Making a difference, one post a time
The 20-year-old behind the @LGBTMumbai Insta account on curating stories of queer Indians, and why no threat can stop her activism
Shrushti Mane was 17 when she started @lgbtmumbai on Instagram in 2016. As a queer person battling homophobia and binary notions of sexuality, it was her way of drawing attention to people such as her. The Instagram handle puts the spotlight on personal stories of queer Indians and issues related to LGBTQ discrimination.
Three years on, @lgbtmumbai has grown beyond Mane's expectations. So much so, that she doesn't have to go looking for people to share their stories. They find her. From 10 followers in the first year, it has now grown to over 16,000. Edited excerpts from
When and why did you create the @lgbtmumbai page?
As a teen, I faced difficulties understanding my own sexuality and 'fitting in' with my peers. When I started going to a university, I met a girl who identified as gay. She introduced me to burning LGBTQi issues. At the time, there was barely any active queer social media page in Mumbai, that I could approach and feel normal about my existence. So I created one in 2016. The motive was to give a platform to the oppressed queer Indians to connect and share their thoughts.
How do you go about finding stories of queer Indians?
I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of queer individuals who started DMing me on Instagram. The community has never been as small as you think. When I started uploading acceptance posts, many people could relate to it. They would approach me for discreet meet ups, workshops and seminars. After a couple of months, I started asking for content submissions. Even the closeted ones contributed on a big scale. People started sharing queer art work, articles, poems and ideas that could be implemented in normalising alternative gender and sexual identities.
How difficult is it to get people share their personal stories?
I don't recollect a day I had to go looking for somebody whom I could feature. That said, there is an enormous chunk of closeted LGBTQi people who want to remain under the radar, and I understand the privacy. The ones that have contributed, whether closeted or not, have been quite vocal about their experiences. Yes, they do break down emotionally at times while sharing their stories and I ensure I listen to them and comfort them. People have the right to express themselves without being harmed or criticised. Which is why social media platforms have the potential to create a revolution.
Why is it important to have these conversations?
Human beings have always been fluid in expressions, whether it's to do with culture, gender identity, race or sexual orientation. It's important to respect and not discriminate against these identities. Also, how one expresses their sexual, emotional or romantic desires under consent is so personal. Why discriminate against them?
Do you see a difference in the way people react to queer issues following the decriminalisation of section 377?
There has been a massive transformation. People think scrapping sec 377 has 'turned many people gay', but that's not the case. It's just that now people feel a lot safer to come out. We now have a large section of allies advocating for LGBTQi rights. Since the verdict, people have certainly started living a life of less invasive cruelty and more fluid expression.
Have you received any backlash for any of your posts?
A lot of homophobes message me and share conversion therapy details with me; they criticise my activities and even issue threats and ask me to shut down the platform. But this is so normal now, I have developed a thick skin.
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