Make Your Voice Count

Spotlighting Queer Lives Through Storytelling and Art, ‘The Chinky Homo Project’: Kumam Davidson, India

By Tharindi Devasurendra – Monday, November 16, 2020

Kumam Davidson is a 30-year-old indigenous activist, researcher, artist, and curator from Manipur, India. He studied literature from Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University, continuously using the skills he gained from both his academic and advocacy experience.

One of Kumam’s more notable advocacy-related endeavors was co-founding The Chinky Homo Project. The Chinky Homo Project seeks to explore, discuss, and document  the lived experiences and narratives of the LGBTIQ community in India.

As the global pandemic progressed, Kumam has started a digital narrative series through the Chinky Homo Project called “the pandemic series” exploring LGBTIQ narratives from Northeast India told through words, photos, sketches, paintings and many other expressions. The stories cut across intersectional margins of gender, race, sexuality, religion, class, and ethnicity. The series strives to be diverse in their storytelling and unravel not just the ways in which the pandemic has impacted LGBTIQ lives but also how they are thriving in the face of this adversity.
Read more of the Pandemic Series: Archiving LGBTQIA lives of India’s northeast during Covid 19 here:

Kumam’s work has gained him recognition and opportunities such as being awarded SAATHII LGBTQIA Fellow, Zubaan Sasakawa Peace Foundation Fellow and Mann Mela Mental Health Design Resident Artist.

Aside from this project he is very passionate about, research, academic writing and community outreach. Kumam is also a writer. His  work will be published in “Zubaan’s Homebound Anthology” and “Routledge’s COVID 19 Assemblages: Queer and Feminist Ethnographies from South Asia”. He has a chapter specifically talking about a person living with HIV and documenting a comparative story about what happened in the nineties at the early phase of the HIV epidemic and what is happening today with COVID-19. This narrative study is framed through the eyes of a person who has now lived through both experiences, providing a “then and now” comparison.

Read about one of the featured stories in The Chinky Homo Project here:

To address  the difficulties that the marginalized communities are facing, he has also been involved in mobilizing COVID-19 relief efforts for the LGBTIQ communities such as food, accommodation, jobs, financial aid and mental health support. As it is paramount to take into account the mental health of queer people, he has started to work with an organization in Manipur called the Collective Trust, a platform that  raises awarness  of various mental health issues  such as suicide prevention and counseling. Working with Kumam, the collective is now having discussions on expanding their work by creating a strong team of health professionals, lawyers, doctors and law enforcers to deal with crisis and emergency situations.

He also mentions some of the difficulties he faced during the lockdown especially having to limit traveling to work and other responsibilities requiring appointments to be given with sufficient time in advance because of scarce transportation. With irregular announcements on the lockdown status, citizens are also forced to adjust their plans and stock up on necessary items making the situation more arduous. He also expressed that it was very difficult to access curfew passes, a required document when travelling beyond designated times, as it took long waiting times.

The Chinky Homo Project also shares some visual art and sketch pieces from community members from India:

There are several barriers and challenges that Kumam has faced in his work but continues to improve his advocacy work. Speaking about some significant moments in his work, he realized that  people where he lived were more concerned about  their livelihood than the pandemic itself. Many community members did not have the privilege and luxury to confine themselves at home and protect themselves from the pandemic. The other major thing that he realized was about the challenges people living with HIV are facing, including having to travel far to other areas to get ARV medication because they usually do not visit centers in their district for fear of disclosure or stigma from people they know.

Similarly, with most advocacy-related work now moving to virtual spaces, he conveyed that working online has made it easier for him to diversify and include communities in his work, recognizing also the limitation of virtual engagements versus groundwork. Kumam also identified some difficulties that the community was facing including challenges on digital literacy and access to devices. Kumam was able to identify some of the difficulties that his community was facing with some grappling with understanding technology and being tech savvy. As Kumam mentions, “A lot of people don’t even have smartphones and which is precisely the challenge”. Moreover, he also expressed that even the people who do have access to smartphones might not have internet or have the technical knowledge and skills in using digital tools and platforms in working or studying online.

Kumam sees his “new normal” as being an offset of an already challenging “normal”. As he puts it, the “new normal” is merely “a small tweak from the earlier normal” alluding to the lack of adequate transport, schools hardly having online platforms to support distant education, and a lack of adapted healthcare services that provide online service provision. Furthermore, he feels that there is a need for local facilitators and leaders to recognize the unique needs of the community,  to address them so as to make sure no communities are left behind and to ensure  effective and sustainable engagement.

Read another one of The Chinky Homo Project’s stories here:

Kumam’s work and that of the Chinky Homo Project teaches us about innovative and creative ways of community engagement that capitalize on storytelling and the arts to convey positive messaging and social consciousness. In the human rights and sexual health response, this is a crucial communication method to create social change in communities. Kumam’s work in research and creative writing, provides fresh narrative voices to develop awareness of the queer experience in India and beyond.

