Today I sat in on a meeting of the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association. The event was held in my station's new performance space - a tony little auditorium in downtown Manhattan - and the invited speaker was Christine Quinn, New York's openly gay City Council Speaker. Her main remarks centered on pretty much what all gay and lesbian officials and activists around here are dealing with these days: the fight to make same-sex marriage legal in New York state. A whole slew of states have passed same-sex marriage recently, and some people fear that's making all-too-cool New York look a bit behind the curve. In recent weeks, I've attended rallies against and in support of same-sex marriage, and for all the star power the pro rally drew - the cast of the Broadway show Hair, cast members of Sex in the City, Mayor Bloomberg, and New York's governor - there were actually a lot more people at the anti-same-sex marriage rally, namely Latinos who are religiously opposed.
But for a little perspective, it's worth turning one's attention, every now and then, to the state of affairs in India, where homosexuality is still criminalized. And in that context, the act of producing a magazine for the LGBT community seems an act of bravery.
From "India's Little Gay Magazine That Could," an article by Amita Parashar in The Advocate:
Bombay Dost (Bombay Friends), India's first and only LGBT publication, has just relaunched after going out of print in 2002 when the then-underground publication ran out of financial support. The original Dost, which printed from 1990 to 2002, was available mostly through roadside vendors and often wrapped in plain brown paper.
"There is a sense that certain sections of Indian society are now much more liberal and tolerant, something that would be unheard of back in 1990," editor Vikram Phukan told Advocate.com via e-mail.
Six weeks into the relaunch, Bombay Dost has sold two thirds of its initial print run -- nearly 1,000 copies.
The magazine costs 150 rupees an issue (about $3) and will be published twice a year. Some of its funding is coming from the United Nations Development Program, but even more amazing is the financial support coming from a Bollywood actress.
Celina Jaitley, Bollywood actress and former Miss India, has thrown her support, and money, behind the magazine's relaunch, though she has received hate mail for doing so. Jaitley told The Times of India that homophobia was responsible for taking the life of a close gay friend and she won't be deterred by the intolerance. Phukan applauds Jaitley's courage and said that Bollywood "attracts more than its fair share of queer professionals," yet few come out for fear of losing social standing and professional work.