They took on society and pushed the envelope to create a market of their own in this industry. They not only accepted themselves but also embraced themselves and therefore the world accepted them regardless of the societal norms of the typical Indian mentality shunning all the socio cultural structures and such. Meet Malini Jeevarathnam, a Writer, an Orator, a Ted Talk Speaker and a Film Maker who is popular and living it up every single day.
Photography: Nithin Barath S
Location: Radisson Blu Hotel, Chennai City Centre
Styling: Chandini Khanna
Hair And Makeup: Volt Style Bar
When did you first identify as a Queer individual?
I always knew I was not the norm, I looked at women from when I was in the first standard, I was enamored by them and wanted to admire them more than I ever did a man. It was very natural but I didn’t know about it as my truth because I had no idea about this side of life. But I came out to the world at the age of twenty-three, I first had to fight with myself before I started to face the world about it, but I eventually came to understand my peace was more important than the cultural appropriation put on to me since birth. Now I stand firstly for myself.
Do you believe that self-control is an important thing in a person’s life?
I think self-love is the most important thing in a person’s life. First learn to love yourself and then you will have control over your emotions and reactions to any situation, because you already know there is one person has your back and that person is none other than you.
Do you believe that you love yourself fully regardless of what others think?
When was the first time you fell in love with a woman?
In childhood, I was in the first grade and I had a friend, I loved everything about her and it was then that I noticed that even in TV and movies, I would admire and celebrate women and heroines, in fact men didn’t seem to get my attention at all. Women thrilled me so to speak, but men… I could not celebrate them.
What was the biggest loss of your life, does it still trigger you?
The loss of a loved one is always very painful, I lost my mother and brother and that has always been very painful for me, I had to cope with all the rejection by myself when I finally accepted myself. Now I stand up for myself and I need no one to do that for me, so I think in a way their loss helped me become stronger and now that is a strength and not a trigger.
What is your goal in terms of activism?
My speech can change my world and maybe even someone who is in the same situation, and I would like to use to that end this patriarchal dominant attitude you see mostly around the world.
What were you like for the majority of your life?
I was not the way I am now, I had long hair and very different look, very traditional, which I also loved by the way. I was not ashamed of the expression I had at the time, I loved my hair and my clothes. I don’t believe that fashion or make up has any gender. Anyone is allowed to express themselves the way they feel like it. My gender is fluid. However, despite the traditional look, I loved my culture and I thought about things in a very different way back then. I was rigid in my thoughts and didn’t want to accept that things could be in a different way. But now I feel like I am more comfortable with my short hair and my jeans and shirts. I truly enjoy this expression of myself because it is after my enlightenment and my very own choice. It is another version of myself and it is also very beautiful to me.
Is your orientation only towards women and have you ever explored the other side of the spectrum?
I love men as my friends, but I never actually explored anything beyond a woman because I was simply comfortable in this space.
Do people judge you when they look at you now?
Every day, every time, in every work space. I live in India and most of the people here are sexist, racist and homophobhic, simply because we are born and brought up with cultural dominance. As much as I love my culture and the ways of loving our guests and our behavior and such, we are also hypocrites, we are literally dominated upon from what to eat, drink, when to sleep, who to love, what we should wear, where we should be seen, how we should be seen, everything is watched and pushed onto us without any real reason except to hide under the garb of culture. This is not right. It is dominance and I will not be dominated anymore. I don’t allow judgement to affect me negatively anymore because I understand that if I speak up, my words and actions will end up helping someone somehow.
I have heard you are very sarcastic when you orate and speak in Tamil, do you believe that you have made a change so far?
The day I accepted myself I made the change. It’s a ripple effect, we first need to learn self love and then it passes on to everyone around us. I am sarcastic because I believe a little fun and a sense of humor will allow people to listen to what I have to say. A positive perspective always has more listener.
If you were to give your followers any advice what would it be?
I would say try and empathize with the person next to you, you don’t need to accept me but respect me and do not pity, don’t guilt trip but rather feel guilty about your own actions first. IF we look with in we already know how to be. We are respectful to all as long as they do not force their life upon us. My understanding of Indian culture is that now it is changing because the youth are slowly accepting themselves for who they are. Love for one’s self is more important than the mentality that we have to please everyone around us.