8 Bollywood stars and Indian celebrities who are gay
In a landmark ruling, India’s Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality on Thursday. But who are India’s gay celebrities?
Top Bollywood actors—including Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar, and Sonam Kapoor—have also rejoiced at the repeal of the colonial era Section 377, which banned same-sex sexual activity.
With gay sex only just becoming legal, it will take time for the big stars in India’s celebrity world to come out. Still, a handful already have—and they’ve been celebrating the court ruling on social media. Here’s a list of India’s top lesbian, gay, and bisexual stars.
Director and producer Karan Johar has never officially come out as gay. However, Johar, who directed 1998 movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and the 2001 movie Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…, heavily hinted about his sexual orientation in his autobiography An Unsuitable Boy in 2017.
“Everybody knows what my sexual orientation is,” he wrote. “I don’t need to scream it out. If I need to spell it out, I won’t only because I live in a country where I could possibly be jailed for saying this. Which is why I Karan Johar will not say the three words that possibly everybody knows about me.”
Johar also praised the Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday, posting to his 15 million followers on Twitter: “Historical judgment!!!! So proud today! Decriminalising homosexuality and abolishing #Section377 is a huge thumbs up for humanity and equal rights! The country gets its oxygen back!”
Award-winning filmmaker, editor and writer Apurva Asrani, who is known working on successful films like Satya (1998), Shahid (2013) and CityLights (2014), is one of few openly gay men in Indian cinema.
Following the repeal of Section 377, Asrani told The Indian Express that he felt “vindicated” by the Supreme Court’s decision.
He continued: “There is much healing that needs to happen within the gay community. Hopefully, it can begin now.” However, the star added that he didn’t “expect things to change overnight,” saying: “The law has changed but society is still brainwashed by centuries of outdated Victorian values.”
Openly lesbian stand-up comedian Vasu Primlani is known for tackling different issues in her routines, including rape, human rights, and the environment.
In an interview with Speaking Minds on Thursday, Primlani congratulated her country, but warned that there is still a social stigma against LGBT+ people in her country.
“It’s a great step in the right direction,” she said. “The largest question, I think, before India is not just in terms of legalising homosexuality bisexuality or the transgender community, it is social acceptance…there’s a great difference between these two things. We look forward to the day when lesbians move from being a fantasy to being respected as individuals and for the work they do and for human rights.”
Message from #SpeakingMinds speaker #VasuPrimlani @greencomedian on the #Section377Verdict#Section377 has been repealed. Such a momentous day in the history of India.#EngageUs2EngageU #Freedom #LGBT pic.twitter.com/ckwmBxuFH9
— Speaking Minds (@b2bspeak) September 6, 2018
Film director, writer and producer Shonali Bose, who is bisexual, is known for her movies including Amu (2005) and Margarita with a Straw (2015), which is about two women living with disabilities who fall in love with one another.
Bose has won numerous awards for her work including a National Film Award, a Bridgestone Narrative Award and a Sundance Mahindra Global Filmmaker Award.
Model, TV host and performer Sushant Divgikar won Mr. Gay World India back in 2014—and is now national director of the organisation. In 2014, he also took part in India’s most popular reality TV show Bigg Boss 8.
Divgikar praised the court ruling on Thursday, posting to his 85,000 Twitter followers: “Thanks to the Honourable Supreme Court! I’m so so happy and proud ! All these years of fighting for our rights to be equal citizens!”
He also told Mirror Now in an interview: “I feel like a lot of other people can come out of the closet and celebrate.”
Fashion designer and LGBT+ rights activist Wendell Rodricks has been campaigning for the legalisation of homosexuality for years in India.
Responding to the Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday, he posted on Instagram to his 27,000 followers: “At the stroke of noon, the Supreme Court of India gave us freedom, and it is indeed a heady feeling. After decades of writing on Section 377 and speaking on endless TV and radio debates, freedom from criminality is finally here.”
The openly gay celebrity added: “It is not just the decriminalisation of an entire community of Indians that has left one elated and in a celebratory mood. It is also the wording of the wise judges, who not only stood up for the LGBTQ community but offered an apology for the discriminatory way the members and their families have been treated for over a century and a half. What a grand gesture of largesse. It warmed my heart.”
The New York-based Indian filmmaker and journalist Parvez Sharma has been outspoken about gay rights in his work over the years. Sharma is known for his 2008 film A Jihad for Love—believed to be the world’s first film documenting the lives of gay and lesbian muslims—and his 2017 book, titled A Sinner in Mecca: A Gay Muslim’s Hajj of Defiance. He has been recognised by LGBT+ rights organisations across the world, winning a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary in 2009, and being named as a “human rights defender” by Amnesty International in 2016.
Posting on Instagram on Thueasday, Sharma wrote: “Thee still questionable #incredible india has decriminalized #homosexuality. i came out = at 19; first openly gay journo on tv; given courage by warriors preceding me.”
Artist, model and blogger Anwesh Sahoo won Mr. Gay World India in 2016, and went on to represent his country at Mr. Gay World in Malta, Europe, that year—making it to the top 12. Sahoo is also a TEDx speaker.
In May, he posted about how he had used this platform to discuss growing up as a femme gay in India.
Sahoo posted on Twitter that he had “tears rolling down my eyes” following the Supreme Court’s decision. He also uploaded a video celebrating the ruling onto Instagram, saying: “I am extremely excited with the Supreme Court ruling at this point in time. We have finally been validated. The Supreme Court has finally said that we do exist, that our rights matter and it couldn’t get better than this.”
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“And I’m really hoping this will be a pathway for even better days for the LGBTI+ community in India.”
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