One day we won't have to "come out of the closet." We'll just say we are in love and that will be all that matters. - Ellen DeGeneres
“LGBTQ” is an abbreviation that originated in the 1990s and replaced what was formerly known as “the gay community.” The abbreviation was created to be more inclusive of diverse groups. LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (and/or questioning) individuals or identities.
In the year 1999, a small spark flickered in the streets of Kolkata which then lead to one of the biggest revolutions India had ever witnessed. The Kolkata Pride was the first ever pro-LGBTQ Pride walk that took place in South Asia. This event went on to influence the other large metropolitan cities in India to take similar initiatives. The LGBT pride walk is a method of portrayal that emphasizes on the communities’ struggles and strength, the community stands strong and united while marching with confidence and pride unashamed and unapologetic. The walk takes place from one particular part of the city to another displaying the mirth in all its glory. Solidaritarians and members of the community rise up to the occasion exhibiting their support and also their discontent with the injustice of the state that has discriminated against and repressed the freedoms of the community through the draconian Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
The recent pride walk that took place in Mumbai was held in the August Kranti Maidan on the 28th of January 2017. The Queer Azaadi March was an expression, a voice, a celebration and a platform to ask for equal rights of LGBTQ individuals. Pride March is a peaceful parade by queer individuals and their supporters undertaken to celebrate their sexuality with pride, iterating rejection of the prejudice and bias the LGBTQ community is subjected to. It is an assertion of their freedoms that demand political rights as equal, to let the spectators in this bigoted society know that not only do they just exist amidst this heteronormative culture, but also thrive without the law's crutches for support.
Mumbai Pride is organized annually by Queer Azaadi Mumbai (QAM), which is a collective of individuals and organizations who have voluntarily come together for the queer cause. Being a part of the march infuses a sense of unity in one. As an individual who participated in the event, I had the opportunity to witness the grand celebration of love and solidarity, and relish every aspect of an attempt to define oneself beyond the moralistic constraints of the conservative society. There were men in heels, ladies in ties, all breaking gender stereotypes that are prominent throughout the country, reinforcing the idea that the community cannot be silenced by the incredulous stares. In between all of this, there were slogans for equality called out as they marched to the beat of native drums, turning the roads we walked on anthemic.
“Gender has no clothing”, a pluck card caught many people’s attention. This idea that seemed so obvious to me and those around isn't something everybody is comfortable accepting and practicing. However, the Pride had a response to this. To the onlookers who gave the march stares of disgust, the bold women and men replied by getting on to the streets in their choice of attire. Whether it was a beautiful sari or a glitter bombed dress, they wore it with pride and confidence portraying their spirit, demonstrating how nobody could bring it down. This was evidence that the community was far more inclusive that the change in laws necessitated.
The entire march was under police surveillance. The fact that a significant part of the state force whose job is to uphold the law protected the community whose behavior of love is criminalized by the same legal body goes on to show how it’s not the individual police men who have a problem with the community or to say the very least, have a problem providing them with protection.
The march had people from all around the world coming to walk with their brethren. The first open LGBTQ choir called the ‘Pink Singers’ came all the way from London to show their undying support. The Hijra Community also had their representatives up on the stage. Preet Sharma brought along a group of his MBBS student friends to march under the banner “Future Doctors for Equality”. There were mothers of tiny tots who marched with the banner "Moms for Equality”, headed by Ritu from Journey About Mast Moms. Pradeep Divgikar, father of Mr Gay India 2014, Sushant, made his presence; he has supported every LGBT event and has been a beacon of hope for many fathers who shy away from supporting their son’s sexuality. Pradeep Divgikar, General Secretary of the Greater Mumbai Amateur Aquatics Association (GMAAA) and father of Sushant Divgikar is an Indian model; actor, performer, singer and video jockey who was former Mr. Gay World 2014 supported every LGBT event and has been a beacon of hope for many fathers who shy away from supporting their son’s sexuality. Aruna Desai a Human Resources Professional, mother of Abhishek Desai, a well renowned Journalist, has shown undying support to the LGBT community and all her son's friends. Jyanta Mukherjee from Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Bombay and Akhil Shahani Education Entrepreneur and MD of Shahani Group stood up and marched with banners of the institute that they head.
Doctors, Mothers, Corporates stepped up to the occasion, and marched side by side. There were colleges such as Khalsa, Xavier's, Mithibai, Wilsons, K.C. at the event showing their share of support. Slogans such as ‘Straight and Supportive” made their way through, too. Members and non-members of the community stood side by side, erasing another border, another partition that separated them, suggesting that you don't need to be gay to stand up for them. The walk lasted the entire afternoon and evening followed by the official post-Pride party at Upstairs, behind Everest Building in Tardeo.
This Pride march, however, isn't just another walk in the city. It is a non-violent protest against the system and resistance to its repressive laws. It is a cry for help to those staring at the parade with either hostility or indifference, a mode of expression about one's identity that is not “just a phase”, and a plea for justice to the deaf ears of our judges. The walk symbolizes the journey of the LGBTQ community, their pains and their struggles, their efforts to be accepted into the society they are equally part of with same rights of freedom, expression, love and marriage.
The March, unfortunately, is the closest one can get to display their emotions and opinions in this country. Many people are skeptical about its implications. Though, a small scaled initiative strategically if looked at through political perspective, socially it manages to reach out and bring people together. One of the primary objectives of pride marches has been served in this case, too. That is to tell every individual present there and making them believes that they are not alone. That many others like them are out there, to help them, love them and support them. The amount of happiness one receives just by walking along is immeasurable; the unity that is seen cannot not make one euphoric. The idea of being supported not only uplifts those who need support but also pushes them to be out and proud without any shame. This result is undeniable. Every year, the support grows stronger. The walks grow longer. People change their opinions in favor of the community, showing us just how much difference can one walk make. One walk engulfed with hope, towards a tomorrow governed by equality.
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