Global Roundup: Indigiqueer Love Story, Teen on Mission to Vaccinate Indian Trans Community, Latina-Run Zero-Waste Store, Resilience of Queer Nigerians, Protests in Ukraine

Compiled by Inaara Merani

Mary Galloway (sitting up) and Kaitlyn Yott star in “Querencia.” Credit: Veronica Bonderud. (Xtra)

Mary Galloway’s web series Querencia is a coming of age 2SLGBTQ+ web series that centres on the budding romance between two young Indigenous women: something rare in Canada where there is rarely any Indigenous representation on television or in movies, let alone Indigenous queer representation.

In its exploration of two Indigiqueer women navigating themselves in a colonial world, Querencia portrays Indigenous culture, intergenerational trauma, as well as the love between the two leading women, and their love for themselves and their culture. 

After graduating from Vancouver’s New Image College of Fine Arts where she studied acting, Galloway found that she rarely landed interesting or diverse roles which prompted her to write her first short film Ariel Unraveling. She chose not to direct that film, but felt that she should gain directing experience as well, resulting in her writing, directing, and acting in Querencia

The show came to fruition after Galloway and producer Jessie Anthony won the pitch contest at the world’s largest Indigenous pitch competition. The entire producing team was Indigenous, and the lead role of Daka was played by an Indigiqueer actress. Galloway stated that she would not budge on the casting of Daka as it was a necessity. Too often, straight individuals are cast in queer roles, not only taking away an opportunity from a queer actor, but also diminishing the authenticity of the production. Galloway wanted that authentic Indigenous representation to shine through. 

I think it’s really a dream of mine for people to take away from Querencia this feeling of belonging, of feeling like they matter. And for people, especially the Indigenous community and the queer community, to have something to turn to and watch and feel comforted by. You know, there are hard times for sure in this series, there are challenges—it’s not all rainbows and lollipops—but for the community to see themselves thrive. - Mary Galloway

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Blessing in Disguise: Sia Sehgal raised RS 1.75 lakh for the drive. (Times of India)

Sia Sehgal, a 16-year old student in Mumbai, India, is raising money to help vaccinate the trans community in India. Since she began fundraising, Sehgal raised 200,000 rupees, around $2700 USD in order to buy doses of the Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca) vaccine. 

On July 24, Sehgal held a free vaccination drive in which 120 trans people were administered with their first dose of the vaccine. Upon attempting to get the vaccine, many trans people faced harassment and discrimination, preventing them from receiving protection from COVID-19. 

We are always being mocked. While I was standing in the queue for the shot, people were staring and laughing at me. Someone even passed a comment that the vaccination was only for males and females. This discourages us from going to these centres for vaccination. - Varshabhai Dhokalia, trans woman from Khar 

Trans people in India do not have the ability to legally change their gender on their identity documents, which has resulted in this exclusion. Trans people are also often excluded from social safety nets, creating even more difficulty in their everyday lives. After learning that only a small number of trans people were able to receive the vaccine due to stigmatization, Sehgal determined to assist the community. 

Since I wanted to help the community, I contacted the heads of the transgender community and [spoke to] them about the need for vaccination through Zoom video calls. Many transgenders claim that they face stigma which discourages them from getting vaccinated. Considering they are a vulnerable group of the population, it is our responsibility to ensure that they are fully vaccinated. - Sia Sehgal 

In just two weeks, the teenager raised enough money for the first 120 vaccines, and she plans to continue to raise funds to buy the second doses for these individuals, as well as first doses for other members of the trans community. 

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Photo: The Boston Globe. (BE Latina) 

Maria Vasco, a Latina woman born in Cali, Colombia and raised in East Boston, has been making headlines with her zero-waste store, Uvida. Vasco immigrated to the US when she was only four years old, and was undocumented until her junior year of college; this made her ineligible for federal aid. 

As she searched to fill a requirement for her degree, she found herself taking an environmental science course and fell deeply in love. She switched her major and began connecting with her new professors outside of classes, which led her to finding her calling in plastic pollution. 

This is something I can control because I touch plastic every day, - Maria Vasco 

She discovered the idea for her store, Uvida, during her freshman year of college while testing plastic free products. While continuing and furthering her research, she worked tirelessly to make ends meet, but dedicated her free time to her passion. 

