’s first registered LGBT magazine, was launched in 1990. In its earlier avatar, Bombay Dost connected queer people across the country, taking away the sense of isolation and disempowerment they felt. It gave them hope of living a full life without stigma and discrimination.
After attending a conference on HIV in Montreal, Ashok Row Kavi, founding editor of ‘Bombay Dost’, spoke to his gay and lesbian friends about the development of a supportive network, and ‘Bombay Dost’ was started as a newsletter. It aimed to reach out to LGBT people, help them network, make friends, empower them, create more structured gay groups, educate them about STIs, HIV and AIDS, and offer a platform to discuss LGBT rights/issues.
Those were the pre-Internet days and the only way to reach out to others was through print, and post & telegraph. Many gay men knew of Bombay Dost but could not subscribe as they could not ask for a copy to be delivered home.
So the readership was many times the circulation of the newsletter, and it started receiving a flood of letters, not just from the metros but also far-flung corners of the country, about their feelings of alienation and other psycho-social concerns.
The Bombay Dost team realised, though, they could not conduct HIV outreach only through a newsletter and they had to form a trust/society/foundation in order to achieve their goals. Thus was formed the Humsafar
’s leading community-based organisation for men-who-have-sex-with-men.
‘Bombay Dost’ also inspired a host of gay people in unstructured networks across the country to set up community-based organisations.
Beset by issues like lack of advertising support and paucity of funds, Bombay Dost suspended publication in 2002.
Today, it is back in a new, bolder-than-ever avatar. The boldness has to do with the forthrightness with which LGBT cultural expression is showcased. Bombay Dost is a standard bearer for the growing confidence and artistic alacrity displayed by
The magazine eschews any notion of ‘them and us’, and mirrors the inclusiveness that we would expect in a more egalitarian society. Bombay Dost targets a much larger demographic than just the urban homosexual man.
For a lot of people, gay identity consists of maybe a few behavioural traits, superficial characteristics or even psychological symptoms. For many it is merely a ‘sex thing’. Bombay Dost seeks to break out of these limiting notions, it is not just about sexuality, or gender constructs, but about the people—men, women and transgenders—we adore, the lives we live, the cultural experiences that shape us—everything around us.