“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
– Audre Lorde
In a world where queer voices have long been quashed, it is more important than ever to provide platforms where such voices that are often pushed to edge are brought to the fore. With this end in mind, a new six-part podcast series for the BBC Voices in the UK has award-winning poet and a gay rights activist Aditya Tiwari – who hails from Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh – at the forefront. Tiwari has contributed as a writer for national as well as international publications, and is the author of a book of poetry, April is Lush.
Tiwari is the first under-25 queer, South Asian, Indian, to host his own six-part podcast for BBC Voices. “It’s startling yet amazing that a platform like BBC Voices has recognised my voice and all that I have to offer — it’s truly phenomenal.”
Having completed his Master’s in Journalism from the University of East Anglia, Aditya began his journey for this six-part podcast with BBC Voices based on the theme of male mental health. “We will be engaging in a heart-searing, yet tender conversation that we think will act like a little mechanism to spark a new conversation exploring the nuance of men’s mental health,” says Tiwari, describing the essence of the podcast.
This podcast not only weaves the many narratives and insights into male mental health but also consists of a diverse range of voices while doing so, including “a queer person of colour on how they navigate their identity in a heteronormative white-dominated society, an older gay man to talk about how they navigate between the blurred line of age and queerness, and an effeminate gay man about the difficulties of being their true self and the stigma they face both within the community and outside”.
These stories, that the listeners come face-to-face with while listening to the podcast, are at the crux of Tiwari’s being as well, as some of these stories are connected to his own identity and his experiences of growing up as a queer person in India. The podcast aims to bring these accounts to the mainstream.
Tiwari grew up in the quaint town of Jabalpur, where the acknowledgement of queer existence was next to none. He started navigating through his queer identity at the age of 13 in hushed voices, in neighbourhood parks, in comforting conversations with strangers – all in the dark.
“As a 15-16-year-old, I had witnessed everything. From police brutality to people being beaten and mugged. Over the years, I became more expressive and resilient and in 2017, I fell victim to a serious homophobic attack about which I opened up very recently,” he says.
Aditya resonates with the different experiences of the queer people he converses with in the podcast as he finds the warmth of relatability in his own journey in queerness. In the first episode, in conversation with Oliver, a trans man, they recount how they feel unsafe walking alone at night, in the UK, due to the mistreatment they’ve had to face, something they have never had to face back in their village in Norwich. This is an instance that Tiwari himself relates to as a person of colour in the UK as well as someone who identifies as queer.
“For queer people, talking about politics, colour and intersectionality basically means a death sentence even within the community or rather communities, it is extremely substantial for me to bring in these conversations through the weavers of art and words,” Tiwari explains.
His push for the maximum amplification of these narratives, and for creating a constant safe space for these to unravel, is a never-ending one. He believes that these queer narratives should be handled and voiced by queer people themselves, and he adds to this short, but growing list another platform and outlet for queer voices to be heard across the world. “I feel that platforms do matter because as queer people we don’t necessarily need acceptance, we just need acknowledgement.”
You can listen to the podcast here, beginning at 18.00.
Ujjaini Dutta is a writer, graphic designer and bookworm set out to start conversations through written words and visual storytelling.
Featured image (editing): Ujjaini Dutta