By Uma Rao
I have lived in Seattle for almost 14 years, and have been a fan and a volunteer for Tasveer since that 1st Independent South Asian Film Festival in the fall of 2004. The first year Tasveer hosted Aaina, someone read a piece from Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” and Tasveer got some angry emails about it, telling them it was inappropriate. How did Tasveer respond? By producing the first YKB performance in Seattle at the following year’s Aaina.
I participated in that first Yoni Ki Baat, part of a group of really nervous women who wondered, “What’s going to happen? Will people actually come to this?” The answer: a sold-out theater and an enthusiastic standing-ovation reception from the crowd. I have not missed a single YKB since then. Each year, it’s an honor to witness South Asian women telling their stories, and I have learned, grown, gotten pissed off and cried for hours, laughed, and laughed again days later when I remembered it. YKB is a powerful platform that creates real change in our community.
It hasn’t escaped me, though, that over the past 12 years, I have seen just a handful of performers from the LGBTQ community (including myself, and I’ve performed twice). I have never seen anyone from the trans community perform. Further, I have been overwhelmed with the reality that we wake up each day in Trump’s America. I wake up to read news of Muslim bans, attacks on reproductive rights, black lives murdered and white supremacists getting a pass, and trans people being dehumanized. Last year, we heard that the current administration will not even include questions relating to LGBTQ people in the upcoming 2020 Census. I am not exaggerating when I say: I feel like this administration is systematically trying to erase our narratives and in some cases, erase our lives.
I decided to try my hand at the YKB director’s role, so that I could produce the show that I (and I knew others) wanted to see; one that features a majority of queer and trans performers, where straight cis women are in the minority and demonstrate true allyship. Most of us have been conditioned to think in binaries–man/woman, gay/straight. The reality is that binaries have never been accurate or practical. They don’t account for the great variety of sexualities and gender identities that span different cultural traditions and histories, not to mention exist as part of our own families from our own South Asian community, right here in King County. Many of our people aren’t allowed to tell their stories, or they are deeply ignored. But oral storytelling and community-building is how we have survived. This year, we come in abundance to the YKB stage. My hope is that in sharing these stories, our South Asian community will continue to embrace us and lift our voices even further.
To all of you brown unicorns out there, I want you to know–you are loved. This show is for you, and we will only get stronger from here.