It was in 2018 that Chennai Queer LitFest was born with an aim to create conversations about queer literature in India.
“When we were ideating for the fest, we realised that there is very little queer literature in our country. There is not enough representation of queer persons in literature as only a few publishers are willing to publish books on queer subjects. Not all queer persons are out (of the closet), and in case a writer is closeted, publishers don’t often understand the limitations of such an author. Through the fest, we wanted to highlight queer writers, their writings and also have allies take part in the discussions,” says Moulee, the curator of the lit fest and the co-founder of Queer Chennai Chronicles.
The festival, which stands as one among the few queer literature gatherings in the world, is being organised through a crowdfunding campaign. “If we brought in sponsors, we might have had restrictions on speakers and the kind of issues we would discuss about. So, we have raised about Rs 2 lakh through public funding to hold the fest. Most of the designers, photographers who would be working at the fest are doing it pro bono, as their way of supporting the community,” adds Moulee.
Among this year’s speakers include Member of Parliament (MP) from Chennai south and poet Thamizhachi Thangapandian, London-based writer/artist Hari Rajaledchumy, artist and community historian Maari Zwick-Maitreyi, Mumbai-based writer-activist Shals Mahajan, Bengaluru-based illustrator Vaijayanthi and Malayalam author Kishor. The festival’s director Gireesh adds that the discussions at the fest will also focus on inclusive writings for children. “In our country, queer writings are very rare and most of the queer literature that exists is written by non-queer persons. When we consider children’s literature, the representation is miniscule. It is important to expose children to non-stereotypical writings right from a young age. Apart from this, we will also be engaging in conversations on queer literature in Malayalam and the portrayal of art in literature and on translation of writings,” asserts Gireesh. Chennai Queer LitFest will be held on September 14 at Kavikko Convention Centre, Mylapore, from 10 am to 5.30 pm.