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Giti Thadani
(? - living) India

Giti Thadani

Writer, scholar, academician, art historian and visual artist

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As an out lesbian, she is working both socially and academically to open Indian society to the realities of queer life, past and present. Giti has been out to her family and community for a long time, as has her brother. She often feels that she is accepted because there is not sound cultural knowledge about what lesbianism really is.

Giti has made her most far-reaching statement as an academic. Trained in Western history, she felt that she could better combat Indian homophobia and the colonial influence by working with ancient Indian history. She learned Sanskrit, the holy language of Brahmanical India, in order to read the Vedas and other ancient texts in the original. The Vedas are foundational texts of the Hindu tradition and are often co-opted by fundamentalists in their attempts to whitewash Hindu culture into a homogeneous whole.

Giti discovered, however, that contextual readings of the Vedas reveal a fluid perspective on gender and sexuality, as does temple art found in pre-Vedic societies. She also brought to light the destruction or transference of goddess traditions by Brahmanical culture across India. In 1996, she published Sakhiyani: Lesbian Desire in Ancient and Modern India, to international acclaim. It was a groundbreaking text in an unexplored terrain, and it has propelled Giti to a standing among cutting-edge queer theorists.

Troubled by the rise of the Hindu right, Giti also knew it was important to act as a public queer figure, as a Hindu and an Indian lesbian. She co-founded a lesbian group, Sakhi, in 1990 with some friends in New Delhi. The group's office acted as a meeting place for activism and support, and as an archival space for Indian lesbian art and cultural history. A few years later the office was robbed and all its funds stolen.

When the right party BJP came to power, Sakhi was unable to gain new funding and closed briefly, and still struggles with funding issues in a politically hostile climate. In 1993 Giti also helped start a continuing seminar on queer issues in India. When not at home in her rooftop flat in New Delhi or presenting her academic work in Europe, Giti travels India documenting lesbian and three-gendered ancient art.

She is currently at work on several projects about the representation of women in art. Giti has continued her quest for Indian lesbian visibility and proved that the so-called Ivory Tower is a good place to inspire action in the streets.

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Source: http://www.speak-truth.com

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