Man or woman but most of all, human

The camera shows the heart and soul of the queer community in a no holds barred web series, launched yesterday

The lives of Shivali Kumar, Chanchal Jain, Gautam Yadav and Justine Mellocastro feature in ‘Coming Out’, a web series that is based on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) community. Youth content portal, 101 India launched their series yesterday on their YouTube channel and website.

Justine Mellocastro (r) with mother Linda in a grab from the documentary by 101India
Justine Mellocastro (r) with mother Linda in a grab from the documentary by 101India

The ‘coming out’ stories across the LGBTQI spectrum, are an attempt to better understand and empower young people from the community. The series showcases seven stories for each of the Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red (VIBGYOR) rainbow colours.

Shivali Kumar, Gautam Yadav, Cyrus Oshidar, creative officer
Shivali Kumar, Gautam Yadav, Cyrus Oshidar, creative officer

There is transwoman, (born a man, now a woman) Shivali Kumar (27) who is a dancer. This Andheri resident says, “I have had my testicles removed and have been taking hormones for the last few months. In December, I hope to get my penis removal surgery done. I am trying my best to earn enough money for the R 2.5 lakh operation,” explains Kumar.

The film documents how challenging it has been for Kumar to find a job. “I was 23 when I decided to become a girl. It has been tough, many people have made fun of me and made life difficult. Through this film, I want people to see my life closely and see the human behind me, rather than just my gender,” she says.

The going has been easier for hair stylist Justine Mellocastro who has worked with Bollywood star, Kalki Koechlin. The Yari Road resident is a lesbian and runs an accessory company with her partner.

This 25-year-old says, “I have always been a tomboy and my family has been open and accepting. Self-confidence in being who I am, has been the biggest plus. The film on me profiles my life at work and at home, as well as my passion for swimming. This film is my attempt to express my comfort at being me.”

Transman (born a woman, now a man) Chanchal Jain lives in Santacruz. “I have had my breasts removed and am now taking testosterone. I want to remove my uterus and ovaries soon. My parents and family have accepted me and I have decided to share my story through the documentary to inspire others,” says the 25-year-old. As a child, Jain says he never wore girl’s clothes and was very disturbed as he matured and developed breasts. “I went into depression. I hated my body. I went into a shell and stopped interacting with people. I am happy, now that I am on the road to becoming who I really am,” says the software engineer.
The film also features his girlfriend, where she talks about their relationship.

As we go along the rainbow, there is Delhi resident Gautam Yadav’s two coming outs, that have been chronicled. One is when this 25-year-old came out as gay at 17, and when came out as HIV positive at 18. He says, “I was shocked when I first learnt about being HIV positive. My family was very supportive during both my coming out phases. I have maintained a positive outlook. This will raise awareness and clear misconcpetions about HIV.” The film was shot over two days like others in the VIBGYOR collection. It shows Yadav’s life with his parents, father an autorickshaw driver and mother a homemaker. “Being the face of HIV is tough, but I feel that if people have a problem with me, they need to deal with it,” he says.

Cyrus Oshidar, Chief Creative Officer, 101India.com says, “We did a transgender project a year ago and that was the inspiration for this series. It is human stories of the people around us. Ashish Sawhney, director selected the subjects. The films show the struggles of young people in a country that has the draconian section 377.” The films are five to seven minutes in length and are released on 101India.com and their YouTube channel. “The films do not seek to make any political statement, but only highlight a marginalised group in society. Digital is a beautiful medium, without many ads, and it allows the audience the freedom to find the content they want,” ended the former MTV man.

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