India‘s Mr Gay World entrant, family go into hiding

Monday, 20 April 2015 – 6:23am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna | From the print edition
LGBT rights activists raise alarm over the safety of Thahir Sayyed

The family of Thahir Mohammed Sayyed, 28, an entrant to Mr Gay World (MGW) 2015 from India, has gone incommunicado and couldn’t be found at both their Kochi and Kottayam homes, setting alarm bells ringing among LGBT and human rights activists in Kerala. dna had front-paged the plight of this part-time model and fashion designing post-grad from Brisbane, Australia, after his family was prevented from praying at the local mosque and threatened with ostracism after his entry to pageant became public.

“We are concerned for Thahir and his family. Not only are they not reachable on the phone or their homes, neighbours say they haven’t seen the Sayyeds since the early hours on Sunday. All references to MGW on Thahir’s timeline on facebook are gone. We hope this is not an indication of them being in any trouble because of community pressure,” said Jijo Kurakose of Queerala an LGBT rights awareness and support network. “We are from the same hometown near Kottayam and know each other. I sent some common friends to his place too, but the residence was locked.”

Mumbai-based MGW India director and Mr GayIndia 2013 Nolan Lewis too said he had not been able to reach Thahir. “There were plans for him to be in Mumbai this week before he left for Knysna, South Africa for the pageant. Now we don’t even know what is going on,” he said.

Noemi Alberto (Director Asia) expressed surprise at the turn of events. “Thahir was very eager about this competition; however, it is totally understandable even if he withdraws,” she said.
dna contacted Dr MK Muneer who holds the Social Welfare portfolio in the Oommen Chandy government. The IUML (Indian Union Muslim League) leader told dna, “I can understand it is a peculiar situation, because homosexuality is not allowed under Islamic law as well as Constitution. But the Kerala government is committed to the safety of its citizens. We will ensure Thahir is allowed to participate in the pageant without any threat.”

Sayyed, who came out to his immediate family five years ago had told dna on Saturday that he was aware of his sexual orientation since Class VII. “They weren’t even aware of homosexuality and it took me a while making them understand. They were very supportive, particularly my mom who I am very close to,” Thahir had said in a long free-wheeling chat with dna on Saturday afternoon.

What is Mr Gay World?
MGW, the annual contest for gay men, seeks to establish ambassadors for LGBTQ and human rights, with winners of national contests competing as delegates in several categories. Since it is not a beauty contest, there is no age limit. This well-publicised international gay pageant uses all the attention to focus on the plight of LGBTQ people worldwide.