Sushant Divgikar, LGBTQ+ activist, Social construct
LGBTQ+ activist, performer and the winner of 2014 Mr. Gay India, Sushant Divgikar says it is “preposterous that some people think dehumanising an entire community of people is “funny and that it is OK to do so”.
The singer and drag icon also released and featured in a music video titled ‘Diamond’ and has recently crossed a million followers on social media.
The influencer-activist is also known under his drag alter ego Rani Ko-He-Nur. Divgikar joined the country’s singing competition, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, which was broadcast on national television in 2018 — the same year the Indian Supreme Court repealed the Section 377 law criminalizing homosexuality.
Having been in the entertainment space since a decade and a half, Divgikar has been roped in by corporate houses and non-profits alike to discuss equality and equity and support their respective inclusion and diversity campaigns. Using his art to break barriers and by embracing his masculine and feminine side, he inspires people from all over the world to find courage to live their life fiercely and freely. He is also an industrial psychologist.
This Pride Month, Sushant Divgikar speaks in an interview:
You have been an active part of the entertainment and lifestyle industry for quite a few years. Would you say the journey to fame and success is more challenging for people with non-cishet identities?
Sushant: Yes. Now that you reminded me , it’s been 15 years I have been actively part of the entertainment industry. I wouldn’t say one person’s struggle is more or less than another’s but if you see an entire section of society such as the LGBTQIA+ community, that has constantly been dehumanised and discriminated against time and time again , you will instantly realise that a queer person’s life is met with by struggles and hurdles at every juncture. We need to be more mindful and be more inclusive as well as empathetic to sexual minorities and other minority groups that are glazed rather subconsciously by toxic patriarchy, toxic preconceived notions and unsettling, continuous conditioning!
Do you find enough mainstream representation of people from the LGBTQIA+ community? What are some stereotypes we can do away with?
Sushant: Absolutely not! Queer people are, in fact, misrepresented nearly all the time. We need to do better, collectively ! We have a lot of blood on our hands because of the way we have so conveniently made queer characters in mainstream pop culture and media, the laughing stock at every given opportunity. It is preposterous that some people think dehumanising an entire community of people is efunny’ and that it is OK to do so.
One of the certain stereotypes we need to do away with is that every queer person should only be shown as overly flamboyant. Another ridiculous and catastrophic stereotype we have we do away with is queer characters made to look like their libido is constantly touching the ceiling and that they will throw themselves at every person in the room. I especially detest instances where some filmmakers have shown gay characters literally looking like sexual predators and being disrespectful and bitchy all the time.
You have released your music video ‘Diamond’ this year. It speaks of rising above ‘labelling’ and acceptance of all. What are your thoughts about the song and video?
Sushant: Yes, that’s right. I thought of creating ‘Diamond’, along with my fellow bandmate, amazing musician and dear friend, Arthur Lobo along with our manager Niki (Parambir Kaur). We have spent a lot of time on this baby and we wanted people to experience what I personally have experienced more than once, empowerment. Empowerment because of self love and self acceptance. The song speaks of identifying one’s self worth and then celebrating it to become the truest, most authentic version of themselves. Each and every one of us is a diamond in our own right and that’s what the song portrays.
Do you think ‘Drag’ as a concept is understood in India outside designated safe spaces?
Sushant: Yes I do. I actually think we don’t give as much credit to our audiences as we should give. We are quick to judge the audiences without even understanding that they are open to learning and understanding the content they consume. More often than not, we put forth rubbish, senseless and mediocre content for them to consume because we think, they might not be evolved enough to understand intellectual and stellar content. But how can we judge the audiences when we haven’t even tried?
My audiences didn’t know what drag is. But today with the epower of art’, social media and other mediums of communication, such as radio , television and print media, I have made even people in remote villages and smaller towns, understand what drag is.
Despite homosexuality being decriminalized, there remain cultural and psychological barriers to its acceptance. Your thoughts.
Sushant: This is because some people in power (not generalising) are extremely toxic and don’t want to accept ground realities. They would rather be blissfully unaware about things they don’t know that confront what makes them uncomfortable — uncomfortable because they don’t have a clear conscience.
I agree. The psychological and cultural acceptance has still to grow in India but I believe that day is not far. Till that day comes, I just want to tell trolls and haters that your opinions and statements about me or anyone else, can never and will never dictate our realities.
People from the community often have trouble finding LGBTQIA-friendly psychologists and therapists. Being a psychologist too, how do you view this inaccessibility to non-judgmental mental health care for people who are often even more sidelined by the status quo?
Sushant: Mental health professionals who judge their clients should immediately resign! That’s all. There’s nothing more or less to add or subtract. Plain and simple. It is against ethics to judge and discriminate against your client, especially if you’re a mental health professional.
This month is Pride Month. Your message?
Sushant: I just want to tell everyone out there , regardless of whether you’re part of the rainbow family or not. Live and let live and love and let love.