On October 24, 2011, Sahodaran, the Chennai based NGO dealing with HIV/AIDS communication and prevention among men who have sex with men (MSM) launched its third calendar featuring sexy south Indian hunks. For those who want to get an idea of what the 2011 calendar was like, the photographer, Kapil Ganesh, has put some of the images on his blog and has promised to put up a few from the newly launched 2012 calendar by next week.
If you want to find out a bit more about the calendar and Sahodaran, you need to know a bit about Sunil Menon who set up the organisation. Sunil was one of the first activists to get involved with HIV/AIDS issues with MSM in South India and has kept Sahodaran and its outreach programmes growing, extending it into becoming an advocacy space for gays, kothis, and other MSM, and transgenders.
It was an activity I really appreciated, because when I was growing up in Chennai it seemed like this was one city where no sort of gay activism was likely. Of course, there were lots of gay men, but no one seemed interested in starting formal spaces for queer people to meet and get to know each other, leave alone plan for any kind of activism.
When Sunil set up Sahodaran, he also set up an informal group called Chennai Mitra that aimed to provide this sort of space, meeting at the office that Sahodaran had set up on Sterling Road, which was really a bit of a culture shock for me because that was just a few metres away from the college I had gone to (Loyola), at a time when it seemed like nothing gay would ever happen.
I went for a couple of Chennai Mitra meetings when I went home to Chennai, and it felt remarkable to be able to visit such a space in Chennai (walking up to the office past, if I remember correctly, the TamBrahm uncle on the ground floor who looked suspiciously at people going in, but still rented the space to Sunil. Of course, I might be completely wrong on this, and perhaps the uncle was just dyspeptic).
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