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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Crossing the prejudice barrier, India basks in LGBT pride

This is the month to celebrate love, individuality and freedom. From facing classroom bullying for being tomboy/sissy to introducing your lover as your “cousin” to suddenly coming out to your mom after watching the Section 377 judgment news on TV, India has come a long way. Today, vignettes of people’s rejoice paint the country in rainbow hues as India basks in LGBT pride.

It takes a hell lot of courage to declare, “I’m gay”, first to yourself, and then to people around you. June’s Pride Month is about saluting that courage. It’s about letting yourself free.

Pride Month tells us that there are individual sexual choices/identities beyond heterosexuality, and we should honor people for who they are and NOT for who they love. And put an end to stigma and discrimination towards the LGBTQ people.

Do you have that neighbor who frowns whenever she sees that gay/lesbian couple who have recently moved to her next flat? Then this is the month to tell your neighbor, “Aunty, some people are gay. Get over it”. And this is NOT their choice or whim. They are born that way! Love, the universal emotion, always finds its way, beating all obstacles, be it a pandemic or a neighbor’s scornful attitude.

What is Pride Month?

Pride Month is a worldwide phenomena which happens in June. This is when the world’s all LGBTQ communities come together and celebrate the freedom to be themselves. Various events take place across the globe to recognize the LGBTQ people’s contribution and sacrifice to make the world a better place to live in.

The event is also an opportunity to peacefully protest against any discrimination that the communities are facing. Raising awareness about LGBTQ people and their issues is another important aspect of Pride Month. This takes places through colorful parades, public speaking, debates, seminars, street festivals, film screenings and other such ways. Since the events draw significant attention from media and those from outside the LGBTQ communities, this is a major way to bridge the existing societal gap and ensure inclusiveness.

Why does it happen in June?

Prime Month takes place in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that took place in 1969. The uprising was a series of spontaneous and violent protests by the members of the LGBTQ communities in response to police atrocities towards them on June 28 in that year at the Stonewall Inn in New York city. Patrons of the inn and LGBT communities from neighboring areas and street people fought against the police violence. The event is the most important episode that led to the gay liberation movement.

What is Pride March

To mark the anniversary of the June 28, 1969, Stonewall riots, members of the the LGBT communities took out the first Pride March the next year in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Since then, the tradition is being followed across the world with hundreds marching waving rainbow flags down the street, dancing, laughing, crying and being every bit of who they are.

People take part in a Pride March in Mumbai. Photo: Shutterstock

The parallel history of the Stonewall riots is there in India too. In 2001, Uttar Pradesh police raided the offices of Naz Foundation and Bharosa Trust in Lucknow that worked for HIV. Cops arrested four men, including head of the two organisations Arif Jafar, jailed them for 40 days. The police claimed that they were running a sex racket.

In the following days several LGBTQ and queer organisations raised protests in response to the police raid. Eventually Naz Foundation filed a petition for Section 377, which criminalizes homosexuality, to be read down.

United activism and differences

No doubt the strongest and biggest unified display of activism and celebration of India’s LGBTQ community was witnessed when the Supreme Court finally read down the Section 377 on September 6, 2018. Nationwide celebrations marked the historic day. However, community activities grow separately in different cities and they often seem disconnected from each other. At present there is no centralized system in India yet that can assimilate all the views and thoughts and develop the strategy ahead for the development of LGBTQ communities.

The Supreme Court of India. Photo: Shutterstock

Hate crime

Now the Supreme Court’s reading down of Section 377 doesn’t mean it’s very happy and gay situation everywhere for the LGBT people. The chuckles, the stares, the hushes, the curses and even loud and clear prejudices haunt them everywhere. Have you ever thought how does it feel for a person to lose own family, friends, job, house and many other essential things for their sexual orientation? Sometimes it is even worse as they have to lose their lives.

Covid-19 impact on Pride Month and events

The mood the pandemic brought to the world is more about isolation, anxiety and monotony, absolutely opposite to the actual essence of the Pride Month which reflects joy, togetherness and freedom. Maintaining the general preventive measures, all outdoor activities have been called off. Many activities are taking place online. You can enjoy quite a lot of them. Some of them are:

  • #21DaysAllyChallengeOnline by India’s Pride Circle
  • LGBT Pride and Migration 2020. The event is about queer individuals who had to flee their own countries for a better life.
  • Digital Pride fest by queer groups in Dublin to organise interactive function.
  • The Cincinnati Black Pride will focus on LGBTQ people with colour. Interactions, virtual parties and many more exciting things will mark the event.
  • Some brilliant shows will be organised by famous drag artistes at the Pride 2020 Dragfest. The three-day digital event will take place on Facebook.

These events show when there’s a will, there’s a way to celebrate life, even amid separation, uncertainty and stress. So folks, don’t be a Kantaben, rather appreciate the fact that everyone is unique. And there’s no “them” or “us”. We were all born naked and we all will end up in the same grave!

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