Ayushmann Khurrana Sports Nail Paint on Magazine Cover Calling It “Gender Fluid”, Here’s Why It’s Offensive


Straight male actor Ayushmann Khuranna, in an Instagram post yesterday, shared an image from his GQ cover in which he sports black nail paint, kohl and mascara. The magazine’s photoshoot appears to be aimed at gender-non-conforming fashion and style. Although it looks great, it chose to caption its message “gender fluid” followed by a heart emoji. Not something like “androgynous fashion,” which is a more apt phrase for the cover, but “gender fluid” which has an entirely different set of meanings and connotations for many who identify with the term.

Of course, the star whose most recent work includes Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan where he played a weird on-screen character (and never provided a valid explanation as to why the creators didn’t just choose gay actors) received praise for his bold looks. But the problem with this cover is that it quickly essentially features a cis-het man posing clearly as a genre fluid. Internet users were quick to point out the occasional appropriation in the post. Check it out here:

Do you see the problem?

Now Khurrana is pretty much the go-to guy for movies with social themes that comment on regressive standards in India, but that doesn’t give him immunity by making glaring mistakes like this. And it has become an important conversation online as it reflects a bigger issue in the Indian entertainment industry. Ayushmann Khurrana has rightly received criticism from the Internet as well as a lesson in appropriating queer identities. And Bollywood, an industry that’s not new to trivializing the issues of marginalized communities in general, should take some notes. It’s important to mention that the actor’s upcoming film places him alongside Vanni Kapoor (a cisgender woman) who plays a trans woman, adding to the list of castings that seem progressive but decidedly not.

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Here’s what netizens had to say about the cover and the ill-fitting caption:

The bottom line here is that you don’t just get fluid between the sexes by applying a few coats of nail polish and wearing kohl. Such representations on social media or on the big screen have harmful repercussions on real life. Instagram page @yesweexistindia explains it best:

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Cover image: Twitter



Amanda P. Whitten