The only queer people are those who don't love anybody. ― Rita Brown
QueerTWENTY is an initiative by egomonk to recognize and celebrate inspiring queer Indians across business, technology, and society, so they become role models for the next generation. We are starting out by celebrating individual brilliance and moral courage in those who occupy the fringes because it is imperative to involve them in the mainstream. As India steps into the peak of its human dividend over the next decade, we owe it to ourselves to dismantle systems of racism, sexism, queerphobia, and general bigotry so we can build a diverse, inclusive and truly tolerant nation. Our cohort of leaders, activists, change-makers, and creatives will challenge your perceptions and illuminate the many facets of queerness today.
Vihaan Peethambar - Trailblazer
Vihaan Peethambar has seamlessly integrated his connections with the LGBTQ advocacy groups and his corporate ties to positively impact the LGBTQ community. As a transman, his lived realities include getting through obstacles posed not just by society but also by the institutions of government, medicine, and law. Vihaan has been adamantly and dedicatedly amplifying the voices of those struggling to be heard so that these obstacles can be uprooted piece by piece.
Sushant Divgikar - Drag Icon
Drag artist and model-musician Sushant Divgikar, aka Rani Ko-He-Nur, uses his drag identity to produce art that remains fluid in representing gender. Sushant hopes to bring out an Indian culture beyond gender constructs and push drag as an art form into the mainstream. Identifying as a musician, Sushant hopes to start producing singles and plan tours as soon as the world settles down from the present pandemic.
Parmesh Shahani - Corporate Champion
Parmesh Shahani is a corporate thought leader who has consistently pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable in organizations and the language of business. He is an evangelist of the pink economy and sincerely believes that all of us thrive when companies are as inclusive and diverse as our society.
Venkatraghavan C A - Corporate Visionary
Venkat has always been committed to providing a safe space for his peers and colleagues. For Venkat, communication with every individual while being sensitive and aware of the language being used is vital. As a corporate leader, he is committed to recognizing and acting on his accumulated privilege and fulfilling his responsibility to create inclusive spaces and make sure mental health concerns are adequately addressed.
Samyukhta Vijayan - Reformer
Samyukhta Vijayan has always been cognizant of the core issue affecting the transgender community - lack of skilling. Having successfully climbed the corporate ladder, she believes the onus to equip the community with relevant skills is on the corporate itself. Samyukhta, along with achieving great success in her career, has not abandoned her entrepreneurial vision and has always attempted to couple it with her community's empowerment.
Anish Gawande - New Age Activist
Anish Gawande balances his activism with fun and his politics with poetry. With an innovative approach and thoughtful initiative, Anish co-created the Pink List initiative, an archive of political stalwarts who have publicly supported LGBTQIA+ rights and the queer movement. Apart from working towards better LGBTQIA+ representation in Parliament, he takes pride in translating poetry he believes is essential for humanity and has served as a political consultant for the Indian National Congress in Maharashtra.
Grace Banu - Pioneer
Grace Banu is a pioneer in transgender activism in India. Her strong will to uplift the marginalized within the queer community has made her a beacon of hope for others. She has actively raised her voice against injustices and against all obstacles and forces which tried to pull her down. Grace has continued to guide and mentor many people from the community who have subsequently been able to break through into the mainstream.
Disha Pinky Shaikh - Political Catalyst
Disha Shaikh has been the harbinger of change in the political arena. Tired of being a spectator, Disha decided to change the system from within. She has been advocating for policy changes for transgender people and has stressed the importance of gender sensitization not only in education but also for all social and political leaders.
Christy Nag - Activist
Christy Nag is a research scholar who has spent most of her academic life understanding Adivasi culture and practices in the tea gardens of West Bengal. Coming from the Munda tribe, Christy closely associates with the culture she has based her life’s work on. She is optimistic about increasing the acceptability of LGBTQIA+ people within the Adivasi community and is working towards locating gender representation in Adivasi literature and culture. Christy believes that many changes were made to Adivasi folklore by European missionaries who first recorded such stories in writing and wishes to measure the range of such changes.
