The LGBTQ community around the world celebrates June as the Pride month. These several days of commemoration play an important role in asserting the existence of the marginalised communities. As the Pride celebrations (including Pride parade and the events that are organised in the month of June) get popular in India, it is important to make it clear that these ‘events’ are not mere celebrations, but acts of resilience and political statements.
We are proud of our sexuality and gender, but we also take pride in not restricting our resistance towards single issue or narrative. There have been questions for years on the way Pride parades happen and what to expect, and what not to expect. To make it clear, I am going to jot down a few points that I feel you must know before you extend your solidarity or before you question us.
Pride parades are celebration and protest
We are often faced with questions on the purpose of Pride parades, mostly around the way it is 'celebrated'. "How would people take you seriously if you dance, dress flamboyantly and act over the top?" we are asked.
We have long queered the way we protest. Pride parades are not just about occupying public space for those few hours, it is about defying stereotypes, challenging the hetero-normative world that defines our gender, sexuality and expressions. We don't have to be angry to show our anger. We want you to see our existence and to make the point that we are also part of your day-to-day life.
And if you still don't understand, the Jallikattu protest that was held across Tamil Nadu with song and dance could answer your question. But our parades and protests do not ooze of the imaginative machismo that was displayed in the Jallikattu protest.
Pride parades are not just about gender and sexuality
While the gathering of LGBTQ individuals is based on gender and sexuality, you must understand that being queer is not the only issue we have. There are a whole lot of concepts and politics that are discussed within the queer community. And we talk about these in our Pride parades. When we say that we are against hetero-normative society, we see everything as a product of hetero-normativity. For some of us, monogamy is hetero-normative, for others marriage too hetero-normative. Same-sex marriage just Queers the institution of marriage, some of us still see same-sex marriage as hetero-normative.
Sex workers are part of our parades. In fact, the presence of sex-workers in Indian Pride have been there right from the first parade. If you have problem with that, it is yours, deal with it. If you see our press release and demand list, you would understand that issues of caste, language and other social hegemony are something we are against. We are not confined to our Queer identities. We are individuals from different walks of life, and like you, we have many social issues to deal with. And we use our Pride parades to express those as well.
Being part of the Pride parade doesn’t make you LGBT friendly
Allies play an important role in any movement. And they do so in the Queer movement. But true ally-ship can only be achieved if we are on the same page. Often, we hear people say that they can't be homophobic because they have friends who are LGBT or because they have walked the Pride, or changed their Facebook profile filter.
No, it doesn't work that way.
You can be homophobic even if you are gay. So, don't lose heart. Understand why your actions or words are deemed as homophobic or transphobic. We all have unconscious bias and are ignorant of perspectives. So, be open-minded to learn and unlearn about the LGBT community and about yourself.
Don't expect us to always educate you on our lives and experiences. Do some research to find resources that are already available. Some of us are ready to help you out in your journey of being a good ally, but honestly, we do get tired at times. So, give us the space and time.
Also, don't take the high pedestal if you have contributed to the betterment of the queer community. We appreciate your efforts, but that is it. Do not expect us to thank you every time for being a good ally.
Respect our privacy and remember we are humans
It takes a lot of courage to be an out Queer individual in a country like India. A lot of us take the risks in just being ourselves. Pride parades are our space and that is one of the main reason why most of us come out irrespective of the hostile law and society. So, respect our space and our privacy when you are here. If we turn away from your camera, stop taking our picture. Or better, ask us if we are comfortable to have our photo taken. And also let us know how you intend to use the photo. While we have control in private events, we also understand how there is no real privacy in public events. But that doesn't mean you can compromise our privacy. Be mindful. And most importantly do not ask a person's identity.
We dance, sing and shout slogans. You can see a variety of emotions and expressions in the parades. But always remember these are bottled up emotions that we are letting out. Do not touch us or pull our cloths. You can often see group of us dance or stick together. Ask permission if you intend to join us. In case you fail to ask, and if we move away from you or stop what we were doing before you joined, excuse yourself from the group.
And no, we are not being exclusive. As we are diverse, some of us are introverts and shy. Just because we are on the roads dancing and singing doesn't mean we would be comfortable with anyone being in our immediate circle.
Most of the Pride parades in India have kept private companies at bay. That is - we do not get sponsorship or funds from corporates to organise Pride parades. Pride parades are community events. It is important to have a safe and inclusive workspace. As mentioned earlier, we appreciate that you are trying to provide a safe and fair workspace for your LGBTQ employees. If you'd like to be part of the Pride to show solidarity to your LGBTQ employees and the community at large, walk the Pride with us on the terms set by the community.
NGOs and collectives that work for LGBT cause
We acknowledge your fight and work that you do in grass root level. We remember the work you did when we were not there on the streets. In many parts of the country you are the only voice of the Queer community. And we also did not forget that you helped us in organizing the first Pride in some cities. But when we talk Queer politics, please do not dilute them to fit your NGO goals. When we say that you are occupying space, listen to us and step aside. You work for the community. Not the other way around.