Breaking stereotypes with Sushant Divgikr
Sushant Divgikr aka Rani KoHenur wears several hats, from being Mr. Gay 2014 and now a pageant director, to being a drag icon, a singer, columnist, actor, model and VJ, a fashion trendsetter within the LGBTQIA+ community, a reality TV star and social media influencer, he’s done it all. Celebrating Pride month in a candid chat with 6Degree, Sushant opens up about the stereotypes the community shouldn’t be subjected to in 2021, within fashion and cinema and the changes he hopes to see in the near future.
Written with love by Natasha D'Souza
You are known to be a style diva and an influencer. Are there any fashion related stereotypes the community faces as consumers, that shouldn’t exist in 2021?
I am a consumer and it’s not up to you to tell me what to consume and how to consume. If an item is put up on the rack anyone can buy it. I could be transgender; I could be binary or someone who doesn’t adhere to the gender binaries, but I want to go to the store and pickup whatever I like. Something as simple as that needs to change. It’s time that fashion labels introduce gender neutral dressing. In 2021, there is no place for these demarcations and compartmentalizing people on the basis of gender and sexuality. Fashion has always been very fluid; garments don’t have a gender so why are we attaching one to it? We have always had a rich culture of androgyny even during the times of Rajas and Maharajas. So why do we have to adhere to the colonial mindset that we still haven’t let go of? When people start losing this argument, they bring in religion.
It’s all about choice and why is there so much taboo attached to it? Today I may want to wear a skirt and wear trousers tomorrow! Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean I will not wear it. You are not some fashion police and neither are you paying my bills. If I am male but my gender expression is female is the designer going to tell me not to buy a lehenga? If I’m paying 10 lakhs it’s your loss if you don’t sell me the lehenga. So people need to understand there are no rules in fashion, yes there are trends but they are ever changing.
How does one sensitize people?
Something as simple as gender neutral toilets need to be introduced in stores. For example, if someone is transgender and visits the womens washroom the women get uncomfortable and vice versa, where do the trans people go? Just because you have men, women and other written on government forms doesn’t, mean that will sensitize people.
Toxic masculinity should be curbed and if people make hate remarks against the community they should be arrested. In our country when a girl is raped people immediately start doubting her character. They start survivor shaming. If you adhere to such beliefs, it doesn’t mean you impose it on to me.
Portrayal of the community in films and TV shows has been a matter of debate for a while now. What are your thoughts about this questionable representation?
The portrayal is not just unrealistic, it's criminal how queer characters are portrayed. We as audiences are also to blame. Making fun of a queer person is just like making fun of someone who is fat or thin, or dark skinned or too fair. We had not raised our voices over the years because we were marginalized and no one listened to us. Today we have allies in the media who listen to our stories and we need to come together to tell filmmakers stop this content, it’s not acceptable, it's neither funny nor respectful.
I don’t want to name a director who is obviously gay but has made so many films where the manner in which he has portrayed queer characters is terrible. I feel ashamed that he is part of the community because he has done nothing for us, secondly, he is portraying us in bad light because of his insecurities. All these directors are so insecure that they make fun of the community for cheap thrills. They don’t realize what the recuperations of these jokes are!
How does this stereotypical representation quash the efforts of those fighting for the rights of the community?
Mainstream cinema is a big influence among the masses in our country. Then these people portray us as sexual predators, who don’t have a life, all we do is pounce on men. Fact is I don’t even look at a man when I enter a room, men look at me and get intimidated. I am successful and have worked hard to be where I am. Then filmmakers claim that these characters are inspired from real people, maybe but how can you generalize? By that logic I should have the notion that every straight man is a rapist because that’s how you portray gay people. You have not shown a transgender as a doctor or a High court judge, engineer or anything else.
I am extremely effeminate, but I don’t speak in an exaggerated high-pitched voice, neither do I flip my hands all the time, I would end up with a sprain. We have to call people out because if we don’t, they will keep portraying the community like this thinking no one is speaking out.
There are people on the streets selling their bodies because they are unemployed, they are the ones bearing the brunt of the cheap thrills by these elitist filmmakers who live in mahals inherited from their fathers. These people are abominations for society because of the terrible way in which they portray other people. People who can’t make respectable scripts for queer people should quit their job. The last thing we need is to be stereotyped and discriminated against because of people like them.