Aryan Pasha - Icon
Aryan Pasha broke all stereotypes, misconceptions, and gender biases when he bagged second prize at the Men’s Physique Category (Short), Musclemania India 2018, creating history as the first transman to achieve such a feat. The lawyer and passionate bodybuilder had started his life as an athlete through speed skating but later chose the gym over a rink. Having sent a strong message on gender quality after his 2018 win, Aryan has since been serving the community by using his legal qualifications to fight for human rights causes.
Keshav Suri - Ecosystem Builder
Keshav Suri believes nobody should be left in the fringes and is a passionate advocate for queer rights in every space he occupies. He is an ecosystem builder for his efforts to aggregate queer thought leadership from all over the world. Keshav and his partner Cyril have been key changemakers in realizing the potential pink money has and the social responsibility that consumers are now exercising.
Dr. Ketki Ranade - Luminary
KP has passionately taken up the cause of educating others about the importance of mental health for queer people, especially queer children. Their focus on the psycho-social issues faced by the LGBTQ community has been inspiring and enlightening. They have been actively trying to make the educational space more inclusive and have attempted to create discourse and mainstream the language for the queer community.
Nayana Udupi - Non-Conformist
Nayana Udupi is a woman who derives her strength from the struggles she underwent towards fulfilling her simple dream of graduating and getting a 'good job.' Nayana, who works as a marketing executive at Thought Works, continues to inspire people through talks and has dedicated herself to providing emotional support to all who come asking. She hopes to reach out to more people by compiling the story of her journey into a biography.
Amita Karadkhedkar - Stereotype Breaker
Amita Karadkhedkar, Vice President and Site Head CPB-QA at Citi, is a seasoned technologist committed to bettering society through her professional approach and personal initiatives. Amita, who compares her journey to a caterpillar's metamorphosis into a butterfly, is a strong advocate of human rights and has often found herself engaging people in conversations on such causes. She has inspired millions and is a stalwart leader who strongly believes in inclusiveness and teamwork.
Sakshi Juneja - Queer Megaphone
Sakshi Juneja and Priya Gangwani have been instrumental in amplifying and giving a space for queer voices to be heard. From personal stories to professional advice, their collective Gaysi has been working tirelessly to help individuals find a safe space, come to terms with their identity, and find people they can relate to.
Zainab Patel - Corporate Trendsetter
Zainab Patel is a corporate leader who has raised her voice to empower the transgender community in corporate spaces. As the Head of Diversity and Inclusion at KPMG, Zainab is well aware of the burden of responsibility she bears. She has consistently delivered on the expectations placed on her, supported her community, and helped accelerate their incorporation into corporate spheres with utmost dignity and poise.
Satish Kumar - Go-Getter
Satish strongly believes talent and hard work have no replacement. As India increasingly becomes more inclusive, he wants marginalized communities to bring their best selves to work. Crediting music for keeping him sane, his excellent repertoire boasts of performances in concerts, appearing on reality shows, and a mentor - S. Janaki, the 'music goddess' who has taught Satish the power of unconditional love.
Vasu Primlani - Comic Herald
As an artist, Vasu talks about things that are important to her: the environment and human rights. As she prepares to write her next skit, she brings together thoughts of everything she cares deeply about and communicates those through her jokes. She believes the purpose of her comedy is to disarm her audience and, as they are about to explode into laughter, deliver a necessary message.
Smita Vanniyar - Changemaker
Smita Vanniyar, earlier as part of Point of View and now as an independent consultant in sexuality, gender, and technology, has realized the extreme pervasiveness of technology in society and the inequalities present in accessing it. Smita has been an active advocate for safe spaces on the internet.
Ishaan Sethi - Startup Maverick
Ishaan Sethi is an entrepreneur who has leveraged his personal experiences and learnings to cater to the wellbeing of his tribe. His first endeavor was the Delta app, India's first social media platform designed exclusively for the LGBTQIA+ community. He believes the first step in doing away with gender biases and ensuring acceptability is building inclusiveness through conversation. Ishaan now brings that same level of sensitivity and insight to CRED, where he leads brand solutions.
Ritu Dalmia - Culinary Artist
Ritu Dalmia embodies a gentle and compassionate spirit within the exterior folds of strength and boldness. She considers being able to serve and feed people a gift to herself. By having the courage to speak out for the community and being one of the first petitioners against Section 377, she has been an inspiration to many across the nation. Ritu realizes the need for a fair and open society that treats all humans with love, kindness, and dignity.