Kris Prasad is a 34-year-old queer, Indo-Fijian activist based in Fiji. Although he thinks modern Valentine’s Day is a “capitalist scam”, he intends to celebrate it just like any other day. He believes loving each other and nurturing a queer community is the most important thing to do for LGBTI rights.
Have you displayed affection with your partner in public? If yes, what reaction did you receive then?
The reactions are different depending on the public place we are navigating through and whether our bodies are seen as gender conforming or non-confirming. Some bars and nightclubs can be safe for queer people but displaying affection on the streets or on public transport can attract stares, laughter or jeers.
Compared to opposite-sex people, do you think there’s any difference in the way you built or experience relationships?
There’s definitely a difference in the way we experience relationships. Firstly, in a small country like Fiji, it may be hard to find others to connect with but social media and apps have definitely made it easier. Queer people in relationships deal with everyday ups-and-downs just like heterosexual couples. However in a context where there could be isolation, homophobia and other social and cultural stresses, these relationships may not get the same support as heteronormative [the presumption of heterosexuality or promotion of heterosexuality as normal] relationships and many may struggle to maintain healthy and fulfilling relationships.
What do you think of Valentine’s Day?
Modern Valentine’s Day is a capitalist scam designed to manipulate people into spending money in the name of love. It perpetuates the idea that some relationships are more “normal and natural” than others and deserve more emotional care. It also minimizes the importance of other forms of love. We don’t need a commercialized holiday to honour love. As tolerance of LGBTI people increases and our communities get access to rights and privileges, we must avoid buying into oppressive ideas about love.
I intend to celebrate Valentine’s Day just like any other day. For queer people living in a world that seeks to pathologize us, deny our humanity and make us invisible, loving ourselves and our families (chosen or otherwise) and nurturing our community is the ultimate radical act.
What do you think of the Fijian government’s treatment of LGBTI people?
While Fiji is one of the few countries in the world that has a constitution prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, the constitutional rights are limited for non-heteronormative couples along with other restrictions in the Bill of Rights.
Activists in Fiji know the reality is different for LGBTI people who face high levels of violence, stigma and discrimination. Two years ago, our Prime Minister slammed same-sex marriage as “rubbish” and advised same-sex couples to move to Iceland and stay there if they want marriage equality. Societal tolerance of LGBTI people is increasing but when powerful leaders make such statements, it promotes hate speech and puts more pressure on advocates to work harder to change attitudes and combat prejudices.
What change do you hope to see to enhance equality among couples regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity?
I would like to see the government hold true to their promise of equality and non-discrimination for all Fijians including those with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. I also hope to see our community moving beyond single-issue politics in our struggle for a better world. Freedom, autonomy and transformative social change can only be achieved if we unite against all forms of oppression and domination including capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy and heteronormativity.
Millions of people across the world will celebrate love this Valentine’s Day, but what if your government or society doesn’t view your love as equal?
Five LGBTI activists from Asia tell how they plan to mark this 14 February, and their hopes to end different kinds of discrimination the LGBTI communities face.