Pride Month 2023: 10 Queer Icons From India

Doctors, filmmakers, athletes and lawyers; here are 10 Indian queer icons you must acquaint yourself with this Pride month.

Published On Jun 09, 2023 | Updated On Mar 08, 2024


India, a nation with a rich cultural legacy and a long history of traditions, has long struggled with gender and sexuality-related social conventions. However, a strong and determined queer community has recently developed, bravely defying the existing quo and clamouring for acceptance, acknowledgement, and equal rights. A number of remarkable people have emerged inside this unprecedented movement to become pillars of courage, optimism, and change.

These superstars have defied stereotypes, smashed barriers, and opened up conversations that were formerly regarded as taboo thanks to their tremendous talents, steadfast energy, and unrelenting passion. They have used the strength of their voices, creativity, and activism to create a more tolerant and inclusive India where everyone can live authentically and with pride.

Each of these icons has helped the queer community become more visible and influential while questioning mainstream expectations and changing popular narratives. Their experiences serve as an example of the gay community's tremendous power and resiliency and the significant influence that representation and visibility can have on promoting acceptance and understanding.

We seek to empower and inspire others, both inside and outside the queer community, by displaying the accomplishments and adventures of these exceptional people. Their experiences serve as a reminder that the fight for equality is always being waged and that everyone's journey is worthwhile and unique. We can all work together to create a society that is more compassionate and inclusive by honouring diversity and celebrating these queer legends.
Join us as we explore the lives and contributions of 10 queer icons from India, each representing a distinctive aspect of the community and exemplifying the transformational potential of accepting oneself. They have paved the road for a better, more inclusive future where love knows no bounds and acceptance is the rule via their creativity, activism, and unrelenting resolve.

Menaka is a senior Supreme Court at and adjunct professor at Yale, New York University, and other institutions. Menaka was instrumental in the repeal of Section 377, which outlawed homosexual unions.

Arundhati was a member of the legal team that played a key role in the decriminalisation of Section 377. Arundhati has also contributed to the cases of the 2G spectrum scam and the murder of Jessica Lal. 

Keshav is a businessman who also speaks out vehemently in support of the rights of the LGBTQ community. He signed one of the petitions that led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 2018. Keshav performs the duties of the executive director of the Lalit Hotels at work.

Abhina Aher is a transgender rights advocate, dancer, speaker at TEDX, and all-around champion. To assist sex workers and the transgender community, among others, Abhina has worked with The Humsafar Trust, Johns Hopkins University Centre for Communication Programme, and India HIV/AIDS Alliance.

In addition to being a superb athlete, Dutee Chand was the first openly LGBT athlete from India. Due to her testosterone levels being greater than what was deemed 'permissible', Dutee was prohibited from taking part in competitions in 2014. She did, however, pursue a case against the IAAF, and after the Supreme Court ruled in her favour, she achieved a historic triumph.

Apurva Asrani is the author of Aligarh and a co-author of Shahid. He has been outspoken about his connection with his ex-boyfriend Sidharth, inspiring others to follow suit. Last year, the couple received an outpouring of support and love after his tweet including a picture of his nameplate with Sidharth went viral.

Parmesh Shahani is the director of the Godrej India Culture Lab and the author of the books Gay Bombay and Queeristan: LGBTQ Inclusion in the Indian Workplace. He has worked hard to ensure the corporate inclusion of the queer population and has been an advocate for their rights.

Harish Iyer is an activist who has fought for the acceptance and fair treatment of the LGBTQ community as well as other causes including the sexual exploitation of children and other animals. One of the loudest advocates of equal rights in India, Harish has appeared on numerous shows, including Gaycation with Elliot Page. The movie I Am is based on their inspirational life.

A doctor by training, Trinetra has been speaking out about concerns affecting transgender persons in India. She speaks out a lot about different elements of her life, inspiring many people and giving them hope.

Grace Banu was the first transgender student to enrol in an engineering programme in Tamil Nadu. She is a writer and a transgender and Dalit rights activist. After Grace's family rejected her due to her gender identification, she was able to finish her studies with the aid of crowdsourcing funds.

Photo: Shutterstock