Come this Sunday, Coimbatore’s streets are sure to be filled with the colours of the rainbow. The city is set to host its first official Pride march, organised by the Sahodari Foundation.
Kalki Subramaniam, the Founder of Sahodari Foundation and a transgender activist, who is at the forefront in this initiative, tells TNM that though a Pride march was organised in Coimbatore in 2010, it just had nine participants back then. “In these 10 years, a lot has happened. The legalisation of the transgender identity by the Supreme court and the decriminalisation of consensual sex under Section 377 are milestones for LGBTQI+ activists and organisations. They are reasons to celebrate now,” she says.
Sahodari Foundation has been at the forefront of the queer movement in Coimbatore since 2008 and this year, the Coimbatore Rainbow Pride Festival was conducted from July 25. As part of this month-long festival, panel discussions, art exhibitions and film screenings were held in various places across the city.
Kalki says that though Coimbatore city is well known for its nature and culture, when it comes to issues related to the queer community, awareness is quite limited. “Coimbatore needs more awareness especially among the youth. That is why Sahodari Foundation organised all these events (of Coimbatore Rainbow Pride Festival) in colleges rather than hold them in public spaces because we believe that young people can change the world,” she says.
Emphasising that a Pride march is not just to celebrate but also to educate people, Kalki says that Coimbatore Pride is for everybody who believe in love, equal opportunities, equality, anti-discrimination, anti-bullying, anti-rape and anti-violence. This time around, the Pride Festival has also put focus on queer persons with disabilities.
“This is an awareness march to create a support system for young kids, especially teenagers, who feel they are different. It is important that we save them from suicide and that we teach our young people to not bully kids who seem different,” she explains. She also says that the issues related to the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 will also be spoken about in the march.
Touching upon the tragic fact that in many cases where youngsters come out as trans to their families, they tend to be disowned and abandoned, Kalki says that the Pride march is basically to sensitise the society how wrong this practice is. “I do not want them to be forced to beg or do sex work. They need to be included in their families, only then their mental and physical health will be good and they will be able to continue their studies,” she says. Pointing out that the college students who were present at the film screenings and discussions were open-minded and were willing to have an informed discussion about queer communities, she says that the response to Coimbatore Pride has been overwhelming.
The Pride march in Coimbatore will start at 9 am from CCMC North Zone office and end at the VOC Park East Gate on October 13, Sunday.