“ You can’t tell me that I can’t do it, because I know I can.”
Sushant Divgikar a.k.a. Rani KoHEnur
Sushant Divgikar a.k.a. Rani KoHEnur, is one of the biggest LGBTQIA+ icons of the country, and also India’s best Drag Queen. Sushant has also been a psychologist in the past & has represented the country as Mr. Gay World 2014.
In this conversation, we break down the inner psychology of people who are regressive in nature and refuse to believe in natural concepts like the existence of the queer community. The judgments received by the community are extremely regressive, though things have been changing slowly, trans people are still asking for basic rights like employment opportunities, equal pay, etc.
This blog is about confidence, overcoming self-doubts, and insecurities. If you want to feel fueled up, this is the conversation for you
Being from the LGBTQIA+ community, Sushant has seen his fair share of struggles and rejections.
From being bullied as a kid to being rejected by a casting director because of his sexuality.
Even after such setbacks, he holds his head high with infectious confidence and lots of wisdom. He credits this to his parents, “My parents are rock stars, they are the reason that I’m sitting here today with my back straight and the confidence I have is only because of my parents. The fact that I have had the opportunity to chase all my dreams is because of my parents. I am because of my parents.” He urges all parents to accept their children as is.
When asked about his childhood he said that he was always scared of coming out and owning his sexuality mainly due to the terrible representation of the LGBTQIA+ community in the media. He adds “ I didn’t have the assurance that I could have an equal life, equal opportunities, respect, and a family that accepts me.” Queer was always made to be the laughing stock in the Hindi film Industry, characters were dehumanized especially in the 90s.
STRENGTHS OF THE QUEER COMMUNITY
I feel that the two major self-actualization lessons that we can learn from Sushant is firstly his confidence and secondly how aware he is as an individual.
According to Sushant, queer people have a 360 degree perspective about life because they are not allowed an equal playing ground. That is why in ancient India, transgender people were regarded as demigods and were given very high stature in society and acted as royal advisors.
DEALING WITH REJECTIONS
In his career, Sushant has faced numerous rejections due to his sexual orientation and gender. But that did not deter him. Something everyone should learn from him is his perseverance and dedication.
He says vehemently, “when I experienced discrimination, stereotyping and so much negative emotions for me, I had decided that I need to have to take this pedestal I have to do more with my life not for myself but for that kid watching in some remote village that believes that they’re not good enough and they’re alone.”
He very proudly says that he was able to become successful because he believed in himself and did not let rejection discourage him. “ You can’t tell me that I can’t do it because I know I can.”
HIS TRANSITION INTO DRAG
( Drag is a gender-bending art form in which a person dresses up as the opposite sex. Its main purpose has been for drag performance and entertainment, it is also used as self-expression and a celebration of LGBTQ+ pride.)
Divgikar joined the country’s singing competition, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, as a drag queen which was broadcast on national television in 2018 — the same year India’s supreme court repealed the Section 377 law criminalizing homosexuality.
Currently, he is involved with auditioning, mentoring, and training younger drag queens and aims to make drag a more accessible art form in the country. In 2019, Divgikar made his international debut with Rainbow Riots-House of Wallenberg in Sweden and in the same year released the single “I’m Coming Out” during Stockholm Pride.
When I asked him about how and why he transitioned into drag, Sushant said that this happened because he was tired of underplaying himself. For him art is art and art does not have any labels. “I just perform whether it is in drag as rani Kohinoor or as Sushant. My art is the winner. My art is what needs to be put forth before me also I am just the Medium.”
“I have been judged before I go on stage, but when I perform I close my eyes and imagine this kid who is struggling and doesn’t have a voice to speak up. The people that have said nasty things to me shut up because they’ll now never say that they’ll think before saying it and that for me is very empowering” he says proudly.
ROLE OF ALLIES
Here are some questions that I asked him during the twitter-verse, I think it is important for people like me (allies) to understand.
What role does an ally play and how can we help?
“I think uh don’t feel bad for us. We don’t need sympathy, we need empathy.
If someone is confiding in you is because they trust you and respect you. We as allies of the community need to understand how much power we hold.
Someone’s sexual orientation, gender, caste color, and creed should not affect our love for them. Hence the best way we can support them is just to ACCEPT them without any conditions or judgment.”
What are the things the Indian workplace must learn for better inclusion?
“Firstly they must include queer people in policy-making I think we need to make better policies which are inclusive. You have to start being inclusive and then diversify. Secondly, don’t assign gender to workspaces. In an organization, the end goal for every employee is the same. If you put all these roadblocks, what you’re doing is blocking not only them but yourself and the entire organization from attaining that goal.”
My takeaways from this interview-
Speaking with a special soul like Sushant, was truly a heartwarming experience.
It left me feeling more confident, positive, and empathetic towards all human beings. The core of this power-packed episode is that we’re all the same on the inside. We’ve all got battles that we’re fighting and sometimes some of your greatest fires can be derived from hearing other people’s stories.