My book

My book Gay Bombay: Globalization, Love and (Be)Longing in Contemporary India (Sage Publications) was released in 2008. You can buy it online on websites like Amazon.

On its release, Jyoti Puri, Director of the Graduate Program in Gender/Cultural Studies at Simmons College, Gay Bombay wrote: “Shifting seamlessly through the personal, the Gay Bombay community, the national and the transnational, the book gives the reader unique understanding into what is means to be gay and Indian.” Rachel Dwyer, Professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema, University of London, described Gay Bombay as “a path-breaking study of homosexuality in modern Bombay/Mumbai that will be essential reading for students of gender and sexuality.”

In its review, Mint wrote: “Well researched and written in a frank and conversational style, the book manages to bridge the gap between being heavily academic and serious and being frivolous and mushy.” Businessworld magazine’s review stated: “Gay Bombay comes highly recommended for anyone who is interested in how globalisation works, in India today, and Shahani’s pioneering study provides a multifaceted and illuminating introduction to a brand new scene.”

The book was originally written as my Master’s thesis in the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT. Here’s an interview I did with my mentor and thesis advisor Henry Jenkins, on his blog, soon after the book’s release:

Some of my other writing on LGBT issues at MIT made its way into the book Global Bollywood (NYU Press, 2008), co-edited by Aswin Punathambekar and Anandam Kavoori. The essay is called “The Mirror Has Many Faces: Reading Identity/Representational Politics Underlying Two Seminal Indian Works on Male Same-sex Desire” – and it is a comparative study of BOMgAY (India’s first “gay” film) and Gulaabi Aaina (India’s first “kothi” film.)

On July 2, 2009, about one year after the release of Gay Bombay, the Delhi High Court in a landmark judgment, decriminalized homosexuality in India by ‘reading down’ the controversial section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. The judgment drew the attention of the national as well as international press, and I commented quite prolifically on the same in the media at that time, through my own writing, as well as in articles written by others. Here are some of these articles:

Subsequently, I have argued for more LBGT visibility in the corporate workplace, through lectures given at events like the NASSCOM Diversity Summit 2011, on the corporate campuses of companies like Accenture, Google and Tata Steel, and through essays and interviews in magazines and newspapers. See:

On December 11, 2013, India’s Supreme Court, in a surprising verdict, revoked the Delhi High judgement, thereby effectively re-criminalizing homosexuality in India. The Indian government sought a review petition to this judgement, which the Supreme Court subsequently refused. I have been an active participant in conversations around this decision, in print, on television as well as in live events across the country.  Then, on April 15,  2014, India’s Supreme Court passed a positive judgement recognizing transgender rights in the country, recognising transgender as a “third gender”. 

When I finished writing my book, I thought that the project was complete. I now realize that its completion and publication were only the first steps of a long journey of articulation – a journey that still continues in multiple ways, such as, for instance, my participation in Project Bolo – India’s first LBGT oral history video archive, in creating conversations around LGBT issues at my current workplace, Godrej, by giving INK talks on India’s LGBT struggle, conducting conversations with LGBT legend Sir Ian Mckellen, shooting for Viceland’s Gaycation India with Hollywood actors Ellen Page and Ian Daniel, writing editorials for India Today magazine on creating a more inclusive plural India, and in arguing at forums like the World Economic Forum India Summit, alongside government ministers and other corporate representatives on the importance of LGBT diversity for our country.