June is officially known as Pride month globally, which is in celebration and honour of the LGBTQ+ community. Although there is still some stigma attached to anything or anyone that doesn’t align with heteronormative standards, the power of social media and the strong sense of community that LGBTQ+ folks share overpowers it all.
We had the opportunity to create an incredible tattoo that puts queer love on the forefront for Roshini Kumar, an openly queer influencer who is a pioneer of body positivity and queer activism in India.
Life was not always smooth sailing for Roshini. At the young age of 14 while teenagers were navigating their adolescence, Roshini was unfortunately diagnosed with Stage-4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that also led to bone cancer. She was battling for her life with endless rounds of chemotherapy and was told that there were no guarantees of survival.
However, deep within, she always knew that she was going to walk out of that hospital cancer-free. Along with her cancer, she was side-by-side battling her inner demons of not feeling confident enough and living in fear of what other people were thinking of her. But once she left that hospital, she emerged as a new and carefree person who realized that everyone has only one life that is short and it must be lived unapologetically.
Over 10 years later, Roshini is thriving and living her life to the fullest potential, all while being an inspiration for others.
She is a model, a photographer as well as a proud activist of queerness, self love and body positivity. In celebration of Pride month, Roshini chose to treat herself to a tattoo from our studio, which beautifully represents pride and queerness.
The design was inspired by a painting from 1895 called The Abduction of Psyche by William-Adolphe Bouguereau but was tweaked a bit to make it more realistic. The customised version features a depiction of Cupid, the God of love, embracing a non-binary person.
To bring in the concept of inclusivity, we customised the image to portray a larger body type, including body rolls, which enhances the realism of the tattoo. Roshini's intention was to convey that love knows no limits and is not confined by any specific gender.
Roshini was such a delight to have at our studio; she was an open book who didn’t hesitate even once to disclose any details about herself. We discovered the full depth of her personality in a tête-à-tête, where she revealed a lot about her past and how it shaped her to be the person she is today.
How would you define queerness?
“Queerness is the self expression and freedom of just being who you truly are. Queerness is everything– it can be who you love, who you identify as. It’s going against what you’re told you have to be and redefining it to what it means to you. Being queer is being free, as soon as I realised my queerness there was a sense of freedom that I’ve never felt before.”
How did you know you were queer?
“I think I knew I was queer since high school but I didn’t accept it. I tried convincing myself that I’m straight for the longest time even though it wasn’t true. In 2018, I knew I needed to stop pretending.
A person can think they’re not queer or not queer enough to belong in the community because they’re not saying or doing certain things. I think only after watching shows and following people that represented queerness, I felt safe and at home and that’s when I was like yeah, I’m queer. I didn’t need a checklist to see how queer I am. If someone feels that they are queer, then they just are.”
Roshini also claimed that she had an identity crisis when it came to putting a label on her queerness.
“I had a huge, confusing battle with myself and a lot of people always assumed I was not straight. To that, I would always reply that I didn't know yet. My straight friends would ask about my sexuality but my queer friends always knew that I was queer even though I hadn’t accepted it yet. They just waited for me to figure it out instead of imposing it on me.”
How did your family react?
I came out to my mom during the lockdown and she replied so casually like it was no big deal and I repeated myself to confirm if she understood what I had just said. Turns out my mom had a lot of queer friends growing up as well!
I initially had a rocky relationship with my family so I had to make sure they knew that I wanted to live my life authentically and honestly.
I could lie and do whatever I wanted anyway but I didn’t want to be dishonest because then the lies would keep adding up.
My family is super supportive because they have the ideology that you can make your own choices in life and live the life you want by being your true self without hurting anyone. I also use them in my activism to talk about this so that people know that families can get to a place of love even though you’ve not always been there. You can't not accept your own child.”
Have you ever been told to be “normal”?
“I’ve always been told I’m too much, because I liked dyeing my hair different colours and getting a lot of tattoos. The reason was purely because I just liked doing it for myself but people misinterpreted that, assuming I did it for attention.
I feel that people who are hateful are that way because they’ve not been taught better and it’s not their fault; it’s their responsibility to unlearn it and not be a hateful person.
But, it doesn’t affect me in any way because everyone sees life in their own perspective and I can’t be living for others. It’s more about them than me.
There is so much ingrained homophobia and queerphobia because of the culture we’re born in. The problem comes with differences in mentality– a person might not like seeing something and automatically accuses it of being bad. But, it’s actually not bad in any way. Having an open mind, a beautiful mindset, being kind and loving will be beneficial for everyone.”
What does Pride month mean to you?
“I feel like pride month should be every month. Everyone should be aware about queerness in general so that we can normalise it and make safe spaces for queer people. Sometimes, queer people don’t even feel safe in their own homes. We need to create them by changing our mindsets by being more loving and kind to others’ differences. Not judging them, not creating any discomfort, just letting them be.”