BREAKTHROUGH: Krishna Istha (Photo credit: Bryony Jackson)

by LAUREN CODLING

AN ASIAN LGBTQ+ performer has spoken of their experiences as a trans person in the arts industry, as their latest show premieres at a UK theatre this month.

Krishna Istha is a performer and comedian whose show Beast is part of the Trans Pride season at The Marlborough Theatre in July.

Beast, which is part-stand-up comedy and part-performance art, centralises on Istha’s experiences of being a transmasculine person.

Growing from the Hackney-based artist’s love of consuming comedy, Istha admitted it was also partly down to not seeing a diverse range of artists on the stage.

“I found that comedy was so often populated by cis (non-trans) white men and that trans people, people of colour, disabled folk and other marginalised people were often reduced to punchlines and rarely were we the comedians on stage,” they told Eastern Eye.

While making the show with their director, Australian comedian Zoe Coombs Marr, Istha began to investigate what it meant to carry the weight and responsibility of becoming a man in 2019 as a trans person.

“Often we see these (cis) men making crude jokes about periods, abortions and women, I thought there was comedy in someone who is a trans man, for example making period or pregnancy jokes, considering I had an actual right to do so (unlike cis men), and the experiences to speak from,” the 25-year-old explained.

“Some of my favourite parts of the show are the ones that flip people’s expectations of what makes a man and what makes a woman.”

Beast centralises on Istha’s experiences of being a transmasculine person

The need to perform comes from Istha’s love of fun. Referring to themselves as a “big child at heart”, Istha loves making and staging new work.

The sense of play that comes with generating material, solving problems and staging something makes Istha feel like they are participating in several difficult occupations at once.

“It feels a bit like being a child and feeling like anything is possible,” they enthused.

Asked if they believe the LGBTQ+ community was becoming more visible in the arts industry,
Istha agreed that they had. While growing up, Istha felt they had no other artists to relate to.

“(Although) I’m certain that they existed, but often our stories aren’t archived as well as others,” they remarked. Now, there are an array of queer south Asian artists and collectives making work in the UK including acts such as drag queen Asifa Lahore, artist Raju Rage, and comedian Mawaan Rizwan.

Istha is pleased that the visibility of diverse artists is greater than ever before and hopes it will inspire others to follow their lead. Encouraging others to pursue careers in the industry, Istha urged aspiring creatives to apply for any appealing schemes they can find.

“Now, more than ever, there are grants, mentorship and backing for LGBTQ+ people trying to pursue a career in the arts,” they commented.

“Apply – you might only hear back from 10 per cent of those applications, emails and introductions, but that 10 per cent is the experience you need to push yourself forward.”

Although Istha cannot recall an instance when their work has been turned down due to their sexuality or ethnic heritage, they are sure their work has been overlooked for someone more “mainstream”.

“But people know better than to email you with a rejection letter that states that,” they joked. “It is 2019 after all!”

Istha, originally from Bangalore, came out as trans masculine five years ago. Describing their coming out process, Istha said it was “quite non-eventful”.

They started identifying as trans close to six years ago but didn’t really have a big “coming-out” moment. Istha just started living life the way they wanted to, and said people soon caught up with the changes.

“Gradual desensitisation, as I like to call it,” the artist remarked. “I trickle fed information and
changes to my mum the same way – like being in a slow cooker, not a pressure cooker. It’s an effective coming out method in my opinion.”

Beast is at The Marlborough Theatre, Wednesday July 17.