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JAN GABRIEL CASTAÑEDA

Philippines
He/Him
Board Member

Jan is passionate about seeing through the potential contributions of psychological sciences and human rights advocacy in LGBT people’s lives. He is currently Program Associate of ASEAN SOGIE Caucus and is a member of the LGBT Psychology Special Interest Group of the Psychological Association of the Philippines. He has written for various platforms and publications on a diverse range of topics from gender and sexuality to human rights experiences in different contexts. Jan’s desire is to engage in productive and meaningful work that bridges scholarship with practice rooted in people’s real experiences.

PATRICK JUANICO

Philippines
He/Them
Graphic Designer

Currently, Nico is a college student studying in the Philippines and is simultaneously working for Youth Voices Count as one of the graphic designers for the organization. He lists producing the brand logo and look of HRPlus Asia as one of his significant achievements. His interests in literature and creating films have also honed and continued to improve his skills in graphic designing.

JAN ELLA BRILLANTES

Philippines
She/They
Social Media Officer

Jan Ella is currently taking up her undergraduate studies at the University of the Philippines Visayas and has been a consistent academic awardee since 2019. She is involved in various organizations such as the Catalyst UPV as the Volunteer Director in 2021, former Publications Committee Head for UP Lipad and former member of Iloilo Pride Team.

JE-ANN PALMAIRA

Philippines
She/Her
Project Finance Officer

Je-ann is the current Project Finance Officer under the Finance Department. She graduated from the University of San Agustin with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration major
in Marketing Management.

Her involvement in her University’s Little Theater organization led her to find an interest in theater, films and the arts. Aside from theater arts, she also partakes in the company’s production work including stage management and most notably, heading the organization’s marketing team.

MARION REA CAMEROS

Philippines
She/Her
Accounting Associate

Marion graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting Technology which has made her suitable for being the Accounting Associate of Youth Voices Count. She lists watching movies as one of her hobbies that helps her wind down during her leisure time.

ATTY. RONIFELLE L. BARRIOS

Philippines
She/Her
Legal Counsel

She is a graduate of AB Political Science from West Visayas State University (WVSU), in Iloilo City. In her days in college, she was the founding Prime Minister of WVSU Debate Circle, the ROTC Corps Commander and later a Volunteer Instructor in the Air Force Reserve Command. When she ran for the first time in their University Student Council, she was elected number one councilor. Her interest in leadership grew when she joined the 10th National Youth Parliament, organized by the National Youth Commission in 2014, where she later on became the Regional Convener for Western Visayas.

She then pursued her studies to take up law in San Beda University in Mendiola, Manila. As a law student, she was still active in student organizations: She joined moot court competitions, she served as layout artist in 2 of San Beda Law’s Official Publications: The Barrister and San Beda Law Journal. In her last year in law school, she was the President of San Beda Law Human Rights Advocate (HRA), where she was later conferred Leadership Award by the Association of Law Students of the Philippines (ALSP) and her organization, HRA was awarded top advocacy organization.

She passed the 2019 Bar Examinations and became a full-fledged lawyer by 2020.

She worked as Associate of Javier Santiago Torres & Panghulan Law Offices. She now runs her own RLB Law Office as a solo practitioner and serves as Notary Public for and in Quezon City. She serves as legal consultant to MSMEs and Non-profit organizations. At present, she is the Vice President for Communications of the National Society of Parliamentarians, Inc., the Chief Legislative Staff of Councilor Quin Cruz of Pasig City Council and part-time law instructor in Malayan Colleges Laguna – a Mapua School. Interestingly, she is the creator and blogger of The Young Lawyer PH. Recently, she served as Resident Parliamentarian during the Bangsamoro Youth Parliament held last Nov. 7-11, 2022 at Cotabato City.

A lawyer by profession and an artist by heart.

LOUELA MARIE PRADO

Philippines
He/She/They
Admin Officer

An advocate at heart, Louela is a part of several youth-led organizations in the Philippines with various advocacies ranging from climate justice, environmental protection, gender equality, human rights, SRHR, mental health prioritization, youth empowerment and HIV/AIDS awareness. She is currently the Interim Chairperson of Iloilo Pride Team after serving the organization for 4 years as the Admin Officer, Executive Secretary at Proyekto Philippines, Member of Team Dugong Bughaw, and more.

She graduated as Summa Cum Laude at West Visayas State University majoring in English Language Studies and is currently taking up her Masters in English Language Studies at the same institution. During her stay at the university, she served as the Vice Chairperson at the University Student Council and Federated Student Council where she organized programs and initiatives that advocated for student involvement in societal causes and being the voice of the students that lobbies their concerns to the administration.