I worked part-time at restaurants and internships just to make ends meet. Then at nighttime, I would stay up until four in the morning doing market research, looking at products, making my website. And it was like the best time of my life. I just was having so much fun doing it that it didn’t matter how much I had on my plate. I always made time for that. - Maria Vasco 

Later on in her freshman year, Maria received a scholarship of $5000 as well as a year of mentoring from Professor Dan Phillips at UMass-Boston. He guided her on the importance of market research, which then helped her launch her website and online store.

Vasco opened Uvida in December during the pandemic, she launched the business as an online store in 2019 while still a full-time student at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Her business is flourishing and she is beginning to mentor others as she also continues to learn herself. 

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L: Photography Matthew Blaise. R: Photography Timinipre Cole. (VICE)

In Lagos, Nigeria in August 2018, police raided a birthday party at a hotel and threw 57 men in jail for allegedly participating in homosexual activity. Years later, filmmakers Nneka Onuorah and Giselle Bailey are illustrating the events of that night, documenting the resilience of queer Nigerians, in the new documentary The Legend of the Underground.

Nigeria is one of 69 countries which still criminalize homosexuality. Passed in 2013, the Same-Sex Marriage Act allows police to arrest people for showing any signs of homosexual activity, which can sometimes result in up to 10 to 14 years in prison. This was the very law which was used to arrest the 57 individuals that night in August 2018. 

The documentary follows queer activist Michael Ighodaro as he returns to Nigeria for the first time since 2013, after a homophobic attack forced him into exile. The documentary captures the injustices faced by queer Nigerians, but also reveals the resilience and strength of the LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria. 

Displacement and rejection is the first heartbreak for so many people in the LGBTQ+ community, It shifts how we see ourselves and shifts the course of our life, and that is why we made it central to the plot because there isn't enough empathy around that. - Nneka Onuorah 

(which previously forced the makers of the lesbian film Ife to seek underground streaming platforms for their own premiere), The Legend of the Underground isn’t actually available in Nigeria yet, which only makes it more urgent for a global audience to watch it.

The Legend of the Underground is available now on HBO Max.

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On Friday last week, LGBTQ+ activists in Ukraine threw a rave outside President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office in Kyiv, in protest of the president’s views on LGBTQ+ rights, organized by UkrainePride. This protest comes after the president failed to clarify his stance on LGBTQ+ rights and declined to condemn anti-LGBTQ+ legislation which was drafted by his own party. 

The purpose of the rave was to demand the adoption of Bill 5488, an act which would create protections for hate crimes committed against the LGBTQ+ community, and would also demand investigations into attacks against the community. In recent years, members of the LGBTQ+ community have been subject to violent physical attacks, perpetrated by homophobes as well as authorities. Activists are demanding equal rights for LGBTQ+ folks. 

Ukraine's LGBT community still suffers from unpunished attacks by right-wing radicals, which makes the country dangerous for its own citizens and unattractive for foreign guests. The government's inaction on violence unites us in a common desire for the rule of human rights and freedoms. Deprived of the protection of the state, we use the only effective tool of direct democracy left to us — protest. - UkrainePride via Instagram 

In Ukraine, there are two organizations supporting the LGBTQ+ community: KyivPride and UkrainePride. UkrainePride is demanding rights through the form of laws which will support the community in the long-run. The fight is ongoing and activists had a blast protesting last week. 

At Rave Pride, we are going to play loud music in the middle of the workday at the President’s Office so that the authorities can finally hear us. Advocacy is any action that shines a light on the violations of a person’s rights, and UkrainePride is looking for the most diverse and most creative ways [to do that]. - Sofia Lapina, cofounder of UkrainePride

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Inaara Merani (she/her) is a recent graduate from the University of Ottawa where she studied  International Development and Globalization with a minor in Women’s Studies. She is an Ismaili Muslim Canadian who is deeply passionate about human rights, social justice and feminism, and in turn, dismantling the patriarchy and ensuring that all women have safe and equal access to all their rights. She hopes to pursue a career in law so that she can continue to fight for the rights of women and other marginalized groups everywhere. She also enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her beautiful cat. 

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