Forty-year-old Vishal Pinjani from Kolhapur was crowned Mr Gay India and will now be representing the country at the Mr Gay World beauty pageant to be held in Cape Town, South Africa.
Pinjani, who runs a community-based organisation called Abhimaan, was inarguably a favourite with his extensive engagement with community-related issues in his hometown and in the state. “Through this pageant, I would get a chance to highlight the issues of gay men in rural India as issues of the LGBTQ community are often perceived as only urban issues,” said Vishal.
Abhishek Jayadeep, a 25-year-old software developer hailing from Thrissur in Kerala who now works in Pune, was the other finalist. He was awarded the first ever title of Mr Gay, Kerala. “I came out to my family only this year and some of my friends were even shy to promote me in public. That is the level of stigma we face,” said Abhishek.
The chief guest of honour, Manvendra Singh Gohil, the first openly gay prince in India said, “These kind of events are important because it helps bring people of the Indian (LGBTQ+) community on the global platform and represent not just themselves but Indian culture itself.”
Organised by Pune-based MIST Foundation founded by Shyam Konnur, who himself is Mr Gay India 2020, the event had been going on online for almost a month. While he was not able to go for the international rounds of the pageant due to the pandemic, he resolved to make the pageant accessible.
Speaking at the event, lesbian activist and corporate professional Ankita Mehra brought attention to the importance of equity in representation of the community. “Gay men are often more represented than lesbian women or trans women and trans men are even fewer so equity is quite important to work towards.”