Published: 21st July 2021
Anwesh Sahoo wants you to see him and the community he represents. Here’s the how and why
His art, talks, writing and everything else between, even his upcoming talk at TEDx XIMB — it's all about talking about representation and making those with different identities feel seen and heard
Where do we begin with Anwesh Sahoo, honestly. We don't know. From being ruthlessly bullied, secretly nursing suicidal thoughts, to coming out at 16, being crowned Mr Gay World India 2016, winning the Troy Perry Medal of Pride Award, his achievements are multifold. He also writes and is an artist. But his success lies in making fem-boys feel like they belong, making queer folk feel like they belong and invariably, making all those who have made choices that don't fall within the bracket of 'ordinary', at home.
Anwesh is numb to all the trolls and hate now. He believes that when he don't react, the negativity goes back to where it came from
The way the 26-year-old achieves this is multifold too. "At 18, I started my own blog called The Effeminare because there were very few queer people who had a voice and were making themselves heard," informs the youngster. And that's how it all began. On July 25, he will deliver a tongue-in-cheek talk on 'six' ways of being successfully gay in India at TEDx XIMB — six referring to 'chakha', the derogatory term we all know that is still used today. He is actually a TEDx veteran and has spoken at multiple events, just one of the ways in which he is making the world more inclusive.
The key to gaining Anwesh's worldview is by looking at all hurdles as opportunities. "Since the morning I chose to live, I have woken up with infectious optimism. I realised that if I try, things will look up and they have," says the Bhubaneswar-born youngster. As a Senior Technical Artist working at Aristocrat Gaming, he credits the long hours spent in Bengaluru traffic for giving him the hours to explore his artistic side more deeply. "I reached a point where I wanted to talk about all kinds of representation because the representation I was seeing wasn't cutting it anymore. I wanted to create art to depict me and my kind," he shares and in this way, he wanted to prove that queer-fem folk can be good with technology as well. What that has resulted in is some very interesting NFT art (a digital asset that represents real-world objects). "The idea is that we queer people can be beautiful too, I want us all to feel beautiful," says the youngster who pursued his Master's in Design from NIFT Delhi. Now, Anwesh is being signed on by big brands like Bumble and Fastrack and several others, taking his bid for representation further and further.
Anwesh also has the gift of the gab, a skill he has carefully honed over many years. In 2018, the year in which he was giving talks at several MNCs, he delivered one at Infosys and three people came out at the event itself. That's the importance of talking about this, conversations spark change. What else can herald change, we wonder? "Representation and existence in popular media needs to go hand-in-hand with the judiciary. But the judiciary is so slow to change, Article 377 was struck down only after years and years of activism. I am already 26 and I want to get married someday but will I have to wait for another 100 years to have my basic fundamental rights?" he asks poignantly.
For more on him check out his Twitter handle @sahoo_anwesh