|HOME | NEWS | COMMUNITY|
|June 26, 2000|
Of minorities within minorities
"You've got a hairy breast, honey!" someone shrieked, amidst rippling laughter.
I turned around to look. The person in question was dressed in a shimmering, sequined, electric blue sari and wore sunglasses. And 'her' name, I found out later, was Piyush *.
This was the DesiQ2000 conference, at its fun, outlandish best. It was Friday night and I was at the open-to-all Gala Banquet, which was part of the conference.
The conference was organized by Trikone, a non-profit organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (collectively termed 'queer') of South Asian descent. Trikone is the oldest group of its kind in the world and is based in San Jose, California.
DesiQ2000 was held in San Francisco last week from June 22-24 to celebrate the identity of the South Asian queer community and deal with their issues in the new millennium. About 300 people attended the banquet at the St Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco. The dimly lit hall featured large round tables with candles and appetizers.
Keynote speakers for the evening were Shyam Selvadurai, author of the critically acclaimed Funny Boy, who read from his recently published Cinnamon Gardens, and Surina Khan, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. An activist, she identifies herself as a "Left, progressive, Pakistani lesbian".
The evening's programme also included a performance by two women of an Indian dance with a lesbian twist, called 'Dui Nari -- Natya Rambhe' (Two Women -- The Beginning of Dance).
In addition, Trikone honoured one organization and two individuals with its Pink Peacock Awards.
Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Centre, which bagged one award, is a comprehensive, non-profit HIV/AIDS services organization in North America targeting Asian and Pacific Islander communities. The staff at API Wellness Centre speaks 16 languages, proof of their commitment to understand and help these very diverse communities.
Years ago, journalist and writer Arthur J Pais received a pamphlet from Trikone. Unsure how to even pronounce the name, he thought it would be fun to write about people that he knew little of.
"It's been an interest for 15 years," he said in his award acceptance speech. "Among the many interesting people that I've met," he says, "the gay and lesbian people have been the most interesting."
Dipti Ghosh, first woman co-chair of Trikone, received her award amid loud cheering and clapping from the audience. She has helped innumerable queer south Asians orient themselves to their community and find others like themselves. Her popularity was an easily evident fact. When the presenter requested all those who knew Dipti to "please stand", almost everyone did.
Following a North Indian dinner, the crowd hit the dance floor while Algerian-born DJ Cheb I Sabbah kept the rhythm going with world music.
Trikone worked hard to make DesiQ2000 as accessible as possible. So 60 per cent of their total budget was spent on getting people over. They helped over 50 activists by granting them travel scholarships and registration waivers. Grants from the Ford Foundation, the Astrea Foundation, and personal donations gave another 20 activists from abroad the opportunity to attend this conference.
Co-presenters and supporters of Trikone include groups as far-flung as Aanchal in Bombay to Sangini in New Delhi, Sangat in Chicago to SALGA in New York. There are many others. Trikone itself has chapters in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and Austin.
The people at the banquet had their own reasons for being there. Mustafa, vice-president of a company in Pakistan, had flown all the way just for the conference. He hoped to learn enough to go back and actively support the queer community in his country.
Reshma and Suman, two middle-aged women, work with women's issues in Delhi. They believe the conference will empower them in their own same-sex relationships. And then there were people from places like Singapore, South Africa and England.
Kishore from San Diego summed up what might have been uppermost in most people's minds: "Being a minority in a minority, DesiQ2000 provides a golden opportunity for me to network."
SINGLES | NEWSLINKS | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEATHER | MILLENNIUM | BROADBAND | E-CARDS | EDUCATION
HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK