From overdose survivor to safe space provider for LGBTI+ community: Sadam Hanjabam’s journey to self-acceptance

Hailing from Sagolband Tera Sapam Leirak in Imphal, the heart-wrenching yet uplifting narrative of 35-year-old Sadam Hanjabam, a proud member of the queer group, unfolds as one of the series’ compelling tales.

ByB Rakesh Sharma

Updated 28 Dec 2023, 6:32 am

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In a groundbreaking move for LGBTI+ representation, the newly launched web-series Rainbow Rishta on Amazon Prime has emerged as a beacon of inspiration for the community, especially those identifying with the LGBTI+ group.

Premiering at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2023, this documentary delves into the lives of six individuals from different parts of India, sharing their poignant stories.

Hailing from Sagolband Tera Sapam Leirak in Imphal, the heart-wrenching yet uplifting narrative of 35-year-old Sadam Hanjabam, a proud member of the queer group, unfolds as one of the series’ compelling tales.

Overcoming the challenges of two life-threatening overdoses, Sadam embarked on a journey of self-acceptance, later catalysing the establishment of Ya-All, an initiative providing a safe haven for LGBTI+ individuals in Manipur.

Post-recovery, Sadam’s trajectory became a source of inspiration leading to the inception of Ya-All as a haven for both the LGBTQI+ community and youths grappling with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This initiative extends support through peer counseling, sports (specifically football), the establishment of a de-addiction center in collaboration with the state government, and the opening of a drop-in office at Kwakeithel in Imphal West.


According to Sadam, the detrimental impact of concealing one’s queer identity is evident in the form of negative consequences such as drug abuse, marital breakdowns, and tragically, suicide.

Speaking exclusively to the Imphal Free Press, Sadam emphasised that being queer is an orientation of love, unrelated to one’s biological sex.

“I am a male by sex, but I am gay, and it does not define my ability,” expressed Sadam, highlighting the importance of embracing one’s true self.

Reflecting on his own struggles, Sadam confessed to turning to drug use during his PhD pursuit in Mumbai as a coping mechanism for the loneliness stemming from not living authentically.

“My recovery from a second overdose marked a pivotal moment that liberated me from the shackles of fear and stigmatisation, propelling me to initiate Ya-All with the mission to provide a safe space for individuals facing similar struggles,” he said.

Sadam’s recognition of the universality of sports, particularly football, led to the creation of the first-ever trans football team in India under the Ya-All banner.

Football, being a widely accepted sport locally, has become a potent medium for Ya-All to extend peer support to the LGBTQI+ community.


Notably, the football team also extends its impact by providing free training to displaced children in relief camps across the valley district amidst ongoing unrest in Manipur. An inter-football competition among these relief camps was recently organized by Ya-All.

Devoting himself entirely to advocate for the rights and well-being of the LGBTQI+ community, Sadam remains unwavering in his commitment. His dedication extends to conducting mass counseling programs, traversing various locations and institutions.

In a call to action, Sadam urged the LGBTQI+ community to embrace their true selves without hesitation, emphasising that seeking support is not a weakness but a strength.

He highlighted the perils of hiding one’s identity, asserting that problems and negativity arise when individuals conceal their true selves.

Sadam’s remarkable journey, not only showcased in the Amazon Prime web series, has garnered international recognition. His story of loss, resilience, and ultimate hope was featured in the opening episode of the fifth episode of the Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry production, hosted on Apple TV+ called “The Me You Can’t See.”

Receiving positive responses and applause for his compelling story streaming on Amazon Prime and “The Me You Can’t See,” Sadam expressed hope that his narrative becomes a beacon of inspiration for those facing similar challenges.

As his story unfolds on multiple platforms, Sadam remains a symbol of hope, resilience, and the transformative power of self-acceptance, echoing the core message that everyone, particularly the LGBTI+ community deserves to live authentically and without fear.


First published:


ya alllgbtqi+rainbow rishta

B Rakesh Sharma

B Rakesh Sharma

Staff Reporter, Imphal


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