By Sarah Hannan
Last week, we discussed how social media platforms could be a toxic place to a person trying to make a living from it. Today, we met with a personality that has used streaming media to address social issues of the LGBTQIA community.
Kaushal Ranasinghe has been a familiar face in the electronic media sector as a news reader, reality show performer, and now a programme presenter in streaming channels. He is also reading for his law degree, setting aside time to work with the minority community on HIV prevention, and speaking up for those who have no voice in the country.
While he could have easily used his online presence to build a fan base for his dance performances, Ranasinghe channelled his popularity towards addressing pressing social issues.
“I just wanted to do something meaningful, because every time in any activity, the meaningful parts are always removed and we are only left with the lesser important figments. I wanted to give society something that’s different from my perspective. So at my leisure time, I talked about social issues that are faced by the minorities and built a unique audience without getting caught in gathering millions of impressions for my content.”
Not many were supportive of Ranasinghe’s move to use his platform to speak up for the marginalised LGBTQIA community. “Many people attempted to discourage me and were virtually attacking my efforts by criticising my programmes. But most of them were keyboard warriors, so I didn’t take it to heart. I just did what I believed in – be a voice for the voiceless.”
Ranasinghe’s efforts were recognised and the United Nations had given him the opportunity to be a youth representative for Sri Lanka. At present, he works as a human resources training consultant and conducts workshop on public speaking, sales and marketing and other HR related solutions, but in those programmes, he also talks about sexual orientation, gender and LGBTIQ community to sensitize personnel from the field.
“The feedback I receive from these institutions is positive, and proves that I am making a change in my own capacity. Even when I go on the streets, people who recognise me and talk to me say that they appreciate my efforts. It brings me great joy to know that my content has changed people’s minds and that they are becoming more aware about the social issues faced by the LGBTQIA community. Receiving feedback in the form of comments is better than earning money for the amount of views and likes you could get for your content.”
While Ranasinghe’s work mainly revolves around the LGBTQIA community, we inquired whether he as a person who is lobbying for decriminalising same sex relationships has ever faced discrimination, to which Ranasinghe responded: “I have not been discriminated yet, but I have witnessed many from the LGBTQIA community being discriminated. Some organisations come to serve this community and later close the doors on them. I have seen work-place discrimination – especially when a transgender or effeminate person comes for an interview, some of the HR personnel discriminate them.”
Ranasinghe reiterated that the community is not asking to legalise same-sex marriages, all they need is to be accepted for their gender identity and sexual orientation, to repeal Section 365/365A of the Penal Code.
“The general public still presumes that being gay is a western thing, but our history records indicate that there were kings from the Kotte Era who were gay. There are enough and more references in many of the books that were written about pre-colonisation.”
Wrapping up our conversation, we asked Ranasinghe whether he would choose dancing over social work, and he said: “These days, I give a lot of time to dancing, but then I can always make time to take to the streets and get immersed in social work. This is why I’m working on a new project focused o eliminating HIV prevalence in Sri Lanka.
At the same time, I represented Sri Lanka’s youth at the Youth Focal Point – KAP Sri Lanka. I am currently working on the HIV Prevention Project in Sri Lanka to represent HIV positive lives in Sri Lanka and promote sexual and reproductive health and rights, and I am also working with my team as an officer to help minority communities improve their sexual health.”