By Pujanee Galappaththi
This week, we spoke to another young energetic member of the LGBTIQ community – Prabhashana Hasthidhara, an active member of the “Chathra” initiative.
Identifying as a queer man, Prabhashana is thrilled and grateful to be a part of the community, although he feels there is room for improvement within.
Speaking of sexual identity, Prabhashana stated: “I personally believe that revealing your gender identity or sexual orientation is a personal decision you make on your own terms. Thus, I don’t have any dictation on that when it comes to someone else.”
Prabhashana was in a family where he was taught the values of doing social good. “My mother being a teacher and my father an activist fighting for inclusivity in the digital space had the most influence on my journey in activism.
“It started in 2012 when I joined the Youth Empowerment Society, immersing myself in my passion of digital art. Using it for social change was a turning point in life, where I became sure that it was what I was meant to do. I won a World Summit Youth Award at 13, I was an Adobe Foundation Youth Ambassador at 14, and worked as a media educator with ‘Girls Voices for Change’ to empower underprivileged young girls and amplify their voices. I also directed my first project in creating a space for Sri Lankan queer stories online called ‘our stories’.
“I think I have grown quite a bit throughout the years. Yet, I continue to learn and grow in what I do.”
When asked what his approach to activism is, Prabhashana said: “It is quite holistic. To be honest, I don’t shy away from getting involved in any activity or space including queer folk being given an equal opportunity to voice their matters. I am definitely a ‘yes’ person, I would say, as long as it is within my values and wouldn’t harm the community I call home.”
Prabhashana believes that visibility is key in the acknowledgment and validation of the community and its existence – a big part of acceptance, especially in a country like Sri Lanka.
Further, according to him, one of the biggest issues causing the lack of acceptance of the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka is the lack of awareness and comprehensive education on sexuality and gender. “The approach I always take when introducing the community to someone is familiarising them on what it really means. As we are all humans at the end of the day, we need to create that bond on basics, inciting empathy instead of sympathy,” he added.
He believes that this problem could be addressed by the creation of self-sustaining communities that act as support systems for the local queer community. “I would say that the voices of the community don’t easily reach farther than the city’s limits. This has also led to the creation of bubbles of people that only work on LGBTIQ issues in Colombo, which is quite sad.
“We, the Chathra family, wishing to combat this, have expanded our operations to Kandy and Jaffna in hopes of growing more and more as safe spaces for community members.”
Finally, Prabhashana ended our conversation sharing a few words to members of the community, saying: “I see a lot of queer people managing platforms and building up platforms to advocate for queer rights, but I would like to urge them all to please educate themselves on what they advocate for.
“Resources might be limited, but it is crucial that they reach out to other community advocates and activists because misinformation and false narratives can do quite a lot of harm and demean already existing bodies of work.
“Also sometimes, the narratives they pick up from western media outlets don’t necessarily apply to the majority. I hope the fear of NGOs would wither away in the new generation. The politicisation and the scaremongering at the word ‘NGOs’ have harmed it so much so many non-government organisations have to cease their operations due to hardships faced in finding active and immersive new generations joining and working in these crucial causes.”