Delhi gets its own Queer Pride June 25, 2008Posted by nitinkarani in English, LGBT, Pride 2008, Times of India.
From The Times of India, 22 June 2008:
Delhi gets its own Queer Pride
2 Jun 2008, 0320 hrs IST, Anubha Sawhney Joshi,TNN
NEW DELHI: Exactly a week from today, queer people in Delhi will get together for a parade to celebrate their pride in their sexuality. For the first time, Queer Pride celebrations will fill the streets of Delhi, along with simultaneous celebrations in Kolkata and Bangalore.
“Queer Pride is a celebration. It’s about loving who we are — whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, hijra or straight — and affirming everyone’s right to be respected for their own sexual choices,” says Lesley Esteves, travel journalist and queer activist.
The Delhi Queer Pride celebration will begin at 5.30 pm from Regal Building on June 29. The route remains within Connaught Place and the parade will end at Jantar Mantar. “We chose Regal Building because it was one of the cinema halls where protests erupted after the movie ‘Fire’ was screened,” says Mayur Suresh of the Bangalore-based Alternative Law Forum.
The parade route also has a special albeit silent significance. “Exactly 15 years ago, these were the places where gay men were harassed by the police for ‘cruising’. That was the first time that queer people in Delhi actually got together and stood up in protest against the establishment,” says Lesley. This is also the time when Pride takes place world over to celebrate the anniversary of Stonewall (see box) that took place in 1969 in New York.
But next Sunday’s parade will be more than just a ‘commemorative’ march. “It is also about queer people coming together on a everyday basis to celebrate the respect and dignity that is rightfully theirs,” says writer and activist Gautam Bhan. “We can’t always be reacting to violence when we get together,” he adds.
And that’s actually the great part because no one organization is putting together Sunday’s event. “It’s just a group of individuals that got together and started talking about this and now the Delhi Queer Pride committee has about 36 members,” says Lesley. Another huge plus is the fact that friends of queer people are also expected to turn out in huge numbers in a show of support. “I’m going to be there because I believe sexuality is a personal thing and it is completely banal to discriminate among people on the basis of their sexual choice,” says Anjali Gupta, a student. Gautam Bhan says that it is this ‘allied support’ that is turning into social acceptance and that’s where the change in mindset actually begins.
Should one expect the kind of fanfare and celebration one sees on the streets of countries abroad to be replicated here in Delhi? The mailer sent out by the Delhi Queer Pride Committee says: ‘If you want to be out on the street and yet under cover, we will provide masks to cover your face, or bring something along yourself.’ Adds activist Ponni Arasu, “Of course people will wear what they want and there will be a lot of colour. We’re getting a huge rainbow flag and will be giving out rainbow masks to those who want to be part of the parade but are not out to their family and friends yet.”
In Bangalore, where a parade will take place simultaneously somewhere in the heart of the city, costumes, rainbow flags and dances to the beat of traditional drums are being planned, informs Elevarthi Manohar, founder of Sangama, the first and largest activist group down South. “A lot of formal groups are coming together in Bangalore and that’s what makes our Pride celebrations special,” he adds. A parade is also being organized in Kolkata, where it all began. “They’re actually the frontrunners in this department and the people in Kolkata are fully aware of what happened at Stonewall and the significance of Queer Pride,” says Lesley.
Mumbai, of course, sticks out for its absence on the Queer Pride list. “It’s embarrassing to admit but the truth is that though Mumbai has a strong social scene it has a very weak activist base,” says Vikram from Gay Bombay. And with the city still so intolerant to any assertion of identity, queer people in Mumbai are being extremely cautious about openly coming out.
And the apprehension of being subjected to violence or ridicule is not going away anytime soon. “It’s been a long journey, full of struggle, to get here. Everyone who chooses to walk in the parade will take a deep breath the night before and actually think about what they’re doing because, all said and done, it’s a scary place to be and it never gets easier,” says Bhan. “Also, we all know that the fear of harassment and violence is a reality since there is currently no legal recourse for us,” explains Suresh, a lawyer himself.
And maybe that’s why, as Bhan puts it, “While this parade is a celebration, it is also a claim to equality, a protest against injustice and a demand for dignity. The idea is to reclaim your identity and assert that you’re out and proud.”