Trikone-Chicagoa not-for-profit organization for queer, trans and gender non-conforming individuals of South Asian/Desi heritage and their families, friends, allies and communitytakes pride in filling a void in the Second City. After Sangat/Chicago and Khuli Zaban had both dissolved by the late 2000s, there was the lack of a stable organization for South Asian men and women in Chicago who identified along the LGBTQ spectrum.
But there's Trikone-Chicago, now in its eighth year.
For president Sal Salam, secretary Jay Nair and general member Lakshmi Sundaresan, Trikone-Chicago provides more than just a community of individuals with similar experiences; it is a source of education, they said, adding it gives them an opportunity to be active in larger social movements and to be involved in fun events as well.
The most popular events that Trikone-Chicago hold are the Bollywood dance parties ( or, "Jai Hos" ) at Big Chicks Bar in Uptown. These parties, held several times a year, give people a chance to let loose and dance to familiar tunes.
But perhaps its greatest purpose is one that's easy to miss from an outsider's perspective.
Salam, Nair and Sundaresan all said that being queer isn't exactly accepted by South Asian culture. In fact, not only are there anti-homosexuality laws in almost every South Asian country but, according to Sundaresan, people might be "casted out entirely" and "killed" by their community for being out.
Members of Trikone-Chicago, many of whom are immigrants, are fully aware of this, which can make the coming-out process even more difficult for them, even within the United States.
"Being in a space where you're not the token queer person or the token Brown person, dancing away, having fun, letting your hair down and being visible and asserting that visibilitythat's the function of something like Jai Ho," Salam said.
And while Jai Hos, and other socialized events, were the original backbone of Trikone-Chicago, Nairan openly gay male who's been involved since 2010has seen it progress from strictly a social group to one that has a structured purpose.
"From just doing potlucks and Bollywood dance nights and performance nights, we've advanced to other things like supporting other queer and social justice causes," he said.
Its actions speak for themselves: Trikone-Chicago had 20 or so members marching at this year's Pride Parade, participated in the Dyke March, and co-sponsored the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance ( NQAPIA ) National Conference with Invisible to Invisible ( i2i ) earlier this month.
This shift in focus has even changed the types of conversations they're having. During potluck dinners and other gatherings, the members are now discussing things like safer sex practices, and issues related to immigration, the trans community, social justice movements, etc.
As far as what the future holds, each person emphasized something different. Sundaresana current medical student at Rush University Medical Center who's been involved with Trikone-Chicago for around eight monthswould like the organization to take on an even more active role in things related to social justice.
"I hope that there's at least a small group of people who are committed to organizing and taking actionable steps," Sundaresan said. "In the past it has been tricky to get people to show up to things that might give them political visibility when it comes to issues that extend beyond their gender and sexuality."
Nair spoke of his desire to do more outreach campaigns in order to build membership and visibility.
"Coming out of this [NQAPIA] conference we feel that we'll be able to galvanize support," with the help from other South Asian organizations, he said. "There are a lot of people out there who are going through their sexual and gender identity issue, and they still do not know that there's a support structure available [for them]."
Lastly, Salam, who identifies as queer non-binary, would enjoy a more active membership, where people go out of their way to take on leadership roles, in order for Trikone-Chicago to reach its potential of "growth, education and empowerment within the South Asian/queer community."
Here's what they can agree on, though: Trikone-Chicago is a place to develop lifelong friendships; a place where they're accepted for who they areand a place they can call home.
Trikone-Chicago is hosting its next event, "Jai Ho! Sunny SunnyA Bollywood Dance Party" on Friday, Aug. 21, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. at Big Chicks, 5024 N. Sheridan Rd.
Visit TrikoneChicago.org .