaneously coexisting conditions of human society and human sexuality but in a constant state of inner conflict and pressing debate. Society here is referred to at the level of both the individual and the overarching system; while sexuality is discussed at all levels, including but not limited to straight, gay, bi-, trans-, inter-, queer, questioning and their subcultures.

My blog will attempt to document, map and extend a discussion on the interaction of each these human variables. It will also seek to probe the nature of human society through the lens of sexuality and its meaning in a world – which on one hand is becoming increasingly plural and accommodating while on the other hand and in some instances, is continuing (or newly adopting) to live on archaic, provincial and parochial laws. Between the dialectics of the social-sexual, love-fear and plurality-insularity, I am hopeful that this space will generate healthy conversations on issues of concern to all. The outreach potential of this initiative goes without saying.

On that note, let the conversations continue.

About This Blog

This blog is built around what I refer to as the socio-sexual debate, meaning the simultaneously coexisting conditions of human society and human sexuality in a constant state of inner conflict and pressing debate. To read more, click here.

Opinion Matters

"There is a way of discussing sexuality without using labels" (Mika* in an interview with Shana Naomi Krochmal, OUT, 2008-01-28).

*Mika is a London-based singer-songwriter.

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