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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 48, Dated December 04, 2010

No fun in thinking straight

Queer magazines are finally out of the closet. POORVA RAJARAM finds out why it took so long

Coming out Fun celebrates the erotic appeal of the male form for all takers

Coming out Fun celebrates the erotic appeal of the male form for all takers

WHEN A magazine is called Fun, it seems fitting to expect raunchy spreads. Fun is conceived in the ribald vein of popular gay magazines in the West like Gay Times and Out. A detailed, graphically marked spread will lead you through “His Erogenous Zones” (which lists ‘lips’). Pink Pages, another Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) publication, carried a suggestively designed food spread with bananas for those who prefer innuendo.

There are now eight queer English lifestyle magazines in India, and four of them — Fun, Jiah, Pink Pages and Gaylaxy started in the past two years. Queer publications themselves are not new — Bombay Dost, India’s first gay magazine has been in circulation since 1990. The jump in the number of magazines suggests indignant newsletters are losing their pull in the queer community. Gay marketing wisdom in the West prescribes urban LGBT individuals as ideal for lifestyle products because of their high disposable incomes, upwardly mobile and sexually transgressive lives. Although in its infancy in India, this trend is evident with queer bookstores, party organisers and home décor on offer.

The current explosion of queer magazines must contend with one simple fact — only two of these magazines are in print. Others are e-zines made by volunteers. So, how do these magazines survive with erratic funding and professional input?

Fun was launched along with a refurbished Fantasy on 26 July in Goa by Celina Jaitley. “Fun is an erotic magazine for all those who love men (even straight women) and Fantasy is for those who love women,” explains Manvendra Singh Gohil, 45, editor of Fun and the ‘gay prince’ featured on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2007. After two issues, Fun (based out of Rajpipla, Gujarat) has met 60 to 80 percent of its 50,000 copies sales target. Rather inexplicably, Hyderabad has been their sales hotspot.

Pink Pages, an e-zine edited by Udayan, 23, was started in early 2009 with the modest goal of being a community outreach paper. When he found every issue was downloaded 10,000 times over, he decided to go to print with financial sponsorship. However, their official registration with the Registrar of Newspapers in India (RNI) as an LGBT publication was turned down in September. (Existing queer magazines in print usually circumvent the issue of legality by registering under the euphemistic categories of health or fitness).

Of these magazines, Jiah alone is explicitly for women. Their advice column tailored to queer women has been a hit. Also a year old, it is not directly available for download, but is circulated through email. “We’re versatile and diverse. There is a whole community of queer women who don’t identify as activists and are content with their lives. Jiah is for them,” says Apphia K, 25, editor of Jiah. The evident lifestyle bent doesn’t surprise Vinay Chandran, a gay rights activist based in Bengaluru. “With more people in the upper middle-class coming out, magazines will get more lifestyle oriented. That’s where the money is,” he says. Most of the e-zines reported getting investment offers to turn into full-fledged glossy magazines.

Right now though, queer magazines are suffering from umbrella publishing: food, travel, sex tips, coming out, fashion, western LGBT culture and profiles of activists clutter their pages. They have only begun manifesting as a vibrant subset of the magazine market. In the meantime, there is fun to be had.

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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 48, Dated Dec 04, 2010



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