About becoming a multimedia artist and author: experiences of a non-binary trans man

Lavanya / Bombay Bejaar became an artist for a very personal reason: In theater performances, essays, and on his Instagram profile, he shares his experiences as a non-binary trans man with the public as well as reports on his transition. In the interview we asked him about his current artistic projects as well as his anthropology studies at HMKW Berlin.

Lavanya / Bombay Bejaar (he/they) studies in the first semester M.A. Visual and Media Anthropology at HMKW Berlin.

Lavanya / Bombay Bejaar (he/they) studies in the first semester M.A. Visual and Media Anthropology at HMKW Berlin.

You are a multimedia artist from India. Moreover, you have been working as a writer and editor and you have participated in numerous theatre performances. Wow! That sounds pretty amazing! Tell us more about your recent projects.

Thank you so much! My two most recent projects have been related to my performance poetry. My poetry is currently featured at The Haven, a Vancouver-based gallery dedicated to showcasing art by transgender people.

On March 2, I had the privilege of being the opening performer for Reframe, a pan-Asian summit on redressing gender norms hosted by Breakthrough India. I debuted a piece, written for the summit, called Daddy’s Little Princess.

Also, you have been active on Instagram, where you document your lived experiences about your transition and what it means to be a non-binary trans man from the global South. Please tell us more about your account and the topics that you want to make more visible via social media.

I started becoming active on my current Instagram account in late 2019 in the wake of the oppressive Trans Act in India, which has stalled our rights significantly. Since then and since the onset of the pandemic, I have continued to speak extensively on my lived experience of being transgender in India and how I navigate my identity, my written and performance work, and my relationships with other people in my life (who are also mostly queer and trans).

The topics I actively speak on include being trans for yourself (this means transitioning without caring about the considerations and comfort of cisgender people), being neurodivergent (I am formally diagnosed with ADHD and I am a self-diagnosed autistic person), and how the two intersect with being South Asian and living in India.


What are you working on at the moment? And what made you want to make a go for it?

While most of my time goes in working on content projects for marketing purposes (since being an artist almost always pays precious little), I am currently working on a set of diaries and written books which I plan to collate parts of into a publication someday. I am also putting together a list of essays on key pieces of media and cinema and their intersections with my identity. I will eventually be starting work on the one-man stage show that I have been planning for the last three years.

What made me want to make a go for it? A rather bleak reason: The pandemic. Having lost a number of my transmasculine ancestors to the AIDS pandemic, I saw the need to amplify our lived experiences and histories of my own accord in the event that I lost my life to this pandemic or even an HIV+ diagnosis.

Could you tell us a bit about how you became an artist? When did you do your first steps towards theatre and multimedia art?

I was academically trained in media and communications, with the intent of becoming a journalist (since I had been writing from the age of 10). Concurrent to my media career, I would regularly get involved with productions helmed by community theatre groups (out of a sheer passion for performance and the stage). My first role was a supporting one in a Dubai-based production of Christopher Sergel’s The Mouse That Roared. I have also performed in productions of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Kean and Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.

After years of this practice and simultaneously writing opinion essays, I was introduced to the world of spoken word by a friend and fellow queer collaborator, which is how I started writing poetry as well. And that is how I am now a multimedia artist; I write and perform my work!

How do you get inspired? And what inspires you the most?

As a performance artist with a background in singing (choir from a young age and a brief period of training in Carnatic music) and dancing, music is a special interest of mine. It allows me to slip into a space where I can envision my wildest artistic fantasies and bring them to fruition through written words or performance (or both!).


What was the biggest challenge in your work as an artist so far?

I would say that the money part of being an artist is a significant challenge, but it’s certainly not the most upsetting one. It’s in being non-white (or even someone not based in a Western country) and transgender and the combination of the two. Who has ever heard of a South Asian/South Indian transgender writer and performance artist? That is truly where the challenge lies.

Why did you decide to study “M.A. Visual and Media Anthropology”?

The answer to this question is a rather strange one, I will admit. It’s because I am equally fascinated and disgusted by human beings and the societal structures they have built. As someone who has constantly questioned social and cultural structures and their shockingly oppressive levels of rigidity, I felt like studying anthropology through the lens of media and visual communication would be something I am perfectly suited for.

In your opinion, from which experiences/courses/projects during your studies will you benefit the most in your future career?

Cannot answer this with clarity just yet, but I can definitely tell you that I am looking forward to all the courses being offered in the upcoming summer semester!

What do you like the most about your studies/the study program in general?

The flexibility, for a start. The reason I am able to balance my academics with what I do for a living is this, and I am truly thankful for it.

Another advantage is being able to voice and assert my strongest opinions during lectures, which is something that I believe is vital to the process of studying anthropology, or any social science for that matter.

What are your plans for the future?

As of now, there are a few. I hope to acquire a publishing contract or a performance grant sometime in the next year, which would mean writing my book or conceptualizing my one-man stage show. However, I am also keen to continue in academia by pursuing a PhD, or even do research work in the field of social and cultural anthropology (should I receive the opportunity to do so).

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. We wish you all the best for your future projects and your VMA studies.