“We must get into the mode of solidarity and acceptance, but that shouldn’t be limited to a single day or month. I celebrate pride every day,” Mayyur Girotra told Zee Zest during a candid chat around Pride Month 2023. The wedding couturier made India proud earlier this month by opening the New York City (NYC) Pride Parade 2023. Mayyur’s showcase, which was done in association with Pride at Google and the Indus Google Network Employee Resource Groups, featured his maiden luxury pret range called Aikya, meaning unity. It comprised boho-chic and eclectic gender-fluid ensembles like trenchcoats, high-waisted pants, kurta shirts, skirts, bomber jackets, and ski jackets. Each ensemble represented the fashion designer’s humble attempt to delve into the vibrant world of fashion through the lens of inclusivity, diversity, and self-expression.
“It was so soul fulfilling,” Mayyur expressed to Zee Zest, “I feel like my fashion is bringing about a change, even if it happens just for two people, I am going to be proud and successful.”
As the world applauded Mayyur for his thought-provoking intersection of fashion and identity on a global stage, we spoke to the fashion designer to understand his thoughts on pride, fashion as a form of expression, where our own country stands when it comes to acceptance for the LQBTQ+ community, and how we can be more sensitised towards the said community.
Read the edited excerpts below:
Where does India stand in the whole scene of acceptance and solidarity for the LGBTQ+ community?
We haven’t reached a stage of acceptance yet. Even in the metro cities, there is a certain discomfort, but we need to work towards making it a norm. And gradually, we will reach the small towns, where things are even more disturbing right now. We must get into the mode of solidarity and acceptance.
Tell us about your journey of acceptance.
I lived half of my life in the closet. My father had a clue, but we never discussed it openly because he thought it might be a shocker for my mother. I came out to my mother around 11 years ago, and she surprised me with her reaction. She became my biggest support – my father and sister aren’t far behind. I came from a family who wouldn’t understand this concept easily back then, but honestly, I didn’t care much because my core was (and still is) my family. I somehow had that strength in me to not care.
Since then, it has been very functional in our family. I still wouldn’t say normal, but we are all like: “it is what it is”.
From then to now, has the state of the LGBTQ+ community evolved in India, in terms of perception?
A lot has changed. More and more bodies (organisations and groups), more and more people are coming out, and there is so much knowledge being spread about the topics on social media. There is so much that can be read and seen, and there is so much more awareness being created through media, cinema, art, and fashion. I think gradually we’ve reached a progressive state, but, at the same time, there is a long way to go. In metro cities, where people are out there, well read, there is a lot of acceptance. But back in the day, even metro cities were struggling to accept.
So, when you see something, how it becomes fashion or trend, that is how LGBTQ lifestyle must be and it is how it is becoming. That is why Pride is so important, marches are important, and talk shows are important. We must educate people who are still not open to this whole concept that exists since the inception of humanity, this reality of life. How can you deny something that has always been there?
You said fashion can help generate more awareness. Please elaborate on how it can do so.
Earlier, if you’d step out in a suit, people would assume that you are a doctor, an engineer, or a businessman. But today, fashion has become so much more fluid. There are things that I’d buy, and my sister would be like we are going to share this. That’s the kind of fashion we are experiencing today. Even in terms of dressing up, everyone has their individuality, and they choose their looks accordingly. And that is accepted so well.
I love the fashion scene in New York because you see people beautifully express themselves through fashion. I get amazed at the efforts people put in and how they want to be identified is shown through their garments. Earlier, guys would be scared to wear a skirt, but today, maybe not.
One life, why would you not live it? Who is anyone to control someone else’s freedom, how they want to dress, and how they want to live? How they want to be and who they want to love? The moment you are out of your mother’s womb, it is your right – to embrace yourself and no one can take that away from you.
What does Pride Month mean to you and your community?
So when it started, I actually didn’t understand why we would need a particular month to celebrate Pride. Why couldn’t it be an everyday thing? But I understand that these bodies were created to build awareness. And right now, we need to educate more and more people, and make them feel comfortable.
For me, personally, it is an ongoing process. It has to happen every day, it has to be celebrated every day.
How are the millennials and Gen Z helping the community?
I am so happy about the way these generations are so open and vocal about it. I can’t explain what I went through as a kid, and I know how difficult it was for me. I used to literally feel: “oh, is this how I must live my life and is this how my family is going to be? Will I be so suppressed?” But today I see a welcome change, where individuals from these generations are talking to their parents so openly. At such a young age that too. This gen Z has more acceptance.
How can people be more sensitised towards the LGBTQ community and make them feel included?
We have a long way to go because here are people who don’t like to be addressed in a certain way. And altering that habit is going to take a lot of time for many. But one needs to understand where they come from, what is their story, and behave in a more sensitised manner. I know when we were growing up, in our DNA there is some sort of confusion happening. And you know how they say that don’t repeat the patterns of history. Don’t repeat the patterns and chains of your family. We must break those, we have not.
This interview between you and me, the fashion showcase [at NYC Pride], and these are the steps we need to bring about a change and more acceptance. More education on sex and gender is needed too. It is a subject of thought that teachers need to understand well before teaching.
What is your take on same-sex marriages and the LGBTQ+ community’s right to have a family?
If two people are bonding and they want to make a life out of it together then they must have the right. This again boils down to freedom – the right to choose your partner, the right to choose your own path. And then if you want to have kids then you need that right too. LOVE IS LOVE!