In July 2022, she was awarded by JCI Regatta as one of the Top Outstanding Students in Iloilo and a Top Circle Awardee which is the most prestigious recognition given by the award-giving body.

RONAN JAMES B. PENUELA, RN

Philippines
He/Him
Project Officer

Ronan passed the Philippines nursing licensure exam in 2022 immediately after graduating his Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of San Agustin. While juggling his academics, he was elected governor of his college’s student council (Nursing Student Council) in 2021 and board member in 2019 where he was awarded the leadership award and Agustino para sa Tao award due to his excellence in service. He is also a certified Safety Officer (SO1) after completing his training.

He is currently a dialysis nurse in training. He handles the Intersex projects of YVC.

ANFERNEE NENOL KAMINAGA

Marshall Islands
He/Him, They/Them
Project Officer for IGNITE! Empowerment Grants Program

Having done some activism for the Marshall Islands both locally and regionally with climate change, youth empowerment, LGBTQI rights, and nuclear injustice, Nenol takes pride in being an advocate for the causes he is passionate in, being a part of Youth Voices Count and taking a step in amplifying young LGBTQI+ voices. This also inspired him to co-found the first Marshallese LGBTQI Youth Support called Brighten the Rainbow. He is featured in “We Have a Dream” which is a collection of stories from young leaders around the world.

THARINDI DEVASURENDRA

Sri Lanka
They/Them
Project Manager

Tharindi is currently a feminist activist and researcher based in Sri Lanka, and has worked with the Youth Advocacy Network Sri Lanka (YANSL). They are a trainer on advocating for comprehensive sexuality education and providing knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) where they actively advocate for safe abortion and bodily autonomy for women.

One of Tharindi’s brainchild initiatives is an Instagram page which mainly focuses on the process of reaching out to queer women in Sri Lanka, a platform that helps in providing them visibility and strategy direction on programming through social media and other means.

They have completed their Bachelors (BA Honors) in English and Linguistics at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka.

JOHNMEL ESTIMAR

Philippines
They/Them
Finance Manager

Johnmel M. Estimar is the founder and senior adviser of La Villa Pride, a grassroots-level organization for LGBTQI in Villa, Iloilo. They are also a member of the Iloilo Pride team, a Community Based Screening motivator for HIV and an LGBTQI Rights Activist. Miles, as they like to be called, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University-Molo, Inc. They also hold an Associate Degree in Cruise Ship Management in the same University.

They have ample experience in clerk and accounting work for nine years from their previous employer, they are currently employed with Youth Voices Count as Finance Manager since 2019.

ANTHONY DE VICENTE LOPEZ

Philippines
He/Him, They/Them
Deputy Executive Director

Mx. Toni graduated with a bachelor’s degree of secondary education majoring in English at the Capiz State University back in 2021. Aside from this, they sought out other educational opportunities such as Advocacy and Project Management at the Women Deliver Digital University (2015), International Women’s Health and Human Rights at Stanford University (2014), and Global Health and Humanitarianism at the University of Manchester (2013).

An advocate of many causes, they are members of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, and Y-PEER Pilipinas, founder of the Y-Cap for SRHR, founder of United Colours of CapSU, and Alumnus of Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Back in 2018, they were awarded as the SDG 5 Youth Champion due to the amiable service they have rendered for gender equality.

JUSTIN FRANCIS BIONAT, MA HRD

Philippines
He/His/Him
Executive Director

A learner for life and a seeker of knowledge, Justin graduated his Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Political Science at West Visayas State University, Philippines and took on a Master’s of Arts in Human Rights and Democratisation (International Program) at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University, Thailand under the APMA / European Union Scholarship. At present, Justin is pursuing a Juris Doctor (JD) degree (Law Degree) from the College of Law, University of San Agustin, Philippines.

Justin entered Youth Voices Count, Inc. in 2018 while studying in Thailand. He later took on the role of Executive Director beginning 2019 and successfully set up the legal registration of the organization in the Philippines under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Since then, he has been leading the organization in various programs and projects centered around LGBTIQ children, adolescents, and youth. Outside Youth Voices Count, Inc., Justin is active in other initiatives in the field of research and law. He was a law student fellow of the Legal Education Advancement Program (LEAP) of the Legal Education Board and the UP Law Center in 2022.

As an aspiring lawyer, he hopes to one day be instrumental in providing legal support for marginalized populations. Justin has also published reports, journal articles, commentaries, and book articles in the fields of law, HIV/AIDS, LGBTIQ, and Human Rights.

In 2018, he was awarded the Young Achiever HERO Award by APCOM Foundation during the HERO Awards reception at the Royal British Embassy in Thailand for his outstanding work on equality and human rights. He is one of the Youth Council members of the Global Fund, an international financing and partnership organization that aims to “attract, leverage and invest additional resources to end the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria”, and a Board Member of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia Committee.