By Queerythm: The Queer Library Project

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Queerythm is a registered community-based organization for the LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer) people. Started as a support group (with regular monthly meetings on first Saturdays) for queer individuals, we aim for a society free of discrimination against gender and sexual minorities.

We spoke to Prijith P K, President and Bharathan Iyer, Vice-President about their 2019 ‘The Queer Library Project’, building vocabulary for queer expressions in Malayalam, the literature available, and more. Excerpts:

At the onset, I would like to understand how the LGBTQIA movement plays out in a regional language. Are there words, expressions that are equivalent to the queer vocabulary in English? If yes, could you give some examples? If no, how does the community express itself outside English (if it has to?) 

Prijith P K, President of Queerythm: To be honest English is not a super language, it’s just a language. Queer life, movement and expressions are directly connected with the native culture, geography and relationships – of course ‘queership’ has a universality at the same time it’s local too. So to define queerness in something which is related to mother tongue and  interpersonal relations. To express and exhibit queerness, we the queer people have our own ways and dialects – not in derogatory. 

For example the Tamil language has a good vocabulary which includes almost all queer words in tamil, also in Malayalam we are trying to make our own vocabulary. At the same time some Malayalam words related with queer nouns are used to shame and abuse our expression and identity. 

There is a problem too, Malayalam is a less developed language and we face difficulties to coin synonyms of queer terms, but Tamil has no such issues.  

How and when did the ideas for the library for queer studies come about? Who is responsible for curating the titles and where will you buy them from?

Bharathan Iyer, Vice-President of Queerythm: We have many research scholars and students contact us for queer references and resources. This has led to the queer–focused research rates growing on in a regular basis. Hence we felt the necessity of establishment of a resource which could benefit anyone who wish to purpose research and gain information related to queer studies and lifestyles. 

Prijith P K, President of Queerythm: Queerythm has a team of queer researchers under Dr. Shalin Varghese and our core team curate the books. We started a campaign to collect books, whoever wishes to take part in the mission can drop into our office of sent via our online book store.

Are there many Indian works on the subject? Connecting this to the first question, are there works on queer studies in Malayalam? If yes, could you give a few names of books and authors? If no, is this something you think that needs attention, and why?

Prijith P K, President of Queerythm:: Yes, Indian Queer literature has a good history from ancient times to present. Queer is a universal subject and many wriers are ready to contribute as they can. 

Yes, but limited books or works have completed/published. For us it’s difficult to get a good publisher. Some examples are:

What is the timeline of the library project? Where will it be established? How is it being funded? How much time will it take to complete it? What will the membership fees be like? 

Bharathan Iyer, Vice-President of Queerythm: The library is in the process of book collection. We have been receiving book donations from various institutions, well wishes from different parts of the nation. Since the collections keeps on adding, the library is now officially open and is now accessible to all. 

The membership fee is Rs 100 for students and Rs 200 for other individuals. 

Prijith P K, President of Queerythm: We wish to develop it as a Queer Research centre and e-learning centre for queer and queer related studies/scholars and queer people. 

As a long term, would you rather have lots of such libraries, or want a more holistic merging of queer literature in established libraries? 

Bharathan Iyer, Vice-President of Queerythm: We neither plan to increase the library count as of now nor we have looked forward for mergers. Rather, we plan to centralise the library in Thiruvananthapuram, as an initiative under the wing of Queerythm LGBTIQ Community. On account of receiving plentiful resources, we shall propose further to establishing it as a centre of queer excellence, an independent body under Queerythm LGBTIQ Community. 

Prakruti Maniar

Prakruti Maniar

Prakruti Maniar is editor and partner of Purple Pencil Project, and hustles as a writer, researcher and more. She is deeply invested in cultural heritage, especially stories, and is committed to saving the literary heritage of India. She has a Master of Arts in Digital Humanities from Loyola University Chicago.

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