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Chennai’s LGBTQIA community finds a safe space at The Queering Mic

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Queer performers felt at home in the midst of an inclusive audience at the first edition of the recently-concluded The Queering Mic, an open mic for queer people to express themselves safely

Queer performers felt at home in the midst of an inclusive audience at the first edition of the recently-concluded The Queering Mic, an open mic for queer people to express themselves safely

There aren’t enough safe spaces for queer people to share their stories through art, poetry or comedy. This was the moot question that prompted Abhirami Rao and Rudhra Jayachandran to come up with The Queering Mic, an open mic for queer performers to showcase their work or even just talk about themselves. “The whole point of this is that there are no judgements, no expectations. You’re coming here to perform something you want to in front of an audience who is there to listen to you,” says Abhirami, co-founder of the city-based poetry and storytelling organisation, An Unexplored Mic (@anunexploredmic).

The event was jointly organised by Kizhinja Kaagitham (@kizhinja_kaagitham), an organisation that aims to give amateur writers in Chennai a platform to showcase their work. Through The Queering Mic, the organisers intend to amplify the voices of the queer community and create an environment where they would be comfortable sharing stories with an inclusive, accepting audience. 

“While we appreciate allies coming out and telling stories about queerness, we want queer people to tell their own stories, however they want. As a queer person myself, I’m quite shy, I won’t bring up a queer topic that easily unless it’s my closest circle of friends. That’s why we were very insistent, we wanted queer performers only,” says Abhirami.

Pragathi Shankar on stage

The recently-concluded event had nine participants who shared their personal stories, journeys of discovering themselves, and coming to terms with their sexuality and gender. While some performances were on the lighter side, others did share how disconnected they felt at times. Others had an underlying anger aimed at a world that alienated them from their loved ones.

“This was my first queer event out of my immediate social circle and it was a very positive experience. The way everyone spoke and behaved put me at ease, to the point where I spoke about my own trauma which is surprising for me,” says Chand (name changed), an audience member turned participant we caught up with.

The event also saw people sharing their experiences discovering their sexuality and gender identity at a later stage in life, sometimes even after marriage and having children. The Queering Mic gave people a space to talk about their journeys of confusion about their sexuality and gender identity, realisation and finally, coming to terms with who they are.

An aspiring comedian felt that The Queering Mic was the best place to try out some of their queer material because they were apprehensive about how they would be received by audiences in other open mics. After their hilarious set about transphobic comedians and the evolution of their gender identity over the pandemic, this is what they had to say – “I’m really glad that spaces like this exist. They’re rare and should be more of them. Lots of people have different kinds of stories and they should all be celebrated.

With Abhirami planning to make this a recurring event, The Queering Mic is set to return soon.



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