A Letter to Pranshu


Dear Pranshu,

I didn’t know you before your suicide on November 21, 2023. I saw your Diwali reel in which you wore a saree – you looked beautiful. I don’t intend here to offer crumbs of sympathy to you. I am not going to talk about how Indian society has failed you. You probably knew from the moment you chose to become a queer makeup artist that you would encounter systematic heartlessness. That’s why I am not going to treat you as a victim; I am going to talk about how you had the power to graze everybody’s life with newness, how you could have more were you given the chance to do so.

Reading people’s comments on your last post disgusts me – I am disgusted by the violence of masculinity, by the ego of men whose entire existence is built upon the abuse of others. Homophobes kept calling you weak because they are afraid of the weakness that resides at the core of their own fake and fragile identities. What sort of identity is “manliness” if gets its utmost satisfaction only when queer people die? Masculinity represents not the apogee of life and vigor but the darkest pits of a death cult.

Seeing your photos and videos, I am captivated by the exhilarating purity of your self-expression. Purity is a word that has been monopolized by the queerphobic digital mob – they are still commenting on your Instagram reel about their plan to rid the earth of sexual subalterns. However, I feel that the stable, monotonous world of “real men” is dirty and ugly. It is wholly impure – impure in its war-like attempts to turn life into a ritual of power, wherein everybody tries to obsessively prove that they possess masculinity. You exude a different, courageous attitude, uninterested in the possession of the phallus. By this very gesture, you open up space free from the constrictive cage of patriarchal heteronormativity, a space where one doesn’t need to be a pre-defined someone but can experiment unabashedly, as no-one in particular.

What is so inspiring about you, Pranshu, is your ability to remold my relationship with my own body. Teenage boys, posturing as “real men,” look upon their bodies with a dismissive gaze, because, for them, their bodies are already present in a false plenitude, as emblems of masculine virility. The storm-troopers of masculinity try to portray you as pathological and abnormal. This only hides the fact that, unlike them, you had the intelligence to take a deep look at your own body, to understand that it didn’t need to be blindly shoehorned into standardized definitions. Those who pretend to be “natural” are the most unnatural: they accept others’ views without the least bit of thinking.

I once wore a long skirt, and when I stared at myself in the mirror, I felt a gush of liberation. I think it was probably because, for the first time, I wasn’t listening to the demands of Man but following the desires of a human – someone whose humanness lies in the ability to form relations among the elements of the world without any hint of passivity and servitude. Your memory, Pranshu, will live on in the efforts to redeem humanity, to fight for a world without any hierarchies.


Yanis Iqbal.

Yanis Iqbal is studying at Aligarh Muslim University, India. He has published over 300 articles on social, political, economic and cultural issues. He is the author of the forthcoming book “Education in the Age of Neoliberal Dystopia”. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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