Indian gay rights activist Mohnish Malhotra to host a show on Voice America Talk Radio Network

Mohnish Malhotra
Mohnish Malhotra

Malhotra will also be launching his web series, UFF, at World Dignity Forum in Los Angeles.

Delhi-based activist Mohnish Malhotra has been a busy man these days. He is currently involved in the production of an upcoming talk show with Voice America, a live talk radio programming based in Phoenix, Arizona. With this new platform, he intends to reach out also to the South Asian LGBTQ community in the United States.

The organizer of the first ever “Pride Parade” in India, Malhotra’s efforts have also been instrumental in the country’s de-criminalization of homosexuality last year.

In a recent interview with the American Bazaar, he spoke about the radio show, the new web series UFF, and the need for better gay rights.

You will be hosting a radio show on Voice America. When is this happening and tell us everything about it?

“Beyond Love, Sex and Other Drugs” is the name of the radio show. I am co-hosting the show with Kass Thomas, who is a bestselling author, life coach and a certified facilitator of Access Consciousness. The show will center around drug abuse, sex or no sex addiction, love and abusive relationships and what exactly it stems from. Do people use drugs for the sheer effect or pleasure they derive from it, or is it an attempt to dull our senses, numb the effects of the real world and its apparent cruelties? I met Kass at a time where I had come out of my addiction of drugs, and I thought I was in a good place.

Kass, who hails from Boston, says, “The choices I made in life made me travel all around the globe. I have met all kinds of people from different cultures, from old to young to wealthy to poor, from transgender people to people with disabilities. This exposure to people has helped me draw out similarities and differences between them- and gauge their experience with love, sex and drugs.”

The show will be launched on the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, to mark the day when we first took a stand for inclusivity.

I began listing to Voice America while in India and I once reached out to them over email as I wanted to do something with them. Many months later my friend Kass asked me if I would be interested in doing something with Voice America. So, I guess it was fated! The series will start airing in a few weeks from now. We are in the production stages currently.

Your upcoming series UFF would be launched at World Dignity Forum in Los Angeles. Tell us more about the association. 

I was in the US last year and I was meeting my client while also researching on how LGBTQ rights gained prominence in the West. Around this time, one of my clients had a party at her New York residence where I met Marla Maples, who is Tiffany Trump’s mother. We stayed in touch and around that time she was planning to visit India for a spiritual retreat to the Brahmakumaris. During her India visit, even though I couldn’t meet them at the retreat in Mt Abu, she introduced me to Sister Jenna, who then connected me to World Dignity Forum.

The World Dignity Forum is a solutionary platform where experts from various fields come together to discuss, not only the problems faced in the world, but also how to end these problems and improve the lives of others. UFF’s contribution will be towards providing a solution to the judgement faced by those who are different. UFF will be launched globally around the time of the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

Let’s talk about UFF. Why did you think the time was just right for a series of this nature and who are your target audiences?

When I was very young, I had understood that I was different. I had understood my sexual orientation did not fall under the acceptance or support of the hetero-normative culture of India at that time. When I looked at families, I saw the potential of expanding the definition of families. Does family just have to mean blood? Can it not include people who we are not connected through blood, but by feelings, emotions and similar thought? So, I reached out to people who were more similar to me, which included some people from the LGBTQIA+ community. In them I found a support system that justified the term, ‘family’.

The show Modern Family also influenced me and helped me to be comfortable with myself. To see a mainstream network televise such a progressive show, where nothing was exaggerated and did justice to our feelings and emotions, re-assured me that there are other out there like me — that I am not alone.

In the past year, I have seen my close friends get married, get into relationships and out of them and identify as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. I also saw the look of pure joy and the acknowledgment of freedom in their eyes as India was freed from the shackles of Section 377. This is when the fire inside me rose, and where I realized I could make this good thing lead to other good things.

UFF is about LGBTQIA+ people coming to talk about their stories with their parents, siblings, spouses etc., where we get to hear both sides of the story.

Our target is ideally all generations, from our grandparents to our grandchildren. We want them to see the situation exactly as it is, unscripted and original. The series was conceptualized by me, and with the support of Keshav Suri Foundation and Flying Elephant, we were able to bring this important work to life.

Is there a South Asian LGBTQ network in the US that you have found support or inspiration from?

I have been a member of InterPride where international LGBTQIA+ leaders exchange ideas and develop ways to move forward with inclusivity. I also work closely with the UN and Fabrice Houdart, and keep myself updated on global LGBTQIA+ matters.

Tell us a bit about the work on gay rights you have done in India. 

I have worked for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as several other sections of our society for a long time. My personal experience has kept me motivated to continue working towards this. Another thing that motivates me is the inspirational people I choose to surround myself with. One of those people is Kass, who I have found to be the only person who loves out of the joy of loving, and the desire to empower others, and not as a result of networking or finding gratification for themselves.

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