How crowdfunding saved queer mag, The Gaysi Zine
Within minutes of meeting Priya, the editor of the queer magazine The Gaysi Zine, she hands me a postcard-sized poster. Titled ‘Sita chooses’, the black-and-white poster is the sketch of a woman’s swayamvara, where she holds a garland while surrounded by a crowd of both men and women. The message is loud, clear and potent. “The postcard is by one of our most talented contributors,” she smiles.
Priya and Anuja, with a copy of the second issue of The Gaysi Zine and (below) the cover artwork of the upcoming issue. Pic/Bipin Kokate
The magazine’s roots can be traced back to the Gaysi blog, www.gaysifamily.com, which was started in 2008. An ‘experimental’ print magazine was launched in 2011 and the second issue, which was the ‘first commercial magazine’, was printed in 2013. Both issues were self-funded. This year, the small team managed to crowdfund their third issue, which Priya says will be out for sale at Rs 150, somewhere between October 15 and 20.
From blog to magazine
While the print industry around the world is in a tearing hurry to go online, the Gaysi team decided to do the exact opposite in their quest to do something “different”. It doesn’t bother them that bookstores are shutting down or even that they all hold day jobs, leaving them with very little time to work on each issue. Priya, for instance, holds a corporate job in the city. The in-house designer, who goes by the name Fishead, brought out all 120 pages of the upcoming issue while juggling a day job as a graphic designer. “If you love something, let it kill you,” shrugs Priya. Anuja, who runs her own retail store, jokes that her colleagues have no idea what she does behind her computer. “But, it is stressful,” she says, turning serious.
There are other reasons for swimming against the tide. For starters, as Priya puts it, you never know when a server might crash. “Also, the whole idea of having the magazine in indie bookstores and college libraries was appealing. A few Delhi University professors bought copies for their college. We had a few students attend the Zine launch in Delhi last year, and have been writing in to us,” she explains. “Even in the best bookstore, it is so difficult to find a LGBTQ section. Even if there is one, it is at the far corner of the library, where people look around to ensure that no one is looking at them,” points out the 31-year-old. Anuja remembers the time a student wrote to them, from an unheard-of place in Tamil Nadu. “To think that the magazine permeated on its own, is great,” she explains.
‘Want to challenge stereotypes’
The team crowdfunded their upcoming issue via a 30-day project on a crowdfunding website which managed to raise R1,63,102. “Strangers from the UK, US, Canada and Australia contributed to the project. I even stalked them online and sent them thank you messages and emails asking how they came to know about us,” laughs Anuja. “We will plan the release of the magazine around events in cities such as Bangalore and Delhi, besides Mumbai. We are looking at fun things like slam poetry, story-telling sessions in Hindi and English or inviting someone to do a theatre piece,” explains Priya. An avid reader, she describes herself as someone who always loved listening to stories. This is perhaps reflected in the magazine, which is filled with personal stories and poems by contributors, usually about their sexuality. “We wanted to bring out something that would challenge the stereotypes people have of the LGBTQ community, like, ‘Oh, gay men are all about sex and one night stands’. Or, that lesbians are too butch or manly or too emotional,” she says. “I want someone to read our magazine and go ‘Arrey, this is my life. What is so different about this? Seriously, I want to make queer life very boring and regular,” Priya says, deadpan.