There are two books now! Please do buy my new book Queeristan: LGBTQ Inclusion in the Indian Workplace here; it was released by Westland Business in August 2020. Also, check out the updated 2020 edition of my first book Gay Bombay: Globalization, Love and (Be)Longing in Contemporary India (Sage Publications) here; it was first released in 2008.
Queeristan has been attracting positive press since its release. In her Bloomberg Quint review, Priya Ramani writes: “Shahani’s book is itself an experiment in inclusion, a fireside chat where he shares his bursting rolodex and his dreams with equal enthusiasm. First names are used, and all are invited to meet people whose ideas will contribute to building this New India.” In Moneycontrol.com’s review, Suhit Kelkar writes: “This warm and empathetic book will, at certain places, bring tears to your eyes with its themes of love, acceptance and dignity. It will inspire you to bring about change in your own way. If you’re a company CEO or HR head, or even the proprietor of your own concern, you can pick up this book and begin the journey towards making your workplace inclusive.” In Business Standard, Chintan Girish Modi writes that the book “has all the ingredients of a Bollywood blockbuster. There is a strong emotional core with dramatic tension, foreign locations, background music and special appearances.”
In Somak Ghoshal’s Mint Lounge review, he writes, “Shahani’s book smartly bridges the gap between specialist and general interest. While entrepreneurs, managers, policymakers, human resource executives and corporate employees are its obvious intended readers, Queeristan will appeal to everyone who is interested in ideas of fairness, justice and inclusivity. Shahani creates a map of LGBTQ+ lives and experiences over the years through interviews with individuals, analyses of law and policies, pop culture references, scholarly research and fieldwork. Most of all, he does not shy away from speaking in his own distinctive voice—a cross between a petulant uncle and gently coaxing elder brother.”
In The Voice of Fashion, Shefalee Vasudev, writes that “Queeristan sparkles with information and insight through the voices the book brings in; the legal, advocacy-related ‘serious’ research it wings in through its seemingly easy tone. It is a caravan of facts, figures and anecdotal histories. It moves from Shahani’s personal account as a gay man with a ‘gay job’, never a person who despairs or ducks under, to the mental health issues, societal challenges and emotional graphs of the LGBTQ community. Dress codes, love and loss, family, espousal rights and children, sex affirmation transitions, camp behaviour and dignity—it has it all.”
Other pieces on the book include “Indian companies are not homophobic, just ignorant” in Forbes India, “Coming out Stronger” in HT Brunch “Queeristan is a blueprint for a better normal”, in GQ, and “Queeristan Champions a a queer-inclusive workplace” in Femina.
On Gay Bombay‘s release in 2008, 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 2020 special anniversary edition includes new introductory chapters from Professor Ulka Anjaria of Brandeis University and Professor Kareem Khubchandani of Tufts University, who write about the importance of the book as one of the first scholarly accounts of queer life in contemporary India. It also includes an exclusive concluding conversation between me and Professor Dhiren Borisa of O. P. Jindal Global University, in which we reflect on the future queer histories that still need to be written. In its review of the revised 2020 edition, Gaysi wrote: “Since its publication in 2008 it has become the holy grail of information for those who wished to understand the nuances of being gay and desi — two identities that are inextricably linked, as Shahani points out through his study. What makes his work seminal is not just the fact that this was the first scholarly attempt to study and chart the growth and changes of the gay community but also in its seamless stitching together of the personal and public through anecdotes and research. It is personal and yet universal in its ability to point out the expectations and realities of the Indian gay community.”
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: http://henryjenkins.org/2008/09/gay_bombay_an_interview_with_p.html
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 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 recognising transgender as a “third gender”.
On September 6, 2018, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, including chief justice Dipak Misra, unanimously decided to scrap section 377, based on a review petition filed 2 years earlier, by dancer Navtej Johar and many other individuals and groups.
Here are some of my thoughts around this judgement.
When I finished writing Gay Bombay, 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, the book’s revised edition and my second book Queeristan, 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 or in Mint wishing for more trans employment, 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.