Shyam Konnur, a famous figure based in India for his active contributions to the LGBTQ+; not only an activist but a role model for people going through tough changes when accepting their sexuality or sexual preferences especially considering the region of the world they are situated in, their family virtues and religious upbringings.
Shyam agreed to answer a few questions in order to spread awareness about how pride and commitment can bring about the sort of power that can build a community practically anywhere.
What is the role of an LGBTQ+ Activist?
An Activist is a person who creates a positive change but not every one who work towards a change can label themselves as ‘activist’ is a title they acquire. Like a famous saying – “The only way to deal with an unfair world is to become absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion” – Albert Camus. So basically every one who stand up and voices out any injustice that’s happening in their life will get titled as ‘Activist’. For an LGBTQ+ Activist it’s important to understand that their fight is not only about their sexual orientation or Gender orientation; but there are many other factors or lives or related issues to deal with LGBT moment. It is an intersectional moment. An example being; a gay man is not only facing the issue of being gay but he could be a Dalit and gay, Muslim and gay, he could be a part of many other struggles. Similarly, lesbians may face trouble from her birth for being a women, and homosexual, as well as may be Muslim or Dalit.
An LGBT activist usually likes to be known as Equal rights activist as he not only deals with the fact that he wants rights for LGBTQ+ population but needs equal rights for all human beings.
What made you want to become an activist?
I never choose to be an activist. The day I came out to my self and accepted my sexuality I realized there are 100’s of Shyams out there who must be struggling and feel that they are alone so standing out creating awareness was my aim to tell the world we are not alone, there are many of us. I also wanted to create an equal space so I can openly walk hand in hand with my partner. Feel free to hug and kiss my partner like any other heterosexuals would be able to do. Dress as I like ands express my self as anyone would like to be free. My act of involvement in fighting for what I believe and organizing protests activities got me the title as activist. For a long time I explained to people that I’m not an activist I’m creating change for my own future so I live free but now I’m use to the word activist and acknowledge it.
Is there anything in particular that stands out in your line of work that you love more than anything else?
Activism is not my work but now it has become part of my life. I work at a HCM company after my work I dedicated all my free time to the community. Some times I feel I need a break and give my self and my partner some time but I end up with some or the other community work as it makes me feel complete. It makes me feel happy when I see that people are looking up to me for some thing to happen or call me when they are in need. I feel furious when I know something wrong is happening to some one from the community I just want to spread my hands and bring under a protected circle. The thing I love most about community work is to see hope and happiness in the eye of my family(community) to see the courage that is generated by just being a example to see more activists grow by just showing them the importance of standing for what they believe.
What are some of the struggles faced in your line of work?
There have been times when I have received threats from other Rightwing political parties and some local goons for organizing queer events and awareness programmed. Not only from them but also from the Police when we go to acquire police permission for events we get harassed. Which in turn affects our mobilization of community to take part in rallies and even social events sometimes.
Was there a specific cause you felt particular close to? And why?
LGBTQ+ rights is a Cause; but if it’s about any specific incident, then there have been a few incidents that I particularly relate to:
- When a young boy committed suicide the next day post a Pride parade because his parents saw him at pride in a live telecast and I felt it was because of me as I was the organizer of the Pride.
- When my trans friend was stopped by the security guard of a mall just because she was a transgender. You could find it on google when searched for me “Shyam konnur” or my friend “Vyjainthi mogli.”
Are your family and friends supportive? How do you deal with negative feedback?
My family was not supportive and now they have come to terms to an extent they believe in not talking about it to me. Luckily my friends are very supportive and I have lost few friends because of their phobia. I have always tried to show the positive and the importance of our fight and how could this reduces stress or struggle of a LGBT person in his daily life; this has made many friends to be allies and so, help organize and stand by my side when I organize social events or protest and rallies.
Is there anything you would like to convey to future passionate activists or members of the LGBTQ+ community facing hardship or unfavorable conditions?
Yes , I would suggest to be open not only about your sexuality or gender but also about the ideas of other community members be it old or young collaborate unite. The biggest struggle in Indian LGBT community is not being united by idea, instead just by the Cause. When people join together the fight is bigger and stronger.