All this while, every kid is taught that ‘unity in diversity, that’s India’. But no one really takes an effort to elaborate the saying and justify it further with ‘inclusion’ too. All of us are aware of the fact that India is a diverse nation. But barely anyone is taught how to accept rich diversity. This time we bring to you the story of a person who decided to take a stand for all; equality for all which is irrespective of any fact. We unravel this time the story of Mr. Shyam Konnur.
Mr. Shyam Konnur is ‘Mr. Gay India 2020’ and founder & director of Mist (an online collective of LGBT activists from all over India). Mist aims at bringing the queer and ally community together to showcase their hidden talents. When Mr. Konnur was in his teenage, he started struggling with his sexuality and there wasn’t enough awareness and knowledge available readily in order to solve the same. However, above the mob mentality, he did understand his sexuality. Mr. Konnur’s sexuality was a thing that was making him stand apart from the typical Indian crowd. But he accepted the fact, “it’s okay to be who you are”. He soon realized that there are hundreds of people out there who are struggling for the same; struggling for being accepted for who you are. Someone had to take the responsibility to bring a change and Mr. Konnur decided to do the same for good. There, Mr. Shyam Konnur gave rise to Mist.
They started small following the pathway of ‘baby steps’. They used to organize small events for the community like Holi in order to bring everyone together. Homosexuality was considered a criminal offense until 2018. With new beginnings and legal changes after 2018, Mr. Konnur and the community members wanted to spread awareness. They adopted various creative methods of spreading awareness one of which is ‘Queer Metro’; they used to hold placards in the metro all along to spread awareness in a distinctive and noticeable manner.
Mr. Konnur was meanwhile also working incorporate. So, he started awareness in his workplace as well for a concept that is rarely introduced to any; ‘diversity and inclusion’. He came to Pune and started working for the cause here too. Initially, it was a bit burdening for him as the city was not that open up to these topics. However gradually, activities started taking place on a big scale and they started organizing events. It was a self-funded organization functioning majorly in Pune, Hyderabad, and Bangalore. Since it was for a good, social, and justifiable cause; the organization started noticing progress. They organized the very first ‘Out & Loud- Pune International Queer Film Festival’ in 2017 and its been successful 4 years of its victory and continuation. It is an annual event showcasing handpicked queer films from all over the world added to which there are performances and panel discussions. This festival is a fusion of awareness and entertainment in total.
As a kid, Mr. Konnur always desired to enter the field of films. However, he never had the correct time to experiment for the same. However, while doing community work; Mr. Konnur was suggested by many of his community members and friends to aim for Mr. Gay India and they only did his registration in the pageant on his behalf. Mr. Konnur says, “this field is different and not just based on looks”. His friend and community members supported him all the way and kept him motivated throughout. He also won a ‘People’s Choice Award’ and four awards in total apart from the title.
Self-acceptance was one of the major barriers that were faced by Mr. Konnur. During his teenage days, it was difficult for him to come out like the way he was, apart from the so-called India crowd. When he learned the art of acceptance, he had to face typical ideologies and societal norms. But Mr. Konnur decided to own it, irrespective of what the society commented and he did it in the most beautiful way. He also went a bit against the idea of the Pune Pride march as it only used to stand for the LGBTQ community. Pride is a subject for everyone and is the right of all i.e. every human being; irrespective of their sexuality, caste, race, gender, profession, or anything. There was majorly cis-gender representation in the pride march on which he used to object. He has been in issues with various NGOs for the same as well.
Mr. Konnur never lost his faith and belief in his own self. This is a major factor that has given him strength throughout to overrule any other complication. He even participated in ‘A Woman Walk- We Shall Go Out’. He says, “all sexes face hardships because of the same society”. He is extremely thankful to his community members and his friends who have supported him consistently. He also expresses his gratitude for his partner as he has been with and for Mr. Konnur always.
At present, he has been working with Ms. Sonali Dalvi for helping the trans community with essential supplies in Pune. The project started initially in Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune. But as the severity in Pune for Covid-19 became the maximum, they started focusing more on Pune. Due to Covid-19, they are even planning to organize this year’s Queer Film Festival online.
One should have pride in their identity, for who they are. Every other person is special, talented, and has the right to be included. Whenever in dark, ask and demand for the right way!
A personal message from Mr. Konnur “do not be scared of something new. Try to accept it and if you see something different, don’t get offended. Try to understand and accept the world. Only when you will accept the world, the world will accept the way you are”.