How 50 Shades of Gay is Empowering Mumbai’s LGBTs

“It is a community of super-talented people,” exclaims Shubham Mehrotra, a successful journalist and filmmaker, as we settle down and commence the interview. Mehrotra, who recently returned from abroad, was looking for a job, here, in the city. This is when she read about section 377 and the plight of the LGBTQ community, and the thought of bringing out their stories first crossed her mind. As she started talking to the people of the community, she found a plethora of inspiring and touching stories, worthy of being told.

“I felt like writing about these stories and bringing them out in the general public,” she says.

Mehrotra was pondering over this idea when she met a fashion designer based in Mumbai, who is a proud gay. His story, she says, was absolutely inspiring and she wanted more such stories to come out in the public domain.

Mehrotra has recently launched her campaign ‘FiftyShadesofGay’, under which she interacts with a lot of people from the community and puts their stories on the campaign’s Instagram page for the others to read. It is basically a photoseries that seeks to explore the LGBTQ community in India and empower them.

“You will be surprised to know that there is a colony near Dadar where a lot of hijras stay and I went there and I met a few hijras and asked them what they do. They told me that they do sex work and that it is very normal for them because it is the only job they have. They say they don’t get any other job,” Mehrotra shares and goes on to add, “The families badly outcast them, they are called names at and when they have no means to earn, this is what they have to do for their survival.” Mehrotra believes that if the government realizes how they are exploited and gives them job opportunities, their lives will be different from what they are now.

One-by-one as Mehrotra answers my questions I guess this experience must be quite disparate for her. And when I assert, she agrees immediately and tells me: “It is a different world. I sometimes start crying when I am speaking for case studies.” That touching some stories are. In this course of meeting several people she has seen those who are doing well in their respected fields and those who are being cast out of their societies, discriminated, called names at, simply because of their orientation. She says it boggles her mind. People fail to understand that we are all the same, we are humans and that our sexual orientations should not come in between.

There are many stories which will absolutely inspire one and at the same time there are people who are closeted and fear to come out. “They do get some sense of relief by going through our Instagram page, other blogs, etc., but then they again go back to their own families. I want to tell them that there is absolutely, absolutely nothing wrong in being a gay or a lesbian and you should be proud about it,” Mehrotra expresses.

As I check the campaign’s Instagram page I realize that these are the stories that should be brought into the limelight. They are indeed inspiring and above all, positive.

But will this campaign be limited to stories only? No. Through Fifty Shades of Gay, Shubham also wants to reach out to the parents of the kids who come out in the open about their sexuality. “Parents often don’t know what to do. They can come and speak to us and we’ll provide them with information and refer them to the right person,” she asserts and states that parents should be proud of their LGBTQ kids!

Mehrotra can be called as another messiah for the LGBTQ community, who has great plans to bring out more encouraging and motivating stories through her page, and create awareness.

As our interview progresses, Mehrotra shares an interesting encounter with me. She recently met a mother who has two sons, one of whom is gay. The mother has accepted her gay son and is as proud of him as she is of her other son. She told Mehrotra that her gay son spends time with her, goes out for shopping with her and they share a great bond; where as the elder son, who is a heterosexual, comes home from work and heads straight to his room and spends time with his wife. “Acceptance is crucial in life, you know. So, this mother told me that she could come and speak to the other parents, which could change their thoughts, outlook and perceptions” Mehrotra says.

In the forthcoming months, she plans to conduct an event promoting the talent of the LGBTQ community. “We also need counsellors for parents. We are going to start a helpline for parents, soon and we’ll have an email-id for the parents to feel free to write to us,” she informs and adds, “I think with the parents’ counselling all will do very well because I think some parents would love to speak to other parents. It will be great if they come and speak to psychologists and clear the wrong notions they have. It will help to change the mentality a lot. This will also help a lot of people to come out of the closets and the awareness level will also certainly grow.”

Each and every individual contributes to the country’s development and snatching away the rights of any particular community, suppressing their rights will only affect the development process. Every person is talented in his or her own way. “People should accept and talk about this,” Mehrotra suggests. After all, we are all human beings and each one of us is different from one another in some aspect or the other.