2020 has been a tumultuous year for the Indian queer community. The beginning of the year saw mass protests breaking out around the nation against the government’s CAA Act, the effect of which was witnessed within the community as well, creating a rift between individuals on either side of the philosophical wings. Then came the lockdown, further leading to severe mental health crises within members of the community who were stuck at home with their families.
To add to that, the podium of LGBTQ+ spaces rarely sees the mic being handed to the marginal and more vulnerable members of the the community, especially trans* and genderqueer individuals. Within the community then, while cis gay men enjoy the media spotlight as well as the accolades, others on the spectrum often get left behind. But the tides are definitely turning.
The ENBY or the Non-Binary Awards 2020 boast of being India’s first virtual LGBTQ+ award show. Enby is a term commonly used to refer to someone who identifies as non-binary or genderqueer i.e. outside the gender binaries of male and female. Given that very little focus is given to non-binary artists and voices, an award show that aims to celebrate the same is a welcome change. Conceptualised by makeup artist and stylist Elton Fernandez, the awards will feature 15 categories, and a range of performers from the queer community as well as celebrity allies.
“Initially I just wanted to keep it for my friends, with titles like ‘The Sluttiest Diva’ or ‘the Busiest Bitch of Bandra’,” says Fernandez. “But with time, that idea evolved into something bigger and better, and I realised I can actually celebrate queer and ENBY voices, with better titles for awards of course.”
A major focus of the awards is also to help non-binary and trans* folx through two investment prize categories. The first one is ENBY Roundtable which will award Rs 200,000 to an organisation working in the field of trans welfare. The second category is called “Chinna Chinna Aasai award”, which will award Rs 100,000 to a non-NGO group that looks after marginalised ENBY people. The winners for these categories will be revealed at the show.
The awards are also raising Rs 100,000 through the ENBY Health Fund to provide health aid to non-binary individuals who cannot afford it.
The other categories are Meghaduta (representing non-binary on a world stage), Mitrudu (non-binary allyship), Naaz-e-Qanoon (celebrating LGBTQ+) and Rang Rasa (performative art). “I wanted to keep the names for the categories India-centric but with a global appeal. I wanted to bring some of the west to India and take India to the west as well,” says Fernandez.
Thanks to Fernandez’ social clout, he’s managed to rope in quite a team to work with him on this, along with a brand sponsor in the form of Maybelline New York. Visual artist Ishaan Bharat, who got involved early on with the project, has put together the look for the event. The five-panel jury involves names like actor and human-rights advocate Aditi Rao Hydari, entrepreneur Praful Bawja, and trans rights activist Zainab Patel.
While an awards show is usually imagined as a glitzy, real life event, Fernandez is in fact glad to have had no option but to take this online. “This way, it saves on money spent usually on flying people down or organising the whole thing. The money can instead go to the welfare of non-binary and trans* folx.”
“I’m elated and over the moon to be a part of the ENBY awards,” says drag artist and singer Sushant Divigikr, who’s on the jury. “It’s going to be a beautiful celebration of all the denominations within the queer spectrum and I’m just glad I’m part of the process.” Divigikr will also be a special act on a lineup of performers alongside Anushka Manchanda, Raja Kumari and Sona Mohapatra.
Shobhna S. Kumar, founder of Queer Ink, and fellow jury member says, “The timing of the Awards is crucial as we see many, many members of the LGBTQI communities have had to be in situations that may have been detrimental to their mental and physical health.”
The event is also designed to be accessible to everyone, so that even heterosexuals can watch and feel like they are a part of the celebration. Whether you’re queer or straight, it’s just good to watch good talent and advocacy being celebrated at a time when everything feels more and more hopeless. Shobhna adds, “It is imperative that voices of queer India reach many more people as an effective strategy to sensitise people and do away with discriminatory attitudes and behaviours.”
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