Same-Sex Love In and Out of India
For many South Asian Americans who identify on the GLBT spectrum, there are both cultural and national obstacles to expressing their gender identity or sexual orientation. Homosexuality is seen in some areas as an incursion of corrupt Western values, while individuals in diasporic communities may feel pulled between participating in their national community and in the queer community. Still, this split has been challenged in many arenas by GLBT South Asians or Asian-Americans who are out and actively assert their cultural identity. This panel brings together Professor Ruth Vanita, author of Queering India: Same-Sex Love and Eroticism in India, openly gay Indian-American comedian Vidur Kapur, and filmmaker Ishita Srivastava, director of Desigirls!, providing historical as well as contemporary perspectives and exploring questions of gender, sexuality and national identity both abroad and right here in New York.
Ruth Vanita is an Indian academic, activist and author who specializes in lesbian and gay studies, gender studies, and British and South Asian literary history. A professor in the Liberal Studies program at the University of Montana, Vanita is the author of several books including Queering India: Same-Sex Love and Eroticism in India, which explores how same-sex love and sexual relationships have been represented and discussed in Indian literatures for at least two millennia, devaluing the myth of homosexuality as a Western import.
Filmmaker Ishita Srivastava recently completed her Master's degree in Cinema Studies and documentary production at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. She is passionate about documentary filmmaking and is interested in pursuing this passion through a career in human rights advocacy work, and in the changing modes of spectatorship and the representation of minorities in Indian cinema. Her film, Desigirls!, follows the lives of 'A', who might never tell her family that she is a lesbian, and Priyanka, who lives with her girlfriend and is able to be open about her sexuality, as they explore the diverse and often fraught experiences of gay South Asian women in New York.
Vidur Kapur was nominated in 2008 for a "NewNowNext" Award by MTV Network's Logo as "Brink of Fame: Comic". He was one of the top three booked acts on US college campuses for '08-'09 and has catapulted barriers and moved South Asians and LGBT students from confinement on the margins to the campus core. Vidur was selected as a New York finalist by NBC's "Stand Up for Diversity" initiative and performed as part of the famous New York Comedy Festival where he was described as "a comedian to remember." Vidur and his stand up comedy are the subject of a short film called "Laughing Out Loud: A Comic Journey" by director Shalini Kantayya which was shown on Steven Spielberg's "On The Lot" on FOX television. He has toured internationally including Canada, India, the UK, Ireland, the Caribbean and South Africa.